We were stationed at the base, going over map and survey data, when the call came in. I think it was actually skreidle who gave me and my boss/mission commander the news. They'd found what could be best described as a cave on the surface of the moon, about an hour and a half's moon buggy ride away. It seemed by all appearances to be natural, which was odd, because to my knowledge caves are usually the result of erosion by the kind of natural forces which are absent on the moon. So my commander and I started planning to get out there ASAP. There was no decision; it was a foregone conclusion that we'd go see it in person. At least, that my boss would, since he was the commander. And since regs said no one goes out alone, I'd be going with him.
Here's where some of the most interesting (to me) elements of the realism came in. We had to figure out how much air and fuel we needed to get there. This meant calculating our route. And since we would be traveling on the on the surface, we had to examine topographical maps of all the territory between us and the site. Since it was in a pretty craterous area outside the mare or plain the colony was on, it turned out that the safest and most passable route was basically to travel due north and then dogleg east in an L shape. I was very acutely aware that if we'd just assumed a straight vector to the site we'd not only have run out of fuel and been stranded but also run out of air pretty quickly. It'd be nice just to take as much as possible at all times, but budget constraints and other practical matters limited that. For example, the more food and fuel you take with you, the worse your mileage. We were also limited on how much air we could carry in our tanks, and extra tanks were pretty heavy. So it was all about efficiency, and there was a certain finality about our calculations. We would live and die by the strength of our estimates. There was no protocol to follow; we were the first explorers. We were making the protocol.
I'd only been stationed there for a few short weeks. I remembered my transit to the moon. The in-flight entertainment was a worn and glitchy old copy of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I'd suggested, half jokingly, that they get a copy of that new movie... what was it... Moon? if it was out on DVD yet, but this was poorly received by my superiors. No, 2001, this beat-up old copy of it, was the tradition, and so it would stay. That aside, I'd integrated pretty well with the rest of the crew (important when stationed in a remote location with a small group). But I definitely remember being the junior man there, out of what I think was 8 low g-men. 2 were asleep, and would stay behind while the station ran itself, and the other four were at the cave site. I definitely felt pangs of jealousy at not having discovered the cave myself, but these were eclipsed by the shadow of the massive amount of work needed to prepare for our trip.
So now came the fun (and less realistic) part. I recall visualizing a two-man rover before some part of my brain went: MOON + DUNE BUGGIES = MOON BUGGIES! Soon, we were suited up and in these two little vehicles that resembled extreme offroad versions of shifter karts more than anything else. Small, maneuverable, and fast. The gas station was across from our building, so we pulled out, zipped across the main road dodging between the normal-sized traffic (incl. in my case an angry 18-wheeler as I struggled to keep up with my maniac hooligan boss who may or may not have resembled volta), and pulled in for the fuel stop. After we'd fueled up, we hit the convenience store and supplemented our rations with some energy bars (pretty much all you could get on the moon aside from freeze-dried meals due to the prohibitive cost of shipping fresh foods) and then set out, with our pedals to the metal, racing headlong towards the wall of the dome where the road ended and our adventure would begin.
Sadly, this is where I woke up. I feel like a tourist who says, "The pictures don't do it justice." I've tried and experienced a lot of things in dreams, but though I've been in space, I've never been on another world before. It really felt like I was on the moon, complete with lower gravity (affecting how we moved around) and the isolation that came with knowing you were the only civilization for hundreds of thousands of miles. I feel like I've come back from an amazing trip or something.
So long, Moon. I hardly knew ye. But I'll think back fondly on our time together, and maybe wave from time to time when I see you.