From the diaries of Commander Jacob Hardy, pilot, Ares One
Three human beings stood on a high ridge and saw the shape of the future. Saw rain strike a millennia-old desert. Felt the air sweeten with oxygen and warm water and the beginnings of life.
I am sometimes asked if I felt something die. The end of the era of human self-sufficiency.
I don't know how to answer that question. I do know that I was changed. Nobody could experience that kind of wonder and remain unchanged. The decades since have proven that to me.
I knew I'd never fly another mission like that. I recognized the need for a new love. That's why I threw my fresh cognitive skills into understanding the Traveler. How can one entity so quickly and utterly remake an entire world? Fifty years later, I'm conversant in high mathematics, particularly topological thoughts and the slippery irreality of Light. I'm involved in a project to study the Traveler's terraforming actions right now.
But I still enjoy the interviews. I like going back to that mission.
It makes me unspeakably happy to see how well it all turned out. And it makes me happy to remember I was there.