You nervously open the letter to discover you’ve been chosen as the first of seven pioneers to found a Mars colony. Your body is in perfect health to face the harsh challenges of extended space travel. This is the call to serve you’ve both been dreading and anticipating. You feel your body tremble with excitement and fear. Do you tell them now?

What would your wife think when she discovers you’ve secretly applied to the Mars Expedition Program without her knowing? For the past several months while she believed you were being treated for malignant cancer, you’ve actually undergone tests to determine your candidacy as an astronaut.

Now that the results are in you have a decision to make. You love your wife, and yet your entire life you’ve been struck paralyzed by a fear of mortality. The thought that your life is slowly ticking down to an inevitable end strikes you with anxious dread. If you stay on Earth you know you can lead a relatively happy life.

Thoughts course through your mind of watching your eldest son Thomas design his first naval spacecraft, taking after your scientific heritage. You picture holding your daughter, Gaby, arm in arm, as you walk her down the aisle on her wedding day and whisper, “Everything is going to be alright.”

Your first grandchild, their first chocolate bar, a family trip to the local fair, your wife’s smile, sunsets against the darkening sea, all these potential memories rendered apart by the tides of time. You see yourself laying on a hammock, below your family’s ancestral oak tree, draped in layers of wool. The oncoming chill of night touches your exposed feet. A sharp exhale parts your lips as darkness envelopes you. The Earth tumults into the Sun. All of mankind’s works crumble before the stars as surely as death. No memories of younger days, nor the bittersweet farewells of those you loved. You wait for a sign and see nothing.

Your mind races to the present, the letter still in hand. Your armpits fill with sweat. You bend over the office table and sign on the dotted line.

On October 25th, 2034, seven astronauts landed near Mar’s Korolev Crater. A small yet crucial step in establishing a foothold beyond Earth and into the greater Solar System. Their sacrifice will forever remain in the annals of human history.

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