“See those three stars in a row? Those are Orion’s belt. There’s his shoulder and his sword.” Robert pointed a wrinkled, yet steady hand into the sky.

“Grandpa, what are the stars? Are there really people in the sky?” Tyler stared up in wonder.

“No, no, no. They’re really big, burning balls of gas millions of miles away. People just made up stories to help them remember what stars are where. Because if you know what to look for, the stars can tell you a lot. Like how to find your way home at night”

“Well, why didn’t the people’s just use their phones to find their way home?”

Robert chuckled at the simplicity of his grandson. “Well, this was a long time ago. Before they had phones. Or even electricity”

“So, are these stories even  older than you?”

“Well, yes. How old do you think I am?” Robert mocked surprise, “See that one group there, that’s the big dipper. If you follow it’s handle, that there is the North Star. No matter where you are, if you find that star, you can always tell what way’s north. A bit like the compass you use in scouts”

“When I grow up, I want to go to the stars and bring one home in a jar for you grandpa”

Robert laughed, “Well, you would need a very big jar for that one”


“Alright mission control, everything checks out on our end. Ready for entry, waiting by for confirmation” Tyler sighed and leaned back in his chair “Now to wait for half an hour to hear them say yes, all good. Instead of just going now”

“We didn’t come all this way to complain about protocol” Matt rolled his eyes at his copilot.

“You know, I still can’t believe we’re here. My grandpa used to tell me about seeing the moon landing when he was little”

“And now, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids about the Mars landing when you’re old and gray. I still don’t know how you convinced mission control to let you bring your grandpa’s ashes to scatter on Mars of all places. How... no why did your family let you do this?”

Tyler cracked his knuckles, “It’s not like I brought a huge urn or anything, they’re just a little bag kept in my personal stuff. My grandpa always loved space. This mission was already set when he died. It was his request really. And just, nobody stopped me”

“Well, I guess you only got here because nobody stopped you” Matt chuckled at his own joke. The two sat in silence until they received the transmission from mission control 64 million miles away: Everything checks out on our end. Good luck boys.

“Here’s to us then”

“Here’s to us”

The tension was palpable in the cockpit of the US Daedalus as the two men started the decent sequence on the first manned mission to Mars. The two astronauts were aware of all the many ways the mission could go wrong, but they didn’t think of that. They didn’t think of the significance their mission would have on mankind. Or of the lives they had each given up to be there at this moment in history. All they did was think of the hours of simulations and training they had gone through to get them to this point.

Everything started out right, NASA had long since figured out how to get a ship down onto a celestial body. The landing site had been planned for years. Rovers had been sent to survey the area to pick the perfect landing site. The landing was almost perfect.

One of the landing struts hit a patch of rock over an underground cavity. It wasn’t even big, just a little pocket of air under a few hundred feet of rock.. But it was enough to tip the lander on it’s side when the strut punched right through the rock and caught in the hole, causing considerable damage. The two brave castaways weren't injured in the crash. All in all, it was pretty unremarkable. But as the crew came out in bulky suits to inspect the damage, they knew they had just landed on their grave.

“Well, we knew this could happen” Matt radioed to Tyler

“I know, but I was rather hoping it wasn’t going to”

The two looked at each other for a long moment. “We still have the flag we can plant and your grandpa’s ashes if you still want to do that”

“Yeah, let's do that. Might as well use the stars and stripes as a grave marker of sorts hu?” Tyler was already unloading the US flag that had been stode in the lander, “Strangest thing, they must only be finding out about the crash now, back at headquarters”

“And it’ll take them another 15 minutes or so to get back to us. Give me that flag”

“The great old US of A. Now even on Mars, we’re pretending we’re in charge”

“Isn’t that what we’re best at” The two men tried to laugh despite the circumstances. As their air supply started growing low, they tried desperately to not notice the lightheadedness.

“Here it is grandpa, outer space. Is it as cool as you thought it would be?” Tyler opened the small plastic container that held the ashes. They were quickly carried away by the harsh Martian winds. “You know, it was my grandpa that first got me into space”  Their energy running out with their air, the two men sat by the flag they’d erected like a headstone gazing into the alien sky.

“Yeah? For me it was my dad. He taught astrophysics at a university”

“When I was a boy, gramps used to take me out and show me the stars. We memorized all the constellations we could... Let’s see. The stars are going to be in a different place, but I think that one is Polaris”

“I think you’re right. The north star was the first one I learned to find too”

“Well, if we can still find that, maybe after we go, we’ll still be able to find our way home. What do you say to that Matt? Matt? Ah well, good night Matt”

July 25, 2020 01:15

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Renee Padmore
03:10 Aug 01, 2020

Hey there Katie. Nice job with the prompts. The story was touching and I enjoyed how the view of the stars was important at the start of Tyler’s life and continued all throughout even until literally the very end. The only suggestion I would make is to watch out for punctuation marks especially with quotation marks...There should be a mark after the last word spoken before the end marks are used. Overall, a lovely read. I’m happy to have come across your work through the Critique Circle. All the best as you keep writing and growing a...


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Unknown User
21:16 Aug 16, 2020

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