Jim examined the spacesuit. It didn’t look at all like the ones in the vids about the history of spaceflight. It looked more like the wetsuit that he’d worn when his grandmother took him SCUBA diving. It was sleek and black and rubbery against his fingers.
Ronnie was already wearing hers. "Hurry up!" she urged. "We’ve only got a few more hours of daylight."
Jim was nervous about leaving the dome. Excited, too. He read the directions posted next to the suits again, then followed them carefully, step by step. Ronnie tapped her foot. She was practically bouncing up and down with excitement. They’d been busy with school for weeks–their computerized teachers insisted on giving them midterms–and she’d been going crazy waiting to show him the planet.
Jim had aced his midterms. Ronnie, with his help studying, had done better than she ever had before. Her mom had made him a thank-you cake.
Jim pulled the helmet over his head and heard it click solidly into place. The suits were well maintained–he knew because he’d helped service them a few weeks ago.
"Finally! Okay, now, we check each other, make sure everything’s fastened and zipped and everything." Ronnie scanned him. "Looks good."
Jim took longer examining Ronnie’s suit, but it was perfect, too. "Okay." He took a deep breath. "Let’s go."
They cycled through the airlock, and Jim took his first steps into the thin Martian air. He couldn’t feel heat or cold through his suit, but he could hear the squeaky crunch his boots made as they sank into the dusty ground.
The sky overhead was the color of butterscotch pudding, and his external microphone picked up the distant keening of the wind.
Jim almost staggered under the reality of actually standing on another planet. Being inside the station wasn’t that different from being inside anywhere, really, but here–it was just so alien. He longed for blue sky, open water, stands of trees, swaths of green grass. Instead, it was all barren rocks and dust as far as the eye could see.
He looked over at Ronnie, who was grinning. "Isn’t it beautiful?" She grabbed his hand. "Come on, there’s a great view of the whole station from up on that cliff."
She hadn’t been born on Mars, but she didn’t remember Earth. She had no concept of what Jim was missing. She’d never felt a natural breeze on her bare skin. Jim might never step foot on Earth again.
Her fingers laced through his, padded by their suits. "Come on, Jim. Let me show you our planet."
He squeezed her hand and tried to tell himself that giving up Earth was worth it.