Seventeen years ago, when I returned from the Europa colony, I was asked to give a speech at a middle school assembly. For two hours I talked about recycling. Recycled air, recycled food, recycled water. We throw things away here, but there, everything is recycled.
This kid comes up to me afterwards, a little girl of maybe twelve, and she asks, whatâ€™s it like to have less gravity?
I chuckled. Itâ€™s lighter, I told her.
No, she said, without a smile. Whatâ€™s it really like?
I watched her for a few seconds. Her eyes were narrow like she was looking into the sun, and I swear Iâ€™ve never seen a kid so intent on knowing something. It was like I had the answers for the most important test sheâ€™d ever take.
I didnâ€™t really know what to say. I mean, gravity is gravity. More gravity is heavier, less gravity is lighter. There isnâ€™t much room for elaboration. In the end, I told her that it felt like going downhill on a roller coaster, but that wasnâ€™t true at all. Itâ€™s much more peaceful, more still. Everything moves slower up there. Even time.
Now, sometimes I watch the moon and I think, thatâ€™s what Europa looks like from a shuttle. I wouldnâ€™t say I miss it, though. I never went back to the colony, and now Iâ€™m past the mandatory age limit for space travel. Itâ€™s like a roller coaster, I told her. You must be this young to ride this attraction.
I wonder if that little girl ever made it. They say that, in a few decades, everyone on Earth will be recycled.