My thanks to Roger Sanger, the copyright holder, for granting me
permission to host this article on my web site. To quote him, "I was looking
for a new home for DGP's 2300 AD articles, and naturally I picked the best fan
sites on the Web for that purpose. Kudos to Pentapod's World! Enjoy!"
- Kevin Clark
- January 24th, 2000.
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"There is no compromise in exploration. Individuals and societies must either explore, or stagnate. There is simply no third option." -- William Stanton, Ellis, July 2298
Despite early exploration and colonization efforts, from 2260 to 2300, no new colonies, outposts, or even remote bases were established in the American Arm. The reason for this sudden lack of enterprise is simple. Starships are strictly limited in the distance they may travel between discharges of their stutterwarp drives. By 2260, all known accessible solar systems within the arm had been reached. While extensive exploration remains to be done on the established territories within the arm, particularly in outpost systems, exploration of totally new solar systems has been impossible for the last 40 years.
This was, to say the least, a frustrating development for the peoples of America and Australia, two nations with deep exploratory traditions. Had circumstances been the same in the French and Chinese Arms, perhaps the limitations of local interstellar geometry would not have been as chafing. But such was not the case. The French and Chinese Arms open up onto a myriad of unexplored solar systems. The American Arm alone was a close grouping.
Many made the point that, functionally, this fact made little difference, since the resources available within the American Arm have barely been recognized, much less tapped. A number of outpost planets within the Arm have been mapped to a resolution of only 10 meters. The equatorial regions of Ellis, an established American colony, have yet to be mapped in exacting detail. Even on colonies as well explored as Mu Herculis, ignorance greatly outweighs knowledge. But the urge for exploration is not merely practical. Some people just don't like limits.
The presumed closed nature of the American Arm might or might not have
made a difference in the longer run. Two quite independent developments,
one in 2996, the other in 2300, have rendered the issue obsolete.
The American Arm is no longer closed.
In 2261, the AAEC (Australian-American Exploration Council) embarked on the Inter-System Baseline Interferometry Program, an incredible experiment in wide-scale telescopy. Created in 2217 as part of a series of exploratory and colonial cooperation agreements, the AAEC has as its principal duties the management and dissemination of the growing database on colonial exploration, the establishment of uniform exploration procedures in accordance with the Melbourne Accords, and the identification of the most promising targets for concentrated exploration activities.
In accordance with this last responsibility, the Council in 2265 directed the construction of a number of radio and optical observatories throughout the American Arm. The data collected from these facilities made it possible to simulate a telescope with an effective diameter the length of the American Arm. The observatories were constructed in cooperation with a number of academic institutions, and much of their operational duty cycle was dedicated to basic scientific research. The AAEC, however, was concentrating its efforts in a single direction -- the search for brown dwarfs.
Present astronomical theory holds that brown dwarfs may be the most common stellar type. Despite this fact, relatively few have been discovered. They emit very little electromagnetic radiation, are relatively unmassive, have no appreciable Oort clouds, and in general refuse to do anything which would make them easier for astronomers to find. Brown dwarfs are massive enough, though, to allow for stutterwarp discharge, provided they are approached closely enough.
The AAEC was searching for any of these objects that might serve as a bridge to other systems just out of reach. Over the 145 year period since the construction of the first interferometry facilities, they found several brown dwarfs, not to mention a number of other interesting objects. None were in useful positions. The twelfth interferometry observatory was brought on line in December of 2299 at Ross 165. In January, 2300 the network found a good one.
Unglamourously labeled ISO 417, the brown dwarf lies at standard coordinates 7.6, -27.2, 4.7. It is an M1 star of absolute magnitude 47.7. ISO 417 can be reached from AC +20 1463-148, two circuits off the colony at Vega. The AAEC wasted no time in acting. In March of 2300, the exploration cruiser Cook was sent to AC +20 1463-148. Cook had two major goals.
First, Cook launched three stutterwarp probes to ISO 417, programmed to gather preliminary information about the star and any system which it held.
Second, Cook began a more careful survey of AC +20 1463-148. The system had been previously examined, but had offered nothing worthy of careful scrutiny. The AAEC would require more careful surveys in order to determine the site of a future interface base in the system. It had been decided that until facilities could be constructed, Mu Herculis (Hermes) and Vega Far Station 5 would be used as operational facilities for exploration of the cluster that lies beyond ISO 417.
The return of all three probes within two weeks of launch was a good sign. The star had no planetary bodies, but a small attendant sphere of dust and gas was detected.
By July of 2300, Cook's examination of the AC +20 1463-148 system had resolved sufficiently to answer the questions required for outpost site selection, and the ship returned to Mu Herculis. The data brought back by the Cook led the AAEC operations panel directing the project to decide the ecologies of AC +20 1463-148's worlds did not offer sufficient advantages to justify the orbital interface costs involved in using them as sites for the future outpost. A 23 kilometer long, 12 kilometer wide asteroid dubbed Horizon was selected instead.
In October, work began on isolation and maintenance facilities on Horizon. The future base was named Acey-Acey by the American Space Force ( ASF) and the Royal Australian Space Navy ( RASN) personnel who were constructing it, referring to its role in connecting the systems at AC +20 1463-148 and AC +2 2155-242. In the months that followed, the name evolved into the official designation for the outpost ( possibly due to the inconvenience of referring to the station as AC +20 1463-148 TR-L4 1072 AAEC MIRO 1). In February of 2301, three ISV-5s will be ready for the Beta Aquilae research program, to leave for ISO 417 shortly thereafter.
The second development which opened up the American Arm began with a successful test in 2296. In May of that year, William Stanton piloted the coupled ships Ajax and Odysseus out of orbital facilities from Earth. Odysseus's engines were off-line and built up no discharge as Ajax powered both vehicles to a point 3.85 light-years out. Odysseus's engines were then brought on line and calibrated. At this point, the ships separated from each other, and Ajax returned to Sol system and discharged. Odysseus proceeded another 6.88 light-years to Epsilon Eridani. The total distance travelled by Odysseus was 10.73 light-years. Stanton had designed a vehicle combination capable of breaking the 7.7 light-year barrier.
While other designs had been proposed which were capable of doing this ( the exploratory vehicle Bayern for example), Stanton's design did not require the use of disposable stutterwarp engines. For Stanton, and the consortium of backers which had provided the money for the construction of his design, this was not a subtle point.
Stanton and his associates were interested not merely in exploration for scientific purposes; they wanted to open another frontier for colonization. In order to do this, they must not only be able to reach new systems, they had to be able to provide for economical transport between those new worlds and existing colonies. Disposable engines were not capable of providing this; Stanton's combination was. Using a tug at each end of a circuit, a total distance of 11.55 light-years could be travelled. While costs were higher than conventional stutterwarp travel, they were low enough to provide for economic viability of a colonization effort.
In November 2296, Stanton and his associates approached Trilon, a major shipbuilding corporation, with the stutterwarp tug design. After operational trials in December of that year, Trilon purchased exclusive manufacturing rights to the tug design and to the modified on-line off-line engines which made its use possible. While the final negotiated terms of the Trilon contract are not known, it is certainly known that Stanton became a very wealthy man. Several of Stanton's backers collected their percentages and moved on to other endeavors. Most, however, joined with him in establishing the Pioneer Society.
The contract with Trilon provided for the Pioneer Society to maintain ownership of the prototype tug vehicle. To this, Pioneer added a reconditioned heavy cargo vessel, a Trilon-designed exploration cruiser, and two VTOL-capable interface vehicles. Facilities were established in Ellis's system on an abandoned mining facility near Boise. Stanton and his society made heavy use of surplus exploratory equipment which the AAEC and other exploratory bodies had been trying to sell for some time. They also used the database which the AAEC had been developing in order to identify promising avenues of exploration.
When Stanton publicly announced his intentions to begin private exploratory efforts off Ellis, he encountered significant resistance from AAEC offices. The council felt that exploration was dangerous work, best left to professionals. Stanton countered that the AAEC was more than welcome to join him in his efforts, that he was operating within the guidelines established by the AAEC, and that he did not intend to cease his activities. A thorough review of the proposed Pioneer Society exploration followed, at the end of which the AAEC grudgingly turned its public domain information over to the Society. Thus, the Pioneer Society sprang immediately into operation and heavy debt. Gaining funds from a number of sources, it began exploratory efforts of the newly opened systems beyond Ellis.
Trilon, with access to the stutterwarp tug technology, also began an
exploratory effort based from Mu Herculis. Trilon completed their
own version of the stutterwarp tug in September 2299 and began their efforts
with two ISV-5s. While Trilon is reported to be building two more
tugs for their own use in this endeavor, they have been relatively secretive
about their future plans.
Task: To reassemble an offline/online stutterwarp drive: Difficult. Ship Drive Engineering, Electronic/2 or Mechanical /2. 3 hours.
Task: To calibrate a reassembled offline/online stutterwarp drive ( uncertain): Difficult. Ship Drive Engineering. 6 minutes.
Referee: Success at this task allows the reassembled offline/online stutter-warp drive to be successfully engaged. Note that ship drive engineering skill is the only skill that may be applied to this task. Multiple tries are recommended to insure the drive is ready for operation. If the player's current try is SOME TRUTH, implement a 2D mishap when the drive is engaged.
"Interstellar exploration is simple -- just know exactly what to expect before going." -- Brian Davis, Prometheus Returns, King, February 2215
Telescopes are cheaper to build and to operate than starships. They are also much safer. Thus, the first step in any interstellar exploration is astronomical research. Telescopes can show what kind of elements are in system, how likely it is that planets have formed, whether organic life is a possibility, and in general, whether or not one would want to risk one's neck investigating further. Astronomical research serves as a guide for designing an effective mission. If a star is a blue giant with heavy flare activity, leave the botanists behind. If the star is a white dwarf, bring along geologists. If the star is a blue dwarf, don't go at all.
Astrophysical observations of the type which are useful to explorers are practiced on an ongoing basis by academic and other institutions engaged in basic astronomical and cosmological research. The AAEC also conducts a large program. This information is placed in the public domain by its authors, and is readily accessible through these institutions at a negligible charge.
Exploration of new systems also requires navigational information. Star positions are normally determined by measuring the star's Doppler shift, but Doppler shift position fixes are not accurate enough to provide for efficient interstellar travel. Precise position fixes are determined by observational triangulation from a number of observatories located in different systems. The AAEC exploration program out of Acey-Acey uses its own observatory network to acquire this data. Trilon and the Pioneer Society have been getting theirs in exchange for contributions to academic institutions operating astronomy programs, such as Chandler University.
Once a number of systems have been determined to offer promising potential for exploration, a mission profile is prepared. In the first phases of exploration, a vessel will visit several systems before returning to home port. When the targeted systems are previously unvisited, the mission profile will include plans for general system survey within the context of what resources are expected to be found. In later phases of exploration, mission profiles may include planetfall operations, remote facility resupply, satellite and probe retrieval, personnel transfer, and so on.
Based on the mission profile, an optimal vehicle is selected, ( assuming there is more than one to choose from), crew is chosen, and the vessel is loaded with the appropriate scientific apparatus and supplies. While interstellar travel has certainly become more commonplace over the two centuries preceding 2300, exploration is far from routine. Send-off ceremonies and royal treatment for exploration crews in the days prior to departure are testaments to the understanding that whenever people are engaged in exploration, some will not return.
As the departing vessel gets underway, it will train forward telescopes on the destination star. A ship using stutterwarp engines basically travels up the light stream emitted from that star, and during the journey, a time compressed record of its activity can be recorded. In the case of a star six light-years distant, this amounts to a time lapse study of the star for six years. This initial information can be very useful for recording short term fluctuations in the star's intensity which might rule the system out for later colonization, or which might even require exploration of the system to be aborted. Spacecraft are quite vulnerable to the hard radiation emitted by flare stars, and a physical exploration of systems with such stars at their centers is not only pointless, but also quite dangerous.
Upon reaching 0.25 light-years from the target system, standard procedure calls for the vessel to come to full stop. At this point the primary ecliptic of the system is determined and initial maps are made for in-system navigation. A vessel will usually hang here in space for several days while observations are made and a flight plan for exploration of the system is drawn up. Exploratory vessels enter unexplored systems off the ecliptic, allowing them to maximize observations as they continue inward and giving them the greatest flexibility in course selection.
If an Oort cloud exists, the vessel will also stop again at the boundary of the cloud. Oort clouds are spheres of cometary material which surround most systems considerably outside the orbits of any planets. Crew members will often "stretch their legs", exiting the vehicle to collect snow ball or larger sized chunks found floating in this region.
These fragments will offer the first real contact with the new system. Sample corings of this material can reveal vital information on the initial composition of the planetary system; samples can also confirm the long term stability of the system's primary star. Concentric spheres of deposited material will contain a record of the star's active output reaching back to the time of the system's formation. Oort cloud material often contains organic molecules, the presence of which increases the likelihood of life having formed somewhere in the system. Indeed, a number of samples have been retrieved containing active microorganisms, and on two occasions, macroorganisms. Regardless of whether such organisms are found, Oort material is classified as a potential biohazard, and P-5 isolation procedures are mandated in the handling of Oort samples.
The ship will start its exploration of the actual system in its center. A close approach of the primary star will provide the ship with Newtonian momentum useful in the later planetary orbit phase of the operation. The exacting solar astronomy made possible by this close flyby also insures that the star holds no surprises for any future colonists. Spectroanalysis of the star gives more precise information on elements to be found within the system, and alerts the exploration team to watch for these materials later.
If probes are to be used to aid exploration of the system, they will generally be discharged just prior to or just after periastron. Stutterwarp probes will be able to reach their targets more efficiently if they are launched prior to encountering the star's strong gravity flux. Impulse driven probes, which are incidentally about one-fourth of the price of stutterwarp varieties, will benefit from the momentum acquired by the vehicle after close approach. Generally, if a system seems to offer considerable promise based on the data acquired so far, impulse probes will be dispatched and left in the system to be recovered on a later visit.
Depending on the positions of the planets within their orbits, the ship will generally explore the most promising worlds in a long spiral flight path reaching out from the center of the system. Naturally most attention will be directed in the habitable zone. As the first world is encountered, the ship enters orbit around it. Unless strong radiation belts dictate otherwise, the first orbits are polar. Polar orbits allow the exploration vehicle to begin mapping of the planet's surface.
Techniques used in mapping will vary considerably, dependent both upon the clarity of the atmosphere and the sensing capabilities of the ship. Smaller terrestrial planets with little atmospheric obscuration can be mapped in the visible spectrum within a few days. Mapping larger worlds with synthetic aperature radar, allowing the detection of subsurface features, can take months. Optical mapping to a resolution of 1 square km is considered quite adequate for initial examinations.
Since 2255, it has been standard procedure for vessels entering orbits around previously unvisited worlds to scale the radio band listening for any signs of technical civilizations on the planet. All three exploratory efforts within the American Arm have announced their intentions to comply with this tradition, despite the low probability of receiving any such transmissions.
As mapping operations proceed in orbit, spectroanalysis of the atmosphere is conducted, and a brainstorming session of sorts begins. Computer analysis is applied to the incoming cartographic data. Programs have been designed to look for geological features indicative of resources beneath the surface. Color analysis is used to look for foliage or other signs of life. Every effort is made by the research team to catch up with the flood of information so far collected. If any features have been found of interest on the planet, higher resolution maps of the area in question will be made.
If no aspect of the planet's geology, climate, or observable biosphere indicate that further research is called for, the ship transits on to the next target world. If it seems there may be some reason for further study, however, satellites will be launched while in polar orbit to continue long term observations of the planet.
If the planet has a significant atmosphere, the ship will now shift to an equatorial orbit and launch atmospheric probes. These probes may be designed to test for basic biologic activity, sniff for particular elements, or merely track upper atmospheric weather. Landing probes may be dropped to provide additional information. Many of these will be designed to store data over a period of months and transmit it when a ship returns to the world. Once initial data returns have been confirmed from these probes, the exploration vehicle moves on. Standard procedure is not for landings to be attempted on the first exploratory pass of a planet.
If the system contains an asteroid belt, it will invariably be visited. Belts have proved valuable sources of raw materials. Most exploration ships carry lasers for remote vaporization and spectroanalysis of belt fragments. Even if lasers are used, results will generally be verified with actual samples gathered from the belt. Even if the belt does not seem suitable for long term exploitation, it can often serve as a temporary source of materials if a remote facility is later established in-system.
Once all targets in system slated for first-pass exploration have been
examined, the exploration vessel collects any stutterwarp probes, and departs
( impulse probes are usually left behind). When all systems on the
ship's itinerary have been visited, the vessel returns to home port and
data reduction and analysis continues, in preparation for the second phase
First, Trilon's explorations are, as we mentioned, rather secretive. They will remain that way. Make up anything you like; we won't ever contradict you. Trilon is an American company with international/intercolonial holdings and their actions and motivations should reflect this, but other than that you have free license.
The Pioneer Society is interested in opening up a new frontier. Stanton takes strong personal interest in the society's exploration and chooses personnel for the missions himself. He is more impressed with overall ability than credentials, and PCs with various backgrounds could well wangle their way onto an expedition. The Society gets its operating funds from a consortium of six major firms interested in exploiting the resources of the new frontier, philanthropic contributions, initial capital from the stutterwarp tug sale, membership fees, video sales, and contributions from the Aphrodite Foundation.
The Pioneer Society runs on a shoestring, and favors any action which will raise or save money. Society members ( membership is Lv100 per year) can purchase tickets for Lv25,000 to go along with an expeditionary vessel. The Society sends out an exploratory expedition every six months, the average mission lasting about two months. The AAEC program is modeled after modern government exploration and information management projects. There is a close relationship between the AAEC and the militaries of America and Australia. Civilian scientists and military, survey, and scouting characters are most likely to be involved in initial exploration. There are a number of pressures on the AAEC to make a significant find soon. The program costs a lot of money, and the taxpayers would like to see a return. The AAEC has two vehicles operating in its Beta Aquilae exploration area. They send them out three times a year, with an average mission duration of six weeks.
Two stutterwarp tugs have been sold by Trilon to the American and Australian
"The only practical reason for exploration is the potential for colonization. But that's not why we do it." Notes from Icarus -- Leona Washington Chicago -- 2268
Exploration carries a fiendishly high price tag, and behind every exploratory effort exists the economic pressure to discover new vistas of resource for an ever-expanding human civilization. Often the motivations of exploration personnel are purely scientific or philosophical, but the bottom line is that planets which present no potential for resource exploitation don't get explored.
If initial orbital surveys portray a world of some promise, unmanned probes will be dispatched to the planet by the research vessel prior to its departure from system. When a vessel returns weeks or months later to continue research, it will retrieve the probe's recorded data. Of particular interest at this point will be geological information on specific sites, molecular chemistry ( which orbital spectroanalysis does not handle well), and, most importantly, life science and organic chemistry information.
Diatomic oxygen, required for human life, is sufficiently chemically reactive that its presence in large quantities is a strong indicator of indigenous life. Thus, most planets worthy of consideration for ongoing exploration have active biospheres. The physical dangers a planet can present are usually well understood -- but the threats posed by xenobiology are an unknown factor in any exploratory effort. Life is exquisitely complex, it adapts, it replicates itself.
A single incident of contamination with a toxic life form could result in the loss of an entire research expedition, or in the event of transfer back to the launch point ( referred to as back-burn), and could theoretically sweep throughout the entirety of humanity. The legacy of the Twilight War's dabblings with biological warfare has instilled a strong feeling of caution when dealing with previously unknown organisms.
Thus, built into exploratory processes are a series of tests and holds stemming from guidelines laid down at the time of the Melbourne Accords. No agency exists to enforce these guidelines, but most colonies have laws which restrict entry of vessels, personnel, and materials based on adherence to the Melbourne Guidelines.
If probe data does not indicate organic chemical activity, then either some inanimate agent is responsible for the presence of diatomic oxygen, or whatever life does exist is not compatible with and therefore presents no threat to terrestrial forms. Regardless, a second round of soft landing probes is deployed. These contain various terrestrial organisms which spend a minimum of four months on the planet's surface being monitored in sealed cages. At the end of this period, they are returned to orbit by automated launchers and examined in isolation for signs of pathology. In addition, atmospheric, soil, and subsurface samples are launched into orbit. All of these are returned and held for a period of six months in an analytical laboratory at the colonial base of operations. Assuming that no threat is observed within this period, the next step is manned landings.
Up to this point, procedures followed by the AAEC and the Pioneer Society are virtually identical. From here they diverge. Freeman and his society are urgently developing manned operations on planetside as quickly as possible. Their limited available capital requires that within the next 2 years they convince additional private backers to begin operations on one of their sites. The AAEC program, with governmental backing, has concentrated on survey and resource mapping. Their strategy has led them to establish orbital stations around promising planets and to minimize manned planetside operations. They now have two so-called "Campbell" stations in the Beta Aquilae cluster. When their isolation facilities on Acey-Acey are completed, they should be in good position to begin a number of extensive manned planetary operations.
When the decision is made to put personnel on planet, a site is selected and a self-contained exploration module is soft landed, near a body of water if possible. The standard complement for initial landing comprises a biologist, a geologist, a research physician, a hydrologist/meteorologist, an engineer, and a mission commander. The functions of the scientists are self-evident, The engineer is expected to evaluate the difficulty future personnel may have in extracting planetary resources, and to handle construction, maintenance, and modification of machinery and facilities required for the mission.
The commander has a diverse role. Generally coming from a military or scouting background, his job is to keep the program functioning and the landing party alive. Assuming there are no significant conflicts or hazards during the landing party's stay, his responsibilities are basically administrative. But, mission commanders in the past have defended their parties from hostile macroorganisms, kept scientific disputes from erupting into destructive conflicts, and decided that contamination of facilities required stranding of the party on planet indefinitely.
Shortly after the exploration module has landed, the team makes planetfall. Their first task is to remove the module's entry shell and begin assembly of the equipment packed within it for the descent. Over the next several days, they bring the module's living quarters, analytic laboratories, and computer/telemetry equipment on line. They also construct a rectenna grid from the internal skin of the reentry shell.
Simultaneously, the orbital crew assembles a geosynchronous satellite above the ground station. This converts solar energy to microwaves and beams them to the rectenna to meet power requirements. It serves as an orbital telemetry link for satellites and RPVs controlled by ground personnel. It also contains the exploration telemetry recorder.
The exploration vessel moves on to its next destination once it confirms that the planetside station is operational. The ground team now has a stay of six months ahead of them.
While on planet, the team stays busy in a variety of ways. They return samples to the facility for analysis. They conduct experiments within the station on the viability of various basic biological processes, given the planet's environment. RPVs are used to investigate remote sites in detail, and if warranted an RV-like vehicle is used to transport personnel to these for onsite examination. Seismic charges may be used to conduct subsurface imaging and analysis, and in some cases to clear surface material from interesting subterranean formations. Deeper corings are made to gain information on long-term geologic activity and potential mineral resources. If microbiological life has been discovered, experiments continue to study its interaction with terrestrial forms. Macrobiological life, if any, is observed and catalogued, and preliminary studies of its behavior conducted.
At three months mission elapsed time, the exploration vessel returns to drop supplies to the ground station, exchanging scientific information with the ground team as well as delivering news and personal messages from home. Samples are launched from planet and retrieved in orbit to be returned to the laboratories at the colonial base of operations. The interchange lasts about a week before the vessel moves on. It returns again in 3 months, at which time the project must have produced results. If no promising resources have been uncovered, or if the planet presents too many obstacles to future colonization, the effort is over. The ground crew and scientific equipment are recovered, but the station itself is left behind to baffle some alien archaeologist in later millennia.
If resources have been discovered, however, and seem accessible, the original crew is rotated off and replacement personnel take over. Additional equipment and personnel may be landed if the planet seems particularly promising. New mission goals and guidelines may be instituted based on earlier discoveries.
The original ground personnel return to the exploration vessel, but are kept in isolation from the flight crew for the voyage home. Upon arriving at the base of operations, the explorers are transferred to an isolation facility for 90 days. Here they receive extensive medical examination, to identify any pathogens and to determine whether the planetary environment has had any effect on their bodies. Isolation could hardly be described as exciting, but isolation facilities are carefully designed to allow non-contact interaction with the outside world. Such facilities allow the team to continue work begun during their time on planet, to examine information brought back by other exploratory groups, or merely to loaf if they so choose.
After another 90 days, personnel are rotated and added again. The number of explorers on planet is now around 20. This latest group includes a greater proportion of experts on resource utilization -- mining engineers, agricultural planners, aquaculturalists, and so on. These experts are on planet, assessing and creating plans, working with the scientists, and often directing their efforts to determine whether colonization here would be not just possible, but practical. Often these planners are representatives from corporations or branches of government that are providing funding for the exploratory effort. At the end of their 90 day stay on planet, they too return home for isolation. Their reports, however, influence whether backing continues or not. Naturally, basic scientific research and survey continues throughout this process.
It has now been one year since humans first set foot on the planet. If funding is maintained, a second module will probably be dropped, and facilities constructed to house additional personnel. Often a permanent launch facility is constructed on the surface. In this phase of operations, larger scale experiments begin. Resources are harvested from the planet based on the plans of the resource utilization team. These are processed in model facilities, and techniques and projections are refined based on the results. The number of individuals on planet now climbs upwards to 50 or 60. This process of exploration, crew rotation, and increasing use of resources can continue indefinitely. The next step, the petition for territorial rights, is purely administrative and economic. It is also a gamble. Putting the maximum number of people on planet prior to petition allows for a claim of a larger amount of territory, but if someone else should also be exploring the planet, and should advance their petition first, then much could be lost. Also, no materials can be commercially exported from a planet until such a claim is made.
This examination deals only with what happens if everything goes absolutely
perfectly. This is rarely the case. As an absolute minimum,
a planet can go from a wobble notation in an astronomer's notebook to a
full fledged outpost in 4 years. At any step, lack of funds, unforeseen
dangers, accidents, biological enigmas, red tape, or any number of other
factors could slow the process down by months or years.
This and the exploration article published last year were written with adventuring in mind. Scenarios or even whole campaigns can be developed surrounding the incidents when opening up a single system. Naturally, the ideas presented here can be modified for campaigns in other arms. We have not emphasized specific task descriptions for various scientific endeavors as space was not sufficient. Most scientific tasks can be easily created by anyone wishing to run a science-heavy campaign.
Here are a few ideas to get your going on exploration-based adventure.
Some of these refer to concepts presented last issue. ( If you're
a player and not a referee, you might want to skip reading these.)
These should give you a place to start. Read between the lines. Lots of stuff was put there.
Tracks ( maximum speed: 30 kph)
As atmospheric probe with this addition:
Seismic charge launcher and imaging to detect subsurface geology.
Coring drill to allow for retrieval of subsurface material ( maximum depth: 30 meters).
As atmospheric probe except samples can be atmospheric, surface soil, or subsurface material.
As mobile surface with ability to retrieve core samples to a depth of 200 meters ( max vertical deviation: 30 degrees).
Same as mobile surface Life science experiments repeatable 6 times.
Core samples may be retrieved 10 times.
All probes use thermal isotope power plants which present a radiation hazard if opened.
The cages which maintain adequate life support for the terrestrial organisms introduce atmospheric and soil samples into the animals' environment, but do not allow microorganisms carried by the animal to leak out into the planetary environment.
Campbell stations have few sensors of their own. They serve as the control centers for a battery of satellites and probes within system. They do have laboratories for analysis of returned samples, and each has one OTV ( Orbital Transfer Vehicle) for satellite rendezvous and repair, and recovery of sample packages. OTVs are capable of atmospheric entry under emergency conditions, but incapable of returning to orbit.
There are in fact two exploration telemetry recorders -- one aboard the orbiting satellite, and one in the ground installation. These record all telemetry from satellites and RPVs. In addition, the mission commander transmits a daily log in which he notes measurements, discoveries, and developments. In the event something disables or kills the ground team, the telemetry recorder can be invaluable in uncovering what happened. Advanced units used by the AAEC will also employ a stutterwarp torpedo which returns the orbital telemetry recorder to the colonial center of operations if no log entry is made for 48 hours.
Currently, all operations outside the ground station are conducted in environment suits. Full decontamination procedures are in effect to prevent pathogens from being introduced into the station.
When a number of systems are under simultaneous exploration, a single vessel will often daisy chain its way through the systems, servicing each ground station and conducting new spaceborn research as it goes.
Most isolation facilities are located in the outsystem of colonies to prevent concerns of contamination by local officials.
Planets which have been freed from decontamination and isolation requirements are often referred to as "shirtsleeve worlds" by those involved in exploration, though the term is also used to refer to garden planets.
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