Luna, our mistress
After the loss of Devin Langshire in 2653 the human race waited and tested for another ten years before trying to launch another man into orbit. This time, the entire event went off perfectly and Captain Bashir Alvarez became the first man in nearly half a millennia to successfully orbit the Earth, before splashing down safely in the Indian Ocean.
Alvarez and his development team based in Australia then proposed and began leading the effort to return man to the moon – and not just for a visit. Mankind knew, thanks to the vast amounts of history stored in the Vaults, that we had visited the moon several times in the past and had countless legends about our nighttime companion. Entire religious mythologies, pseudo-science arenas and even popular entertainment in the form of movies and rock music in the 20th Century all dedicated themselves to Luna, our mistress.
The initial set of proposals were ambitious: establish a permanent, self sustaining base on the moon by 2690 with a rotating population. Each Vault agreed to take a set of problems from the goal and solve them independently, if possible. Food, fuel, water, radiation shielding, shelter, habitat design/construction, and the logistics of how to get it all to the moon in the first place. In 2672 the initial equipment launches began when the first non-test flight of the Roman I freight rocket. Transporting heavy digging equipment from the familiar-looking lunar backhoe to the exotic of the newly engineered Lunar Tunneling Drill.
The Tunneling Drill (often called Touchdown by the design engineers due to the abbreviation of “TD” used in shorthand notes) was half of the main habitat building module specifically designed to allow for quick excavation with minimal human input. Weighing in at 15 tons, the drill will sit face down on the surface of the moon and, after being secured with the scaffolding to be place by human hands, will begin it's journey below the ancient surface. Each turn of the drill itself brings the regolith and other debris up a corkscrew conveyor which leads to the top exterior of the alpha base tent, spraying it in a radial pattern around the tent to create a slight bunker around the base itself. Once the TD has reached a depth of 3 meters, the gyroscopes mechanically shift and the drill begins turning into it's horizontal position, using vacuum suction, air pressure and a series of track gears to push the drill forward.
If the Touchdown drill was to accomplish its mission, it relied on the much more complex and impressive Regolith Automatic Metallic Arranger, named in honor of the first Vault discovered in India. The RAMA machine was designed to follow directly behind TD, using scraps of metal from earth and the geology of the moon to seal the drilled tunnel using a plasma heat generator and the most powerful, perfectly balanced pressure pistons ever created by man. RAMA helped to ensure stronger radiation resistance, a seal from the toxic cosmic vacuum and a support structure for the habitation tunnels themselves.
2690 arrived just as the drill began it's horizontal journey, the last and longest of the drilling process. The human colony that had been living in temporary quarters in the Alpha Base tent (except in the case of emergency solar flares, at which point the tunnel was flooded with breathable air and the machines placed in standby mode) finally made the permanent move underground in 2694, as “Touchdown” and RAMA were finally powered down.
In 2760, the declining health of Sir Bashir Alvarez forced him to leave his home planet. The time he had spent in space and on the moon had done enough damage that his nearly 130 year old body could no longer thrive in the gravity of Earth. In 2783, at the age of 150, Bashir Alvarez became the first person entombed on the moon.
Before his death, Alvarez helped lay the groundwork for a grid of buried power cables linking the Earth side to the Far side of the moon, onto which kilometers of solar arrays were placed, allowing for use of non-essential energy consumption during the long lunar nights (including more aggressive farming), when all the colonists could see was the Earth. Construction on the grid was rumored to have inspired the anonymous Hymn, “Earthrise,” which quickly became the unofficial anthem of the lunar colony. The Translunar Power (or 'Bashir') grid was turned on with few hiccups in 2790, creating man's first permanent home in space.
Europa, icy tomb
While construction and scientific research continued and blossomed on the Moon at the beginning of the 28th Century, the earth-based authorities began focussing on the question that started the entire space-race: are we alone? The Alvarez Foundation in Australia were given the resources and authority to continue the Luna project and the remaining resources trained their crosshairs onto Europa. In 2710, the Europan lander the Santa Maria landed and began it's melt through the icy surface.
The lander's main platform anchored itself to the thick ice surrounding it and dropped a pill shaped piece of metal the size of an industrial refrigerator, attached with an impossible thin cable to the lander itself. Glowing red, the metal pill slowly began its descent through the frozen surface of this alien world. All seven Houston Controls were inundated either gathering or analyzing new data being sent continuously via a complex relay of solar system satellite way stations. For nearly a week the hot pill slowly melted downwards, giving up no signs of life or ocean.
Shortly after one week had passed since the melting began, the data drastically shifted as the probe's external temperature dropped without warning. As the scientists back on Earth held their breath, the hot pill cracked open, and a tiny automated submarine (to which the thin cable was actually attached) emerged, slowly coming to life. Cheers of jubilation erupted in control rooms across the world as the predictions made centuries ago proved true – Europa was a water world.
Early picture transmissions from the Santa Maria were featureless black, leading engineers to fear that either the cameras or the lights had malfunctioned, even though the spec readings of the probe itself were all optimal. The tiny submarine robot began it's dive towards the bottom, dispensing more of the thin cable from inside its shell to maintain direct connection with the surface. Three hours after being born into the frigid Europan Ocean, the submarine component of the Santa Maria changed the human perspective forever – a wisp of debris rushed into the light of the camera which had been working the entire time. The realization that there was simply nothing to reflect the light initially gave way to relieved sighs, until the cause of the debris swam past the submarine, never taking notice.
Europa was a world of life.
Twenty four hours after man's first glimpse of alien life, the Santa Maria finally discovered the first volcanic vent - the hypothesized source of energy for all Europan lifeforms - and the view was both spectacular, and stunningly familiar. Worm-like plants heaved and gyrated in the volcanic heat, as tiny shrimp-like creatures flurried about eating something invisible to the eyes of the camera. As the view of the Euroshrimp became clearer, their physical appearance was disturbing: while their shell was transparent like many deep sea creatures on Earth, the top half of the crustacean was shaped like that of a man with no face: two arms on a rectangular torso, topped by a neck and 'head' which had no eyes, and only an mouth at it's top. The thing had 'hands' with four main fingers and two rows of thumbs on each hand.
Small samples of the surrounding water were tested and confirmed that these life forms were carbon based. Within 36 hours, the first strand of DNA of isolated and the world was turned on it's head: this life may have been from a similar 'seed' as life on earth. That, or life simply has fewer paths than had previously been assumed.
In 2770, the first of the modified and updated TD and RAMA equipment landed on Europa, near the Santa Maria, and began the slow work on creating a livable environment for mankind to lay down roots outside of the Earth system for the first time. Additional probes were sent (after the Santa Maria discovered life) to analyze the natural resources and found trenches of metal from impacts that had yet to be swallowed by the icy world. A predictable amount of trace metal in the ice itself was also discovered, becoming more concentrated in deeper cuts of ice. Using the lessons learned from the moon and the more abundant resources on Europa first human settlement on the moon of Jupiter was officially founded in 2800.
The first humans to settle began immediately studying the biological aspects of this new world. After the first 90 days of scientific preparation, an average of 300 alien species a day were being cataloged. The amount of data gained was going to take the greatest minds on Earth decades to digest and analyze – and the scientists making the discoveries were beyond celebrity – they were the paragons of the age.
When lead biologist Shari Cho took ill six months after arriving, no one gave it a second thought. Per protocol, she was quarantined to her personal quarters and lab, where she continued her work seamlessly. Her symptoms grew progressively worse over the next week by which time half a dozen other members of the colony had been quarantined for wildly different symptoms.
As the illness spread quickly through the settlement, the scientists on Europa, Earth and Luna all worked feverishly on the data to discover what was causing all of these varied sicknesses. In all of their hubris and joy over finding life on the hostile Europa, mankind had overlooked the most important lesson: life was opportunistic.
Shorty after mankind arrived, an otherwise benign alien bacteria found its way into the living and work areas of the colony. After infecting its first human, the bacteria quickly began multiplying in the new, much friendlier environment. Each new generation grew more aggressive, slowly destroying its host – but each time the infection spread, it destroyed its host differently, but always at the same pace. Fifteen days after her first symptoms appeared, Shari Cho died in a fit of screaming psychosis, exclaiming that she was burning away.
Once the video images of her gruesome death leaked to the settlement at large, and then to Earth, panic ensued. Demands were made to send emergency help from Luna to Europa with medical aid. Each day brought more death to the settlement. Petty Officer Daniel Rogby was elected to represent the ailing and dying Europan population, as he had yet to develop any symptoms and was thought to have some natural immunity. The devastation was that much more complete when Rogby died mid-sentence while trying to finalize a deal with the command on Luna to send emergency aid.
On February 9, 2801 the Earth and Luna command issued their final stance on the issue: no aid would be sent to Europa. By the summer of 2801, Europa was nothing more to humanity than icy tomb.
Titan, methane seas
Odyssey I, II and III science probes were launched in three successive months in the year 2775 bound for Ganymede, Iapetus and Titan, respectively. With the massive success of the Luna colony and the promise of the colony on Europa the exploration of the other massive satellites began in earnest with the Odyssey program. Each probe was outfitted with complete science laboratory, as well as deployable all terrain automated vehicles to explore more than the immediate landing zone. Soil and rock sampling kits and hardware like drill bits helped to ascertain the composition of the moons.
The first mining operations were set up on Ganymede and Iapetus to gather a ranger of silicate rock and minerals in 2780. Often, the materials were launched off planet to orbital processing facilities designed to refine and ship the materials to the rotating lagrangian space station near Titan, established during the initial stages of the resource gathering.
Odyssey III's mission to Titan had hoped to find life, but was met with the chemical precursors of life seemingly stuck due to the inability of the chemicals to dissolve into liquid methane. There was, however, more slow burning fuel than another other visited body in the solar system – and an atmosphere thicker than the Earth's. Plan to colonize the bizarre world began in 2795 with plans to launch the first TD and RAMA machines at the end of 2801. Full human occupation of the icy world was set to begin in 2807, but was postponed indefinitely after the world witnessed the slow demise of every member of the Europan colony early in the year.
Finally, in the year 2812 the new Automatic Tunneling Metallic Arranger, which was more a compact, faster and more powerful tool that acted as a combination of both the TD and RAMA devices used on the Moon and Europa, was launched towards the distant world of Titan. Exactly three months after the launch of ATMA, the Abraham science lab was launched from the the new Houston base on the moon. The Abraham itself was designed to gather samples of local minerals, gasses and quasi-organic material and expose it to several types of human biological material, cataloging all responses.
By the middle of 2816, the first human crew to travel to Europa was being assembled despite some pleas from the public to abandon the project. Replaying the footage from the Europan catastrophe and audio of Devin Langshire's fateful mission next to images of the Titan Cruiser waiting in orbit around the moon. The public outcry was outstanding, despite the many assurances from the Houston collective that there were absolutely zero potential infectious agents that have been detected in the Titan atmosphere or soil.
The date set for departure of the Titan Cruiser (itself a fully operative living module that will land permanently on the surface of the moon) approached with the public outrage building to a fever pitch. Leaders were pictured as sadistic and the cosmonaut crew were framed as ignorant lambs being lead to slaughter. Worse, the idea that the cosmonauts could bring back some mankind ending disease spread through society like a spark to a dry tender box. When June 15, 2817 finally arrived after months of sometimes violent, the crew boarded the craft and awaited command from Earth to ignite their engines and set sail.
For six hours, the crew of thirty men and thirty women, sat restlessly listening to the authorities bicker back and forth about public opinion and budget wastage. Finally, three hours before the launch window was to close, the call came to the Titan Cruiser's crew, “Titan Cruiser 00-1A-38, this is mission control, Luna,” the voice crackled through the cabin of the bridge. “Commence vehicle shutdown and depressurization – you're not going anywhere.” For a full minute, all sixty men and women that had trained and prepared for years for this moment sat in stunned silence. They would likely never see Titan.
“Titan Cruiser 00-1A-38, please confirm orders and comply,” the growingly impatient voice on the other end of the radio tether called out again. Bridge Commander Daphne Colbert stood from her seat at the helm of the ship and turned to the crew without word. She scanned the faces she had trained with in complete isolation for over a year – these were her family and she was their leader. “We have been ordered to abandon our mission. To not explore. To not push forward,” she started brokenly to her crew. She breathed deep and steadied herself as the crew looked to her for direction.
“As I see it,” Commander Colbert said with a steely gaze coming over her eyes, “we have been ordered to disobey.” The crew erupted in a jubilant cheers as the radio buzzed back to life - “Commander Colbert – why have you not responded? We are sending a boarding party in case your communications system isn't working properly, even though all systems read normal. I don't know wh-” the voice stopped suddenly. “COMMANDER COLBERT, I ORDER YOU TO CEASE YOUR ACTION IMMEDIATELY!” a stronger voice barked across the radio as the ship began it's launch maneuvers. “This will be seen as treason, Daphne!” the voice continued.
“Commander?” first engineer nervously asked the expressionless woman, trying to read her thoughts. “Set course for Titan,” she responded evenly.
In the year 2825, relations between the rogue colony of Titan and the Earth system had resumed and started to level off. The Titanians had technically stolen the Titan Cruiser against orders and had landed on the surface of the Saturnian moon without the support from Luna or Earth – but they had thrived.
The thick atmosphere of Titan enabled humans to walk outside without the need for pressure suits. Combined with the low gravity, the colonist quickly realized with 'wings' strapped to their arms (and a fair amount of practice) the thick air allowed them to 'swim' into the air and fly without the aid of engines or additional aircraft. When regular trade and relations resumed in 2830, the Titanians had already developed a series of basic human flight equipment, self sustaining subterranean hydroponic farming and flight bikes used for traveling long distances at altitude with minimal energy input.
Incoming engineering students from the Earth system streamed in with ideas and designs for structures impossible on Earth. Floating platforms, giant steps, precariously positioned pillars and other mind bending structures quickly covered the 100 square miles the colony had come to cover by 2840 after the surge of immigration. The New Olympic games officially opened in 2844 and saw human from the Earth, Luna, Titan and the Iapetus and Ganymede mining operations come together in the name of sport for the first time in over five hundred years.