17 April, Ritsu Shuuki

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In the spring of 1970, a lone rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center.
  Carrying the crew of Apollo 13, the spacecraft soared triumphantly toward the heavens, scheduled to become the third mission in the Apollo program to put a man on the moon. Few could have foretold that the ship was already on a crash course with a catastrophe of epic proportions.
  A little over two days later, the service module was rocked by an explosion. An oxygen tank had ruptured.
  The explosion instantly crippled the module. Both oxygen tanks and all three fuel cells, as well as one of two power supply lines, were rendered inoperable. All hopes of a moon landing were abandoned; the very lives of the astronauts were now at stake.
  The safest return path to Earth would take the astronauts farther into space than any human had ventured before or since, careening around the moon on a long loop home. However, this trajectory would require nearly four days’ time. The question remained: How were they going to keep the astronauts alive in the interim?
  Mission Control instructed the astronauts to board the lunar module, which would serve as their lifeboat.
  However, having been designed to execute the two-day moon landing, the lunar module was insufficiently equipped to support all three astronauts over a four-day period. More critically, there was not enough electrical power or water. Although the lunar module did have ample oxygen reserves, in a cruel irony, the craft could only filter two astronauts’ worth of toxic CO2 from the air. The astronauts would slowly asphyxiate unless a solution was found, and fast.
  The astronauts persevered in the face of overwhelming odds, confronting their plethora of complications with ingenuity and courage. In order to conserve power, the cabin temperature was allowed to hover near freezing. Drinking water was rationed to a bare minimum. They improvised, jury-rigging a stopgap to connect the command module’s filtration canisters with the lunar module’s otherwise incompatible equipment.
  The spacecraft thus made its harrowing elliptical orbit around the moon, and splashed down safely in the South Pacific. Having endured an unforgivingly harsh environment in space, all three astronauts returned home to tell the tale. The date was April 17th.
  The incident, which has since been heralded as a successful failure, teaches us two things:

1. Even the best-laid plans may go awry.
2. When calamity strikes, there’s always a way out.

  Now and then, we find ourselves backed into an abrupt corner. One moment, it’s all smooth sailing. The next, we’re mired knee-deep in crisis.
  But don’t despair. There’s always a solution, another way to extricate ourselves from any predicament. Perhaps we need to learn from the uncommon ingenuity and fortitude of the astronauts. Although it’s not an easy feat, we can overcome any obstacle, so long as we confront the challenge with courage.
  Apollo 13 made it home.
  Exactly 50 years later, the time has come for us to face our own mission with the same wisdom, patience, and courage.

Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK

Ritsu Shuuki
Made his literary debut with

Gankyūdō no satsujin: The Book

(Killer of the temple of eyeballs: The book), for which he won the 47th Mephisto Prize. The book would go on to become the first in his acclaimed Dō (Temple) series, which concluded with

Daiseidō no satsujin: The Books

(Killer of the cathedral: The books). His other works include the Shō (Illness) series beginning with


(Undead). His most recent work is

Shōsetsu Fukushima 50

(Fukushima 50, a novel).




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