(1) Leonard touched a button that appeared on his screen, and a hologram shot from his Smartphone display. A completely lifelike image of his mother stood in the center of the bare room. “Hi, Mom,” Leonard said.
“Oh, hi, Lennyboo,” his mom replied lovingly.
(2) “Mom!” Leonard yelled, as he looked around to make sure no other trainees were nearby. “I’m 19 years old. You can’t call me that anymore.”
“You are mistaken,” his mother disagreed. “I can call you whatever I please.”
Leonard tilted his head down and said, “Yes, ma’am.” He felt like he was in kindergarten again.
(3) “We really miss you, Leonard,” his mom said in a gentle tone. “It must be so dangerous out there with all those asteroids and radiation and space Gs.”
Leonard’s head tilted. “What?” he asked. “What is a space G?”
“You know, Leonard,” his mom replied, “that crazy gravity in space.”
Leonard doubled over in laughter. It took a minute for him to gather enough breath to respond to his mother. “You mean zero-G?” he asked, still laughing.
“Sure,” his mother said. “Zero-G, 20-G, super-G, whatever you call it.”
(4) “Well, Mom, zero-G is what you call it.” Leonard explained. “There’s no gravity in space. That’s what the zero is for.”
“That’s my super-science, Lennyboo astronaut!” Leonard’s mother exclaimed. Leonard looked around again to see if anyone had heard his mother. Robbie, the station electrician, was walking through the nearby hallway, holding in a chuckle. Leonard ignored him.
(5) “Mom, where’s Ralph?” Leonard asked. Leonard was very close to his little brother, Ralph. One of the hardest things about orbiting 250 miles above the surface of the Earth was being so far from his brother. Ralph was only nine years old, but Leonard didn’t treat him like a typical little brother. There was no teasing, no fighting, no name-calling, and hardly any bossing around. The brothers really liked to have fun together.
“Ralph’s got an Electrovault tournament tonight, Leonard. He’s in the semifinals,” his mother said.
(6) Leonard had forgotten. “Oh, yeah,” he said, as it started to come back to him. “He must be pretty good,” Leonard wondered.
“Well, yeah,” his mom replied. “He is in the semifinals, but don’t worry. He’ll be here when you call tomorrow.”
“Ok, Mom. I’m going to have to go,” Leonard said. “I have to prep for an EVA.”
“EVA?” his mother repeated with confusion.
“It’s a space walk,” Leonard explained.
(7) “Oh, I get it. I love you, Lennyboo,” his mother chirped like a happy bird.
“I love you too,” Leonard responded. He touched his screen and the hologram narrowed and seemed to get sucked back inside of his Smartphone. Leonard stood from a small chair that folded away into the floor when he raised himself away from it. He walked down the hallway to the suiting station. Two doors slid apart in silence.
(8) Robbie was already suited. He was going on the spacewalk with Leonard. Leonard was just going on the EVA for practice. He was almost used to zero-G inside of the space station, but he would also have to be comfortable in a space suit floating beside the space station at 17,000 miles per hour. “I prepped your suit,” Robbie told Leonard.
“Thanks, Robbie,” Leonard responded.
(9) Robbie helped Leonard into the bulky, white space suit. Leonard leapt upward and floated into his space suit pants. Then, Robbie pulled the upper suit over Leonard’s arms and fastened all the buckles and snaps. Both astronauts floated through a small passageway that led to the airlock. “You go ahead and start to open, and I’ll secure the area.” Robbie turned to a control pad and pressed a series of numbers. A steel door snapped shut, closing off the corridor. Just after that, Robbie opened the airlock from a different control pad. Another steel door flew open, and the two astronauts peered out into space.
(10) Leonard stepped to the edge and pushed off into space. He thrust his rocket pack forward, but Robbie stayed put. He focused a small, handheld camera at Leonard and snapped a picture. Earth floated behind him in the background. Leonard turned his head. “Enough pictures, space tourist,” Leonard said.
(11) “Sorry,” Robbie replied, as he enlarged the image on the camera enough to read the word that he had marked on Leonard’s back. “Just getting an awesome picture of the Earth from up here,” Robbie said, giggling a little bit at his lie. He looked at the bright orange word he had written on Leonard’s rocket pack. It read, “LENNYBOO.” He would post the picture in the space station cafeteria, and everybody would get a laugh. But, he knew when he told Leonard that he had already transmitted the picture to Ralphs’s phone that Lennyboo would forgive him.
Under the Sea by Michael Signal
(1) Some scientists claim that we know more about the far reaches of space than the depths of Earth’s oceans. Exploring the oceans proves to be a difficult task because, like space, the ocean is a very inhospitable environment. Humans can only dive for brief periods of time and at shallow depths, without protection. Submarines, diving suits, and SCUBA gear help ocean explorers understand more about the oceans, but diving beneath the waves is still dangerous work.
(2) Inventors built the first submarines in the 1600’s. Some early submarines used breathing tubes to get air from the surface. Many of the first submarine designs didn’t even work. Today, some submarines can dive more than four miles below the water’s surface. Nuclear submarines can stay submerged indefinitely. They only have to resurface if the crew runs out of food. But, even with great technical advances, there are still parts of the ocean that submarines cannot reach.
(3) Divers could not explore the undersea world closely from inside of a submarine. Diving suits started to appear in the 1700s. They were very crude. The first diving-dresses, as they were called, consisted of leather jackets or vests, and large, round metal helmets. Air was usually supplied through a hose from the surface. Modern diving suits can take divers thousands of feet below the surface. They can be equipped with electric lights, cameras, and built in propulsion systems. Modern diving suits can help ocean explorers have engaging, hands-on trips under the sea.
(4) SCUBA suits are different from traditional diving suits. SCUBA stands for selfcontained underwater breathing apparatus. The most important pieces of SCUBA gear are the oxygen tank and oxygen regulator. SCUBA divers wear tanks full of compressed oxygen. Divers cannot breathe the pressurized oxygen, so the oxygen regulator reduces the pressure so that it is safe to breathe. A SCUBA diver doesn’t get an air supply from the surface. SCUBA divers can wear thin, tight wetsuits to keep them warm. SCUBA equipment offers more freedom than diving suits, though diving suits can submerge much deeper.
(5) Scientists, explorers, and curious people have wondered about the world beneath the sea for centuries. With submarines, diving suits, and SCUBA gear, people can learn a lot about underwater environments. We still have much to learn about the oceans and what is beneath them. As diving equipment improves, we will continue to learn more.