My Dear Wife,
I cannot believe the time it has taken to simply be allowed to write to you. I have managed (I hope) to include an image of the first plant species I found – but wait – I’m getting ahead of myself.
Unexpectedly, after departing, the military made all contact impossible and even this note will be subjected to their scrutiny and censorship. My concerns about the implications of finding useful (from a military perspective) discoveries would appear to be well founded. It has been so utterly frustrating being unable to write. Let me at least attempt to describe the events to date.
As I wrote in my last dispatch we were about to board the Odonata for the trip from orbit down here to the surface. We strapped ourselves in, and intially the flight was smooth and quiet. We positioned the Odonata, and gently entered the outer reaches of the atmosphere. The calm was indeed before the storm and we were very shaken by the entry and the noise was quite frightening. The crew – Captain FitzRoy, the navigator, and the pilots appeared calm – as if landing on a strange planet was an everyday event for them – and this was most comforting. I am not privy to knowing exactly where we were landing, that information was (and is) still classified. As we entered the lower levels of the atmosphere the pilots slowed the Odonata and deployed the blades which then took over the full flying process, much as we would expect back home on Earth.
The crew brought us to a safe landing and we began to feel the full weight of gravity. After so long without it, it felt leaden – to match the skies. After the clarity of the sun’s light above, the heavy clouds seemed quite threatening, and the rain beat heavily on the porthole covers. The pilots cut the engines, and as the whine died away, a silence fell on us all – the rain even paused for a moment. We realised we were smelling the air from outside – surprisingly rich and fecund after the re-refined atmosphere of our home away from home, orbiting somewhere above us.
Earth, home and hearth, and our loved ones, had never seemed so far away. I looked at my fellow travellers – our spiky short hair and gaunt features making us look more like convicts than explorers. FitzRoy reminded us of our security responsibilities, safety requirements, wished us well, and blessed us. He checked his recording devices, and ordered a hatch open. The outside air rushed in and FitzRoy stepped out into the dampness…