First Contact

Submitted into Contest #243 in response to: Write a story about a character who wakes up in space.... view prompt


Science Fiction Adventure

Space is infinite, at least that is what we are always told. In the words of Star Trek “Space, the final frontier.” As I looked up to the sky above, a small smile danced around the corners of my mouth. Are we truly alone, or are there other beings in other worlds looking up at their stars in the sky and wondering the same thing?

I was interested in the stars ever since I was old enough to stand on the big base telescope my dad had, and look at the constellations together, such as, Orion (The Hunter), the Great Bear (Ursa Major), and of course The Bigger Dipper (The Plough). I always recognised the shape of the Plough in the night sky. 

Dad told me that people named ancient constellations after Greek and Roman mythology, and more recently, after exotic animals and scientific instruments. But the ones everyone knows best come from the zodiac constellations. I spent hours looking up at the stars, and wishing, and wondering, and desiring to get up there to see them.

My urge to visit space grew stronger as I grew older. Never really thinking it was an achievable goal. I was a girl. Girls didn’t make astronauts, did they? Not many made the grade, but I was clever, scientific, and athletic. I went to university and studied astrophysics. My Dad was elated. He worked in construction, and although fascinated by the stars, never thought a daughter of his could go so far. He told everyone he saw how proud he was of me.

Was I nerdy? Yes, and no. I wanted to understand the universe and our place within it. That meant I needed to study both the laws of physics and chemistry. But it was more than that. I got to study how stars, planets, and even galaxies were born and died. It was a mixture of astronomy and cosmology.

I wanted to find life on a planet. I didn’t want to just look at the gases or the soil or the microbes or consider the planet’s weather. I wanted to find an alien lifeform before they found us. I hoped to make First Contact before anyone else.

The UK has the UK Space Agency, but it’s not funded sufficiently to send astronauts up into space. We have scientists and engineers involved in major global space projects, but I was lucky. I got onto the USA’s NASA trainee astronaut program. There were 10 NASA candidates, one United Arab Emirates candidate, and me! I spent 2.5 years training to become an astronaut. It was hard going, but never once did I stop to think whether it was worth it.

Next stop was the Moon, then Mars! It blew my mind just thinking about it. Of course, there was resistance from conspiracy theorists to the idea of another moon landing. They said the original moon landing back on July 20, 1969, by Apollo 11, wasn’t real. They believed it was a set-up, a hoax from the American government. I know it was real. The astronauts brought back rocks from the moon and confirmed their origin. Scientific experiments took place confirming the astronauts were there. 

The conspiracy theorists don’t bother me. Having spent much of my life studying cosmology and astrophysics at university, then learning how to be a pilot with the RAF, followed by training to be an astronaut for the past 2.5 years, I was completely comfortable going up into space, and could not wait!

There were rumours that SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, would soon launch a new manned rocket called Starship. He’d achieved something incredible by having astronauts in space for 199 days previously. His dream was to enable space travel so that people could live on other planets. What a dream! But my personal dream was to meet people from other planets.

I preferred the more ‘traditional’ astronaut training I received through NASA. It would stand me in good stead for the future. 

I believed in UFOs and watched the skies constantly. I saw strange lights in the sky, as though I was being followed. Friends sent me videos of inexplicable sightings, knowing my interest and passion for extra-terrestrials.

When I was a little girl, only 8 or 9 years old, I told my mother I visited the stars and met ‘people’ with funny faces and bodies, only taller than me. She said I had a fantastical imagination, and now, as an adult, I couldn’t really remember anymore what I thought I saw.

I do remember a bright light one night piercing through the curtains of my bedroom window, and a feeling of fear, which soon changed to curiosity, but I couldn’t quite remember the beings I described to my mother. She told me I was just dreaming.

The day of the launch finally arrived. Of course, they televised it, and I felt like a celebrity with the press and TV coverage.

“Focus on the job in hand, Kirsty.” I told myself.

I needed to concentrate. I had tasks to complete on my journey into space.

The control centre counted us down. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, lift off! The crowd cheered wildly as they watched the Artemis rocket roar off the launch pad from Cape Canaveral on the Florida coastline. This time with a full crew. They had fixed the loose valve, which caused the hydrogen to leak the last time. I was certain NASA would keep me safe. What blew me away was the expense. Every flight into space in one of these rockets cost USD 4 billion.

As we went through the earth’s atmosphere, we automatically completed our tasks for which we spent years training. We functioned like robots; except we were not robots but fallible humans.

The separation of the solid rocket boosters went well, two minutes into our flight. Those rockets gave us 8.8 million pounds of thrust. There were 12 thrusters and they weighed over 9,000 kilograms at lift off. The core stage separated from the main rocket six minutes later. All systems were green for go. This was the most powerful rocket ever built, and I was in it. Life didn’t get much more exciting than that!

Soon we were floating around in space. God, I always wanted to feel the weightlessness of space, and now I was. It was hilarious. We passed around different items. I pushed a pen over to my colleague and watched it fly over to him. There was no sensation on earth to match this. Of course, we practised being weightless for short bursts in aircraft during our training, but this was the longest and best experience so far.

“Hey Kirsty,” said Don, one of the younger, more athletic astronauts, “See if you can do a forward roll?”

I love a challenge. Soon I was twisting my body, trying to flip over in the weightlessness of space. It was wonderful, and I managed it, of sorts. I would not have won any gymnastic awards, but it looked impressive, nevertheless.

Don was a career astronaut, and an ace pilot. He was young and excitable, but I trusted his abilities. He was handsome, with blonde hair and blue eyes. No doubt after our return to earth he would be our poster boy, on the front cover of magazines around the world. He wasn’t yet married. He was going to have the pick of girls when he returned to earth, which was for certain. However, it wouldn’t have mattered to me if he looked like an adonis, or Shrek. I was completely focused on our mission.

We were now orbiting the earth. I looked down at the great expanse of space and thought how weird it was to see the earth from above, from outside it. I could see lakes, mountainous regions, great empty spaces. It was breathtaking, and incredibly beautiful.

“How many people in the world get to see this view?” I said to Don wistfully.

He smiled, saying, “Yep, we are very lucky, no doubt about it.”

Then he winked at me. “Of course, you are the only female in this crew, Kirsty.”

“Yes, and don’t you forget it!” I gave him a thumbs up. He just shook his head. There was no romantic interest in me from Don.

Phil, the lead astronaut, the chief pilot of the rocket, reminded us it was time to have a rest. There was a strenuous work schedule ahead of us, and to be honest, the emotion of lifting off and getting into space was exhausting. Phil was a safe pair of hands. He was older than the rest of us, but to me, that was a positive.

Calm, with distinguished grey sideburns, he was very much a family man. He had a lovely wife, and three children at home, all spurring him on. I knew he would do his utmost to bring us back to earth safely.

Ali, the last member of our crew, was from the UAE. With dark hair and dark eyes, he resembled an Arab Prince. Very handsome. I knew little about the Arabic lifestyle, but he wasn’t particularly friendly towards me. He was used to giving the women in his life orders, but we were equals in space.

I was being unfair, but he was my least favourite crew member. However, as the space module was only 11 ft tall by 16.5 ft wide, for four astronauts, it wasn’t particularly spacious, and I would need to make an effort to get on with him as best I could.

Having retired to one of the crew beds to rest, in accordance with Phil’s instructions, I woke up to a red alert. An alarm screaming at us in the crew module.

“What’s going on?” I asked Phil breathlessly. 

He said, “We think it is just a faulty sensor. It’s telling us there’s a fuel leak, but I can’t find a leak at all. I’ve checked all the systems.” 

I nodded. “Do not tell me. You need me to check the sensor?” 

“Yes, Kirsty, I do, but on the outside of the rocket.”

He let the significance of his statement sink in. That meant I would have to do a spacewalk outside of the rocket on a tether. 

“Blimey, I expected a moonwalk, but not a spacewalk so soon.”

“It’s really a minor repair on the electrical system, because, as I say, I can’t find an actual leak, but we rely on our sensors. Sorry to ask, but you are the lead electrician on this space flight. It’s a contingency spacewalk, and you are the one who needs to do it.”

I grinned at him. “It’s not a problem, Phil. I am up for it. In fact, I am going to be the first woman ever to do this.”

He smiled back at me. “Yep, a historical moment in the making.”

I moved into the area of the capsule where we kept the crewmember safety tether. It was long, about 55 feet, and I attached it to my waist with a large hook.

Excited beyond belief, I poked my head out of the exterior airlock and into the void. Phil locked off the hatch behind me. I was finally in space, alone.

I knew where the sensor relay was on the side of the rocket. I gingerly made my way round to that section. There were handrails and footholds along the side of the spaceship, so it wasn’t too difficult.

Getting my spanner out of my pocket to open up the area I needed to access, I noticed a bright white light on the side of me. I shook my head. It wasn’t the sun. Was it a bright star? 

“Focus on the job in hand, Kirsty.” I told myself.

I said to Phil on the radio, “Can you see that bright white light to the right of me, Phil? What is it?”

He was quiet for a moment, then said, “I don’t know, Kirsty. We can’t identify what it is.”

I laughed. “It’s the Russians coming to pay us a visit? No worries, I will just get this done asap.”

I wrestled with the external metalwork and then got into the sensory relay. A wire unfortunately had worked its way loose. As I reattached it, I saw a massive meteorite heading straight towards me. Screaming, I realised there was no possibility of my getting out of its way. There is no sound or echo in space, but Phil heard me through the radio.

The next moment, nothingness.

I woke up in space. As I came round, I realised the rock bounced off my body and knocked me out. Fortunately, my suit didn’t rip, but the rock detached my tether from the rocket. I was floating freely and blindly in space.

“Don’t panic, Kirsty.” As I looked around wildly, trying to see where the Artemis was. There was nothing. I tried Phil on my radio. Again, nothing. I didn’t know if the radio had malfunctioned, or if they were now too distant to hear me.

As I scanned the area, I saw the bright, white light which I spotted earlier was slowly making its way towards me. I frowned and focused on it again. It wasn’t a star, or a meteorite, or the sun. It was a UFO. Spherical in shape, it was made of a gold-coloured material. There was no sound from it, of course, as we were in space. But it moved towards me in a smooth motion.

Oh God, this was it. I was going to make First Contact, but there was no-one to witness it. Was I even able to return to my spaceship to tell them about it?

The UFO moved closer to me, and I could see the pilot of the spaceship. As I stared at it, and it stared at me, I experienced a slow realisation. This was someone or something I met previously in my childhood. This was the very alien I met when I was 8 or 9 years old. It waved to me. Can you believe it? The alien being actually waved at me. It was small in stature, about 5 ft tall, grey, with large bulbous eyes. It didn’t have a mouth to smile with, as such, but I sensed it was friendly.

From the ship, it emitted a white beam of light which projected onto my body. The light slowly pushed me forwards. Although it was gentle, I felt scared.

Within 10-15 minutes, I could see the Artemis in the distance. I couldn’t believe it. The alien spacecraft was pushing me towards my rocket with a tractor beam.

I laughed hysterically. Looking at my suit, I could see there was only about 10 more minutes of air left. My survival was going to be touch and go. Pointing at my suit and then my throat, the alien understood me. It sped up the approach to the rocket, and just as we got really close, the beam gave me a solid push and I managed to grab onto a guardrail on the side.

Twisting round, I waved goodbye to this amazing little creature which saved my life. I pondered the fact I met this creature before as a child. Was it my guardian angel? Certainly not how I would imagine a guardian angel to be.

I watched briefly as the bright white light disappeared off into the distance at great speed, and then inched my way to the exterior hatch, using the handrail and footholds on the side of the rocket. The rocket’s shiny metal exterior was really bright, shining directly into my eyes. I banged on the hatch for a few minutes until someone opened the exterior airlock.

As I came through the hatch into the other side, relieved I could breathe fully, I saw the entire crew cheering and clapping at my safe return. I fixed the sensor relay before the meteor knocked me away from the ship, so all was well. They all ran to me and hugged me in turn, even Ali.

“Holy shit,” said Phil. “We thought you were a goner.”

“Me too, Phil, me too!”

Don patted me on the shoulder, saying, “We couldn’t believe it when we realised your tether was detached by the meteorite. Thank God it didn’t rip your suit.”

“We tried to manoeuvre the rocket to see if we could track you, but we had no joy at all. Thank God you had the sense of direction you did to return to us.”

I could see Ali was shocked at what had happened. They were all shocked to be fair.

I explained in detail about the alien being. They, of course, didn’t believe a word of it. They thought I suffered from a lack of oxygen whilst floating weightless in space and was hallucinating.

Phil gave me a hug, saying, “It’s a nice idea, Kirsty. That you had First Contact with an alien, but we didn’t see it, and there’s no way to prove it. Let’s just agree you were very lucky indeed.”

It took us 14 days, but we finally reached the moon without any further incidences, and I was overjoyed. The mission was a success, and we returned to earth another 14 days later. There was no evidence of any alien life on the moon, but I didn’t expect there to be. My opinion was that aliens are able to travel distances at a speed we can’t even dream of. Hence, they live in other galaxies.

However, I knew the truth about aliens. They exist. There are aliens out there. Friendly ones. Ones which mean us no harm, and which visit our planet regularly. So, the next time you see an unexplained light, or a UFO, don’t fear it. Give it a welcome with open arms and a big smile because you just might need their help in the future.

March 27, 2024 19:28

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Matthew Lambert
09:39 Apr 04, 2024

Very detailed, I learned a thing or two which is cool, and a nice little alien cameo I wasn't expecting!


Kristina Lushey
10:35 Apr 04, 2024

Thanks Matthew. Appreciate the feedback :)


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Amanda Fox
16:36 Apr 01, 2024

I love that you clearly did your research for this! Also, I'm predisposed to love it because my brother writes the abort trajectories for the Artemis program <3


Kristina Lushey
17:00 Apr 01, 2024

Hello Amanda, Yes, I love to do research on any story I write. It makes it more interesting from my perspective. Wow your brother is involved with the Artemis program. I'm glad I got the info correct then. How amazing :)


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Shobana Gomes
00:53 Mar 28, 2024

So this story is about making dreams come true. I love the stars and constellations too and what a fantastic way to appreciate them while in space. Being weightless adds a dimension to the story. Gives you freedom. Enjoyed the story. Well done.


Kristina Lushey
09:49 Mar 28, 2024

Thank you so much. I enjoyed writing this. Who wouldn’t like to experience being weightless and the freedom it brings.


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S. E. Foley
00:18 Mar 28, 2024

"Phil was a safe pair of hands." I love that turn of phrase. It tells more about Phil than any physical description could. What I would love to see in this piece is more about the feel of what a rocket booster separation would be like, and what it does to the remaining vessel. I want to know more about what the main character experiences physically and emotionally in language. I feel that it is better to use a few vibrant words than an exclamation mark any day. Sweaty palms, heart racing. Chase your passion.


Kristina Lushey
09:50 Mar 28, 2024

Thank you. I’m still learning and appreciate the feedback 😊


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