فصل 22

مجموعه: کتاب های متوسط / کتاب: 2001 - اودیسه فضایی / فصل 22

کتاب های متوسط

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فصل 22

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  • زمان مطالعه 7 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

Leaving the Ship

Poole put on his pressure suit and climbed inside the small vehicle designed for work outside Discovery. It was round in shape and had a large window in front which gave the operator an excellent view. Discovery carried three of these vehicles, known as Anna, Betty and Clara.

Poole spent ten minutes carefully checking the controls. Then, when he was completely satisfied, he spoke to Hal over the radio. Though Bowman was watching in the Control Room, he would not get involved unless something went obviously wrong.

‘This is Betty. Start pumping operation.’

‘Pumping operation started,’ repeated Hal.

At once Poole could hear the noise of the pumps as air was taken out of the room. Then the thin metal of the vehicle’s skin began to make small noises under the pressure. After five minutes, Hal reported: ‘Pumping finished.’

Poole made a final check of the instruments. Everything was perfectly normal.

‘Open outside door,’ he ordered.

Hal repeated the instruction, and the walls of the ship slid apart. Poole felt the vehicle shake slightly as the last of the air rushed out into space. Then he was looking at the stars.

‘Send vehicle out.’

Very slowly, the metal bar from which Betty was hanging pushed itself out through the open door, until the vehicle was just outside the ship.

Poole pulled back slightly on the main jet control, and Betty slid off the metal bar. He now had no connection with Discovery - not even a safety line.

He let the vehicle move out for thirty meters, then slowed her down and turned back towards the ship, approaching the antenna from behind in case he interrupted the radio signal and caused a short loss of contact with Earth.

He saw the small metal plate that covered the AE 35 unit. It was held in place by four connectors, and should not be difficult to remove. However, he could not do the job from inside the vehicle. He spoke to Bowman on the radio, and they discussed what needed to be done. Outside the ship there were no small mistakes.

He parked Betty on top of the ship about six meters away from the antenna. Then he checked the systems of his pressure suit and, when he was quite satisfied, let the air out of the vehicle. There was one more thing to do before he got out. He pushed down a switch so that Betty was now controlled by Hal. Though he was still connected to the vehicle by a very strong safety line, even the best lines could fail. He would look a fool if he needed his vehicle and was unable to call it to his assistance by passing instructions to Hal.

The door of the vehicle swung open, and he moved slowly out into the silence of space. Never move quickly - stop and think - these were the rules for working outside the ship.

With a gentle push, he sent himself towards the big round dish. His double shadow, produced by Betty’s two front lights, danced across the skin of the ship. He stopped himself from banging into the antenna by pushing out an arm. Quickly he hooked his safety line on.

He studied the four Connectors for a moment, then took a tool from the belt of his suit and started to undo them. He had to push against his safety line to stay in place, but they came off without any trouble. The metal cover was a little hard to move, but after a few knocks it came loose. He fixed it to one of the antenna supports.

Now he could see the AE 35 unit. It was about the same size and shape as a postcard, and it had a small handle so it could easily be removed. But it was still controlling the direction of the antenna. If he removed it now, the dish would swing round to its central position, to point along the length of the ship. It might even crash into him as it turned. Also, this would cut off contact with Earth.

‘Hal,’ Poole called out over the radio.’ I am going to remove the unit. Switch off all control power to the antenna system.’

‘Antenna control power off,’ Hal said.

‘Right. I’m pulling the unit out now.’

The card slipped but without any difficulty. Within a minute, its spare was in place.

But Poole was taking no chances. He pushed himself gently away from the antenna, just in case the big dish went wild when the power was switched back on. Then he called Hal again.

‘The new unit should be working. Switch control power on.’

‘Power on,’ Hal said. The antenna didn’t move.

‘Unit is working,’ Hal said, ten seconds later. In that time he had carried out as many tests as a small army of human inspectors.

‘Fine,’ said Poole. ‘I’m now replacing the cover.’

This was often the most dangerous part of a job outside. Mistakes were often made when people had to tidy up before their return to the ship. But Frank Poole was a careful man - that was one reason why he had been chosen for the mission. He took his time, and though one of the connectors almost got away from him, he caught it before it had travelled more than a couple of meters.

Fifteen minutes later, he was moving the vehicle back through the open doors of the ship, quietly confident that the job would not need to be done again.

He was, however, sadly mistaken.

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