“Ten, nine, eight…”
The countdown crackled over the speakers and grated against Mary’s ears. Her heart pounded in her head, competing against the countdown for Mary’s attention and supremacy over all other sounds. The seat belt bit into her padded suit, pressing her back against the seat. She stared up through the visor on her helmet to the ceiling of the cockpit. If she raised her hand, she could touch the multitude of buttons and switches there, but she didn’t, lest the others in there with her see her hand shake. They could never know how terrified she was.
“Seven, six, five…”
Everything led up to this moment. Ever since Nancy Currie had helped assemble the international space station, Mary had wanted to go to space. Now not only was she going, she was going to be the first woman on the moon and among the first team to colonize it.
She had wondered earlier if little girls would look to her as an example and be inspired, as she had been. That was before, now she had to focus all her energy on not panicking.
She took a deep breath and clenched her fists, steadying her nerves. It was far too late to back out now.
The rockets rumbled to life beneath her, sending vibrations reverberating throughout the cramped cockpit. Her teeth rattled violently in her skull, so much so, she worried they would fall out.
“And we have liftoff,” came the disembodied voice over the speaker.
The force of the rockets pushed Mary deep into her seat. This was nothing like the simulator. She squeezed her eyes shut and focused on her breathing. Her heart continued thudding in her chest. After a few drawn out, harrowing minutes that lasted forever, the G force lessened, the rockets slowed.
Mary looked out the tiny window. Far below was the bright blue ball she had left behind, the Earth. It was beautiful. Her fears melted away as she gazed down at the planet; this was what she wanted, more than anything.