Logbook #42


Le chapitre 42

Xu’s emotions overtook her and she jumped out of the chair with a huge grin and yelled “Eureka!” to the amazement of her two colleagues working nearby. She happily did a little jig around the floor all the while saying “I’ve got it, I’ve got it, I’ve got it.”

Valentina’s curiosity was thoroughly piqued. “You’ve got what?” she explored.

Xu stopped. She turned, looked at Valentina and triumphantly stated, “The old New Horizon’s probe that visited Pluto! I used receivers on the Earth together with ours here on the Moon to maximize our baseline. Once I time synched the responses, I had an effective aperture that could, possibly, pick up the probe’s signal as it travelled through the Kuiper belt. And it did!”

Her feet kept moving in glee while she provided the description. “Next, we’re going to send commands to its cameras to look for Kuiper objects. Just maybe, the probe will pass near enough to one so that we can get measurements. Sure the odds of it finding an object are astronomical but we are astronomers.” she laughed.

Valentina felt better just by enjoying this light moment with Xu. She’d been feeling down for some time now and with Desai working at a console just behind her, she could feel her mood sink further. Somehow, she couldn’t shake the feeling that he was no longer being very supportive of her. He continued to say all the right things and act with wonderful decorum, even when they were sharing the night together. But, part of her felt that something wasn’t quite right. Watching Xu dance with delight after discovering the old, distant probe was the sort of distraction she needed.

Xu continued on “And now we’re going to start trying to communicate with it. If successful, we will have completed the longest robotic control loop ever undertaken.” Her eyes beamed. “All we have to do is focus all the transmission beams along the same steradian and we’re golden!”

Turning to smile and join in the fun, Desai quipped in saying “and how long does it take for your signal to get there? Over 8 hours by now? That’s a pretty long feedback loop to keep active. Are you just going to turn on some receivers and wait a few days for a response?”

Xu set her eyes on him and beamed some more. “There’s a group on Earth who’ve re-written the probe’s control software. We’ve installed it. Now, if it views anything not matching an entry in its star/planetoid library then it will initiate a full detect sequence. All sensors towards the object will record data into the main storage. There it gets compressed and streamed to our receiver system once a day. All we’re hoping is that there’s enough light from our Sun to reflect off an object’s surface and trigger the probe’s diodes.”

Desai laughed. “And what if your wonderful probe detects an alien craft going by? Maybe it could get a silhouette of the pilot in a lit cockpit. That image would certainly get the media humming back on Earth. Just think, finally everyone on Earth would have one single thing to worry about. Just maybe it would lead to a bit more cooperation.”, he joked with an erstwhile sigh.

“We have no such grandiose designs.” replied Xu. “Nor do I think we could actually get any surface detail to such a refined degree. But, if we could get some objects. And more importantly get their velocity vectors. Then we could extrapolate and find orbital characteristics. Extending this, we might get an estimate for asteroid insertion into the inner solar system. Think of it as a first line of defence in keeping asteroids from hitting good ol’ Earth, and of course our good ol’ world, the Moon. You know, it’s days like this that make our efforts here so much more worthwhile.”

At the same time as Xu was happily sharing, telling her good news with her companions, her mind drifted to the Moon’s northern hemisphere. The unknown rocket launch of a while ago had deposited a rover near the Moon’s north pole. Xu had used their own orbiting satellites to keep track of the rover. She had watched in amazement as it had begun to form a flattened, compacted surface and what looked like structural walls. She’d also heard that another launch would soon deliver a new cargo from the Earth that was likely going up to the north pole as well. She thought of the rover as an intruder and if the presence at the other end of their world grew then she knew it would become a threat to them. She wanted to capitalize upon their favoured status as the only observatory without atmospheric distortion. She didn’t want competition. Anything constructed anywhere else on the Moon was a potential problem. For now, this potential competitor drove her to speed up her own research. Perhaps sometime in the future she might have to take action to protect their nascent colony.

Logbook #40

Chang'e3 NAOC
Chang’e3 NAOC

Le chapitre 40

In response to Xu’s request, Desai found himself again wandering the plains that surrounded the Hab. With this, Xu was ensuring that someone from the Hab continually, physically visited their immediate region. It ensured that everyone on Earth knew what they were claiming. He thought it odd that territorial rights were such a concern given the difficulty that they were having in ensuring a continual stream of supplies just to keep the colonists alive. “How could any other group on Earth claim land on the Moon. And equally, why?” he thought. Yet he did know that the BRICS Aerospace consortium (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) was planning to land a second surveyor on the Moon’s northern pole. Rumours were that these robots were a precursor to their lunar base. Which would become a direct competitor to theirs. And he thought of the radio observatory on the Moon’s away-side as they called the side that always faced away from Earth. The observatory was to be built with no human assistance; it was fully assembled by mechanized, remotely-controlled robots. Yet the colonists had been advised that they were the rescue team should the robots need aid. “Funny how people are now serving the needs of robots” he mused as he carried himself confidently across the lunar scape.

In a positive sense, he was glad to be physically active once more. Their treadmill was on the fritz ever since he had run into the screen. He had little opportunity to really move while in the Hab. Thinking of the treadmill made his mind wander back to his encounter with Valentina. He’d known he’d been overly provocative and shouldn’t have goaded Valentina as much as he had. While rueful, he did feel a certain smug satisfaction that he’d got his point across and that Valentina ended up bearing the brunt of the blame. He was thinking that maybe it was time for a change in their team make-up. There were a lot of volunteers just waiting to join them. All he had to do was to convince Valentina that she’d be doing more for the colony by returning to Earth than by staying on the Moon. And he had a conduit.  His connection to the aide of her boyfriend Max would start paying dividends. Using him he could have Valentina back on Earth. And his own preferred substitute in place. With this dedicated support he should have enough sway to get the colonists to follow all his wishes. This was where he wanted to be; the decision maker of their little venture rather than some shoddy farce of equal representation. He could feel his feet wandering about the inside of his boot as his energy and emotions took him along faster and faster. He would need to slow down otherwise his heart monitor would sound an alarm at the Hab and then he’d have to explain to Xu. He was getting tired of her continual intrusions and was looking forward to running the show a bit more to his own liking.

His feet continued their path toward the distant outcrop. While he knew that it was only a few hundred metres away, he still couldn’t judge the distance properly. He had been surprised to learn that on Earth people use vegetation, usually trees, to judge intermediate distances. With no trees on the Moon, he was left guessing. By using cleanly swept outcrops, hills and valleys, a lunar walker as he now was, tended to over-estimate the distance. He could however use the map overlay that projects the distances directly onto the inside of his helmet. With this and a good amount of previous surveying, he could quickly see his relative location and distances to all the significant features. Somehow he felt he was cheating when using this so he typically walked without it and tried to estimate the time needed to get to his destination.

The slight gradient wasn’t even noticeable. Both he and Woof kept a constant pace during the ascent. At the peak, he stood by the rock outlay and gazed across the shallow valley that swept in front of him. The Sun was at his back so his shadow made for a diminutive figure. He waved and his shadow waved back. To the side of his shadow, he could see the much smaller outline of Woof. He fought back a sudden urge to pat Woof’s head. “It’s only a machine.” he joked. He spent a bit more time drinking in the view; scanning slowly from as far as he could turn without being blinded by the Sun, then fully across to the other side. Back at the Hab he would compare the scans to previous to determine if anything changed. Sometimes, though very rarely, they’d see a new small slide on the side of a hill or some other minute evidence of activity. With the data, they were building up statistics that could tell them the likelihood of a meteor strike from some careening space debris that had wandered into the Moon’s path. This data would give him the evidence he needed to support his desire to remain in the Hab rather than tunnel under the ground like a rat. He turned and headed to the second vantage point. Woof kept tagging along. Both being barely noticeable against the vast , desolate landscape surrounding them.


Dear Fellow Lunar Enthusiasts,

In a somewhat odd but accepted trend, we are barely half through summer and we’re being told to start focusing upon the fall. “It’s a brand new year, be ready!”, we’re told. Well, let’s take up that mantra. Let’s start a new year with every current member looking to find 10 new members. We’re sure you know at least that many people who want a future for civilization that’s beyond the restrictions of Earth’s surface. Let’s make this a season of advancement to this goal.

Hopefully you’re also taking the chance to look up and watch the remains of comet Swift-Tuttle as its remnants pierce the veil of Earth’s atmosphere. Perhaps you will also reflect that Earth’s atmosphere is a very impressive shield that keeps all but the largest space rocks from hitting Earth’s surface. Now take your technical thinking and imagine similar remnants as they approach the Moon. The Moon has no atmosphere so any space object will still have all its kinetic energy just before it strikes the Moon’s surface. Last, think of how to build a structure on the surface to safeguard humans within. That’s what our colony will need.

Thanks to all those who’ve recently contacted us. Your ideas and suggestions are being looked at closely. Please keep them coming in. For our members, don’t forget to keep looking for more members who want to have a civilization that’s gone beyond the Earth’s surface.

Mark Mortimer

Lunar Colony Fund

What can you imagine here?


Getting the Bucks for Buck Rogers!

Logbook #39


Le chapitre 39

Valentina slammed the drawer shut with enough vigour that the cups on top rattled together. She was having a bad day and didn’t care if anyone knew or not. She could feel the throbbing of pain in her leg from her not-quite-healed injury. Yesterday she had jammed a finger into the wall while arguing with Desai. Now, Xu was on her case about leaving tools and cutlery lying around. She had no desire to be mothered. Nor did she want to keep it all inside.

She turned to squarely face Desai who was racing on the treadmill.

“Not only are you wrong but you’re making all our lives more difficult” she nearly yelled. Desai was wanting to speed the development of their Hab to increase their living space before new colonists arrived. This involved skipping a few safety checks and rearranging the delivery schedule. The extra work and risk had them very leery of this change. She in particular couldn’t see the value.

“You’re just scared of progress” he retorted. “We’re supposed to be advancing the capabilities of the human race to journey among the stars and you can’t even see beyond next week!” He wasn’t happy. His vision of their future was clashing with the others’. He wanted to fully develop the Hab and above ground facilities. They wanted to move into their shelter first; they’d named it the Haven. By doing so they wouldn’t have to worry about excessive radiation. But the Haven wouldn’t easily permit visitors from Earth. Nor would it have the same computer network accessibility that he now enjoyed in the Hab. He didn’t want to tunnel like a groundhog. He wanted to live up-top and escape to the Haven only when absolutely necessary. He kept up his pace on the treadmill and strained harder as the elevation increased for an up-hill climb.

“Well you’re just being selfish and mean-spirited” she answered. She looked around for something to throw even though she knew that she never would. Their Hab was too precious to allow for any spontaneous emotional outburst that might lead to a hull breach. Instead, she growled in a low key menacing way that clearly showed her mood.

Desai didn’t even bother turning his head. He waved his hand dismissively at her and maintained his focus on the training screen directly in front of him. This was his error as Valentina calmly walked over and pulled the treadmill’s power supply. The treads stopped moving. Desai kept running. Just for a moment. He went face first into the screen with his body crashing into the guard rails. He quickly came to realize that the different gravity made absolutely no difference to forces in the horizontal plane. He hurt. He thought he saw a crack on the screen. He felt his stomach respond very unhappily to being wrapped around the rail. He knew he had made a grave mistake with Valentina and he needed to remedy the situation; pronto!

Valentina stood quite still by the power supply. Not moving or saying anything. She held him with a fixed stare. The room’s lighting continued its slow cycle toward the artificial mauves of twilight. Slowly she spoke in words that could slice the air. “I am not permitting this deviation from our construction path. It is an augmentation of the risk to too high a level. I do not accept it.” She stood quite motionless. But quite powerful.

Desai swallowed hard. He realized that negotiations were over as just one of them voting against his proposition would doom it to failure. He carefully lifted himself upward being careful not to aggravate any possible injury and stood on the motionless tread mill. He had first thought of giving her a heartfelt apology then opted instead for a strong offence. “That was childish and could have really caused injury” he said in his best legal voice. “I don’t think your actions are keeping with our mutual residency agreement. I am going to be taking this up at council.”

He turned and walked away to nurse his sores.

Valentina remained still for just a little bit longer. He was right. Her actions were childish and could have caused real injury. Another injury was something that they couldn’t afford and might even return all of them to Earth. She didn’t want that. She also didn’t want to be railroaded into a decision that she was uncomfortable with. She also wished she could cheer up just a little bit more over what she’s been feeling for the last few days. She missed the freedoms on Earth; the perfumed air, the rambling trails in the woods, the ability to choose to do whatever she desired. She walked to the other end of the Hab furthest from Desai and sat in front of a terminal to contact Max.

Xu came in through the airlock some time later and found them in the same locations. She instantly knew something was amiss. The lighting was doing a great job of emulating dusk, the sounds of a seaside wafted through the speakers. And her two colleagues were quiet. And as far apart from each other as they could achieve. She debated with herself on waiting for the return of Jean then decided that a solution was needed immediately. She put on her warmest mother-dear voice and asked in the most innocent of voices “What’s for dinner?”

Valentina turned and acknowledged her presence with a slight nod of her head then turned back to stare into the monitor at a face that reminded Xu of Max, their first guest. She got no response from Desai.

“Lights full on” she commanded and the Hab’s light went to bright daytime mode. “You need to tell me what’s going on. Now!” she directed to each of them. “Desai first” she set.

Desai was still blinking from the light change. He knew that putting full lights on at this time would instantly send an alarm to their Earth ground station and they would be moving to action stations. He was on his guard. This was no longer time for joking as the Earth directors could bring them home in an instant. “Mea culpa” he admitted. There was no point in trying to play with the facts. “I want to use the Hab as my main base of operations. I want to invest more here and sooner. Doing so could drive up our revenue and accelerate our construction rate.” He was talking in full salesman mode. “I am looking to each of you to support me in this endeavour.” He shifted tack. “I’ve come to realize that Valentina does not see this as the best course of action for us. I accept that. However, I will continue to try to prove the optimal nature of my plan.” His ribs were a bit sore and he was finding it difficult to keep going but on he went. “While I realize that making any changes in the schedule comes with a huge oversight burden in this case I believe it’s warranted. We can make a better place for us to live, a better place for guests to come to and a better place for investors to support. And..” he wasn’t allowed to finish.

Valentina had enough. “Your narcissism seems to wonderfully counterpoise with you ineptness. You have an idea. That doesn’t mean it’s good. Or that everyone must automatically support it. A lot of people including myself have built the existing schedule. It is already optimal. You playing with dates and deliverables won’t get it here any sooner or any safer. Why don’t you just go run off into the sunset?!” she ended with her own derogatory wave towards Desai and the treadmill.

Xu noticed the treadmill and remarked to herself that something didn’t look quite right but she left it for the moment. She was about to delve deeper when a chime came in and Earth control interrupted.

“We’re online” a disembodied voice cleanly stated over the speakers. All the artificial ambient sounds had been shut off when the lights had gone full-on. “We’ve also got you on camera” it continued. “I’m Jonphar. We’ve been going over the recent data and see a few odd things. How are you doing?” he questioned.

Xu hated whenever Earth tried to involve itself into their affairs. This was not the time for intervention nor did she want their in-depth monitoring of what she took to be a trivial personnel issue. “Jonphar” she stated before anyone else could speak, “we’re doing fine. We have no need of your assistance and ask that you disengage.”

“Sorry, no can do just yet. I need to enter the over-ride protocols. This may take a little time. Why don’t you fill me in while we wait.” Jonphar was going for the standard line of stringing them along. Hoping to get some insight while he delayed the disengagement. Biometrics were showing data that indicated pretty high stress levels. He wasn’t going to leave until he was sure that everyone was OK.

At about the same time, Jean had climbed the stairs and entered into the airlock. While waiting for the dust to leave and the air to enter, he had activated the intercom and was going to chat with anyone inside. He saw the three in very still, unnatural poises as well as the sound of another voice. No one looked happy. He let his hand fall from the intercom and decided to wait the complete entrance process while remaining comfortably on his own. Hopefully his colleagues will be in a better mood when he entered.