Welcome to another installment of Project 15. In this ongoing series I share with all who care to read it my world building ideas and story development process in preparation for this year’s NaNoWriMo. The novel I will attempt to write this year is a Space Opera style sci-fi tale that will incorporate political intrigue, daring military action, and high stakes counter-intelligence. At least, that is what I hope to accomplish.
In the previous post in this series I laid out the first phase of the future history that will eventually lead up to the period of our main story In that post we reached the phase of human expansion wherein the Solar System more or less thriving and well explored. The U. N. has emerged as the dominant power after a natural disaster wiped out at least two-thirds of the Earth’s population. Let us continue from there, shall we?
The Next Step
500 years, give or take a decade or so, after the successful habitation of Mars humanity practically filled the Sol system and once again looked to distant stars and longed to explore far away shores. A great many potentially habitable systems were mapped out by this time and unmanned probes were sent out. Since such probes were able to withstand high acceleration they were designed for near-light-speed travel. With their arrays of instruments and sensors and Adaptable Expert System computer brains they would be able to verify such things as the presence of surface water, human breathable atmosphere, and survivable climate. Reaching even the nearest candidate systems, however, would require decades.
In the meantime, sure in their belief that at least a few of these would pan out, the Solar Parliament approved the creation of the Committee for Coordinating Extra-solar Exploration and Emigration (C2E3). Under the auspices of the C2E3 huge colony ships were built, outfitted and loaded with colonists and materiel.
The Extra-solar Transportation Strategies Subcommittee (ETSS) brought together the system’s space transportation and habitation experts to consider the best methods for making the decades long journey to the soon-to-be-confirmed habitable worlds. In the end they determined that a mix of approaches would be employed. The one aspect they would have in common would be the use of vessels carved from natural icy bodies within the Solar system.
The Subcommittee for Spaceship Selection, Construction, and Preparation (S3CP) oversaw the construction of the mighty vessels that would cross the interstellar gulf. They searched the asteroid belt, Kuiper belt, and Oort cloud for large asteroids, proto-comets, or other sub-planetary bodies composed mostly of ice. After several years of searching they selected a handful that were deemed suitable for the purpose. These were fashioned into arks to carry the would be colonists.
Construction of the arks spanned many more years, running into decades. After moving the selected ice masses to orbits around Jupiter they bored into and hollowed out the middles of each one. Inside these vessels they constructed all that the new pioneers would need to survive the interstellar journey, and all that it was thought they would need to survive on their new home worlds. Outside they were fitted with massive banks of reaction engines, a latticework of conduits and structural supports and the external apertures of various sensors and instruments that would allow those deep within to at least be aware of their surroundings, see where they were going, and know when they arrived.
The reaction engines used nuclear fusion to flash heat the ice to vapor which it then expelled with great force, driving the whole mass forward. (need a little help with the physics here) The ice also supplied water necessary to maintain the colonists, as well as shielding them from the harsh radiation of deep space and incidental impact with the inevitable yet infinitesimal interstellar dust. When the ark arrived at its destination the reaction drives could be converted to power plants.
While construction of the arks progressed the Subcommittee for Societal Structure and Sustainability, (S4) had an equally important task. They pooled together the brightest social scientists, psychologists, political theorists, ethicists, clergy, and philosophers in the system. Their goal was to determine the most Civil of Institutions to instill in the culture of the new colonies that they would send forth so as to nurture the best of humanity, and hopefully mitigate the less desirable aspects.
Here again no single solution was deemed universally acceptable or perfect. It was understood that each human colony would essentially be on its own and so would develop its own unique culture and social institutions. All that S4 could do was provide a foundation on which they would grow and evolve, hopefully to be better than their legacies.
The first ark to be launched was aimed at the constellation Cetus. An acceptably habitable planet had been surveyed orbiting the star Tau Ceti. The various sub-committees and commissions of the C2E3 had sponsored a colonization strategy for this ark that had come the closest to reaching consensus among the experts of the S4. The colonists were carefully selected for genetic diversity and optimal skill sets. They were brought together as a community in an isolated part of Earth for over a decade then transferred to the ark wherein they would endure the 12 light year journey.
The reborn Empire of the Chinese People, as the largest earth-bound political entity demanded an ark for their own use. This was granted and they sent their colonists toward a star in a part of the sky that ancient Chinese astronomers had named the Heart of the Azure Dragon of the East, but which Western astronomers knew by the perhaps less colorful name of the Constellation of Scorpio. They were sent forth on a journey of some 24 light years, there to found the Celestial Kingdom.
A third ark was prepared and given over to the adherents of the Church of Divine Unity (I’m still working on the name). The CDU had by that time become the most widely dispersed faith of humanity. It was born out of a recognition of the essential similarity of the so-called Abrahamic faith systems, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Baha’ism. By decree of the Primum, Alstare III, a population of 144,000 souls were invited to partake in the Great Ascension. Their destination was a star 40 ly away in the vicinity of the constellation Pictoris, the Easel.
The corporation that bought the fourth ark put their faith in technology rather than any deity. They believed that the stimulus for technological innovation was all but dead in the Solar System and that it could only be captured in an entirely new environment. They crewed their ark with a small number of hand picked technicians, engineers and associated support personnel, only a few hundred in total. They carried with them, however, the genetic seeds of hundreds of thousands which they would germinate and grow once they reached their destination. They set off toward the constellation of Leo where several potentially habitable systems were known to exist.
Finally, the most ambitious project would strike out for the furthest destination, a star 473 ly away in the constellation Lyra. This ark would be run entirely by semi-autonomous robots networked and controlled by a Highly Adaptive Mission Support System. The human colonists would make the entire trip nestled within their bio-stasis pods, except for a handful of mission specialists who would be awakened periodically or in case of emergency.