After completing training, Mutta is offered a spot on the backup crew for an upcoming ISS mission. This is a golden opportunity for Mutta to make it to space quickly. But he must consider what he truly wants to do.
Since astronauts on the backup crew must go through the same training as those on the main crew if they ever need to fill in, they are just as important. So if Mutta accepts the position on the backup crew, Mutta would be only a few steps away from going to the Moon and also keeping his promise with Sharon to be the first astronaut to start building the "Sharon Lunar Telescope". However to Mutta's disappointment, the upcoming mission is to the ISS and has nothing to do with the Moon.
Throughout Mutta's life, he had always seen the ISS as an old piece of metal that was still working hard. Back in 2012, NASA had shifted their focus away from the ISS and instead focused on Moonbase and Mars exploration. Serika, fellow Japanese astronaut, had expressed great interest in working aboard the ISS to develop medicines and cures for rare diseases like ALS that affected her father and Sharon. Medicine that would require experimentation in a zero gravity environment. Mutta learns that Miyata Atsushi, another Japanese astronaut, is currently aboard the ISS but had to wait almost 5 years before his first assignment. Kisaka Sanae was his backup and is currently on the main crew to board the ISS next year. So Mutta would be acting as Kisaka's backup. NASA Director Butler tells Mutta that he is lucky, most rookies don't get recommended so quickly. Mutta, a little overwhelmed by the opportunity, asks for some time to think about it.
During their group jog that morning, Kenji tells Mutta that he and Nitta have been working hard with Lunar training, hoping for an opening on an upcoming Lunar mission. American astronauts Shane and Ben (who had been ASCANs with them) have already been assigned to a backup crew for a Lunar mission. Talking over things, Mutta and Kenji both realize that training for the ISS is completely different than training for a Lunar mission. So, if Mutta accepts the backup position for an ISS mission, it would take him longer to go to the Moon, which is what Mutta wants ultimately. Roughly speaking if Mutta accepts this position on the ISS backup crew, he would then have to go on a mission to the ISS, return to Earth, do Lunar mission training, then be assigned to a Lunar mission, which could take at least 8 years.
Mutta proceeds to decline the offer. Mutta suggests that Serika replace him on the backup crew, explaining her motivations to board the ISS. Director Butler says he will consider it. Vincent Bold also happens to be in the office when Mutta gives Butler his decision. Afterward Mutta is a little worried if he made the right decision, but remembers that Sharon had always taught him that when it comes to making tough decisions "go with what is the most fun". Later, Serika is called to Director Butler's office and is given the opportunity to be on the backup crew, which she gladly accepts. Everyone is congratulating her and Serika is very happy.
Just then Mutta gets a message from Vincent asking him to meet him in building 9N. As Mutta meets and follows Vincent, Vincent asks why Mutta did not accept the position. Vincent has yet to be assigned on a mission to space, explaining that administration is very strict on how many and who gets to undergo Lunar mission training. 9N is where new buggies and rovers are developed for use on the Moon. Mutta meets with the other engineers there and learns his new job. From that day forward he will be working on developing and improving the buggies. Mutta is told to continue daily basic training and work here until "further orders".
Mutta meets the small engineer team and finds out more about what they do and the problem they have been working on. Mutta eventually finds a copy of the buggy that Hibito and Damien had accidentally driven off a cliff on the Moon. When the buggy was retrieved out of the ravine, it sustained damage. This was when the engineer team was ordered to either develop a buggy that would not get damaged from falling, or would not fall.
Mutta learns that the texture of Lunar dust is like new snow, so the tires and brakes have to take that into account. These are the areas that they have been focusing on. Ironically, although Mutta had been fired from his engineering position at an automobile company for headbutting his boss, Mutta now finds himself again working on automobiles after becoming an astronaut. Interestingly, NASA has never hired people from automobile companies because their engineering team does not have a large budget. All the buggies have been developed in-house. With little progress being made on solving their current problem, the engineers are about ready to give up. Mutta isn't ready to give up just yet. Vincent whispered to him before leaving that if he can produce results here, Mutta will undoubtedly get a spot on a backup crew for a Lunar mission. But how can Mutta and the other engineers design a buggy that can't fall?
|Vincent Bold ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Ena Kitamura ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Sharon Kaneko ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Kenji Makabe ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Fumi Aotake ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Serika Itou ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Nanba Mutta ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
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