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.