Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Filling in the Map: PART 1

LOGFILE: Kuiper Belt Expedition 505
DATE: 2612.4.18
AUTHOR: Col. Valerie Animus, Dept. of History, University of
Sagan, Lagrangian Station 3.

Near the outskirts of our home solar system exists the Kuiper Belt, a vast array of ice and rock left over from the birth of the planets. The belt is made up of icy chunks, asteroids, and planetary bodies that include dwarf planets like Pluto, Hamumea, and the "nearly dwarf" Orcus.

When the Space Settlement Act of 2436 was passed, many of our system's planets (and moons) were
settled not only by corporations, governments, and billionaires, but by the everyfolk that struggled to make a better life for themselves and their communities.

For the decades and centuries that followed, asteroids inside the Mars-Jupiter Interplanetary Ridge were successfully mined by multinational megacorps and Mom-and-Pop operations alike. Interplanetary shipping, manufacturing, and mercantile operations sprung up seemingly overnight to support a burgeoning industry. But while the inner belt prospered, the Kuiper became a sort of Bermuda Triangle where ships would venture and never be seen or heard from again.

One after another, starships, freighters, and exploratory missions would venture in, and no sooner, disappear inside the Kuiper's icy grasp. No remains of any kind, no derelicts or debris were ever recovered in more than 117 separate cases.

Soon after faster-than-light travel became commonplace, the belt was relegated to Sargasso Sea status: deemed too treacherous to warrant further navigation. But a few still longed for the rich minerals and scientific gold rush for which the region seemed primed.

Even dating back to ancient Earth times, scientists have claimed the Kuiper--like the Oort Cloud beyond it--has long held the secrets to life itself in the form of chemical compounds frozen in ice crystals, carried to inner planets by comets, and released into the warm embrace of Earth's atmosphere where they seeded life.

So it's with great pride, that at 06:00 Central Sol Time this morning, we launched the first of a series of scientific missions into a thicket of dense debris in the hopes finding evidence that would spawn a new gold rush to the belt.

Like the Earth sailors of old, we fling ourselves into Neptune's domain and beyond in the name of discovery and enterprise. And perhaps we'll also yet learn the fates of all those who never did return....


Images: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, Our Universe, and Chesley Bonestell

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