Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lost in Space

Greetings good citizen,

It seems as though some of you enjoy ‘intellectual exercises’ and, being Saturday, there isn’t anything else going on. I COULD bore you to tears with ‘another’ unsatisfying dissection of MSM ‘Happy Talk’…but after the umpteenth time, it starts getting old.

Which is to say MOST bloggers have smartened up and only provide links to especially lame MSM reporting…but I’m a little slow on the uptake.

I don’t regularly do ‘thought experiments’ because they aren’t particularly ‘productive’. Sure it’s great to hear the various untried ideas tossed around but the quality of the discussion is limited to the ‘skill’ with which the simulation is crafted.

Which is to point out that each of us will leave gaping holes that others will exploit (If they’re of a mind to) and I’d like to make that a central premise of this experiment.

Consider the players, the set-up and look for situations to exploit.


Let’s begin!

You are a passenger on a colony ship travelling in a ‘hibernation chamber’ because the destination planet is 50 light years away. Naturally, the original crew will be at the end of their useful lifespan by the time the ship reaches its goal so the crew’s children will be trained in how to operate/maintain/land the craft.

HOWEVER, halfway through the journey, the ship’s science officer picks up some disturbing readings coming from the destination planet’s star system. What he learns is so disturbing that the Captain decides to abort the mission. (The destination planet appears to be inhabited by some intelligent species and the colony ship is totally unarmed.)

A message is sent back to update the governments of Earth regarding the remarkable discovery…and the Captain’s decision to abort the mission. It will take years for the message to reach Earth as faster than light travel has not yet produced faster than light communications.

Having been awake in space for 25 years, the Captain knows that nobody will be ‘pleased’ about waking up from hibernation only to find themselves right where they started, unemployed and back on Earth!

Since there’s no ‘profit’ in space travel, the colony project is a hybrid NGO. While it is publicly funded, it is privately managed by a government ‘sub-contractor’. In fact, the management company was formed by former Halliburton/Blackwater executives.

The Captain presides over a crew of 50 and a cargo of 1,000. If he turns the ship around and returns to earth, he will have squandered his life for nothing. Sure, it was meant to be a one-way trip but his kids (and theirs) were supposed to be colonists! He doesn’t want to take them back to a planet that has no use for them.

What to do? It would take 25 years to return home and for what? As you might expect, this particular eventuality had been foreseen…not competing life but the possibility of arriving on-site only to find the atmosphere contained a degree of toxicity not apparent/readily detectable from fifty light years away.

As luck would have it, they had already passed a half dozen ‘possible’ colony sites, each passed over on this early voyage because other planets had readings much closer to those of Earth, where it was thought the colonists would stand a better chance of survival.

The Captain sent for the science officer and asked him to recommend a new destination, the science officer said it would take time to determine if a suitable alternative could be located/selected using the generalized equipment on the ship.

That said, the science officer wasn’t ‘flying blind’, he had access to the original survey data used to select the original destination.

He wasn’t too surprised to notice the area of space they were currently flying through was devoid of any potential class M planets circling a class G star but they’d be coming up on one in a couple of months. A planet that, according to the data, would likely be a desert world.

So you can imagine the science officer’s shock when, in an effort to put an eyeball on the possible colony site. To see what the equipment will tell him, he sees a shining, blue planet…circling a star that was somewhat hotter than Sol. The planet was further away than the distance from Earth to the sun, making the temperature readings (as best he could make them out) to be ‘ideal’.

The planet was close enough that they could be in orbit within a couple of weeks. Both the captain and the science officer knew how dangerous it was to ‘announce’ planet fall, especially if closer inspection revealed an insurmountable problem that would make the planet unsuitable. Such as the oceans turning out to be acidic…that could be a nasty situation to try to deal with.

So the plan is to do a close ‘fly-by’ with a quick landing of a manned probe if the early data shows promise. Which is the same procedure they were to follow for the original destination.

Since we haven’t got all night, we might as well cut to the chase. The data is more than promising, the planet is so Earth-like they are tempted to name it Earth!

Orbit is established and the first group of colonists is extracted from hibernation. Who do you suppose is in this first group? Who would you wake up first…the builders or the soldiers?

Remember, this is a government funded operation…which pre-supposes quite a few entirely bizarre givens…like having a constitution, a government and a court system already to go. If you had enough cash, you could even buy yourself the governorship!

As things turned out, nobody who signed up for colonist duty had that kind of cash burning a hole in their pockets…so Halliburton ‘nominated’ the governor.

Once apprised of the situation, the governor decided he’d rather return to Earth since they hadn’t traveled all the way to their original destination. While most of the people he left behind would be dead, some of them might make it and he really hated the idea of dying alone in the wilderness of space with only a thousand colonists to remember him.

Not that he got his way, the Captain outranked him while the governor was on board the ship and the captain wasn’t about to return to Earth.

They had a damn near ideal planet to colonize and they were colonists! They had come to create a colony and that’s what they were gonna do!

Besides, the bonehead governor didn’t understand space travel at relativistic speeds, everybody they had left behind on Earth was already long dead and buried.

Worse, chances were excellent society would be ‘unrecognizable’ by the time they returned.

Back to our colonization…

So the government and the ‘militia’ were the first ones roused, then the builders were woken up and sent to the planet’s surface…and this was done before sending anyone else, well, besides the crew of the manned probe. THEY were the first colonists to make planet fall…followed by the builders, the militia stayed on board to ‘protect’ the government.

Should trouble rear its head on the planets surface then maybe a small expeditionary force would be sent down to protect the colonists…Plans were that if armed force was needed on the planet’s surface, the colonists themselves would drafted and armed to go fight whatever danger they encountered. However, if no ‘life-threatening danger’ appeared, the colonists were not to be armed under any circumstances…

So the builders establish a base and erect some temporary housing, then get busy installing other pieces of infrastructure…power grid, communications, water and sewer lines…you know, the basics.

Then the Farmers are woken up. Naturally, there’s never a perfect spot to set up operations and some of the Farmers find they will have to be air-lifted to their spreads on the other side of a mountain range…where there isn’t (and won’t be for the foreseeable future) any electricity/communications or other ‘infrastructure improvements’.

This, as you can see, is going to create a certain degree of ‘friction’ among the colonists.

But now we have reached ‘play time’.

Here you are, on a planet you didn’t bargain for, run by agents of a company 25 light years away…and possibly defunct.

How do you think things are going to work out?

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