When science fiction attempts to get serious about how to best represent the human colonisation of the solar system, films like Ad Astra (2019) establish free enterprise as the plot devises for the story. With commercial flights to the moon, a Luna base that looks like an airport on Earth, fast food facilities, piracy, and private space laboratories…
…The future of space travel is business.
No human society is going to get off-Earth and colonise the solar system without a powerful driver propelling it. Scientific curiosity can raise billions of dollars to send robots out there to learn things, but inducement is a far greater and more effective driver known to mankind. I’m not talking about a business proposal that sends humans to Mars for a reality TV program, space-faring humans require more of a legal framework, or better, the lack of one, to get it going.
Mez watched the Windslipper 4 disappear from the Command screens. The data streams ended abruptly with millions of zeros trailing each other homogeneously. The humans and mimicrons gasped but their horror didn’t last long. The Jovian Commission’s Fusionjet Program had already gobbled up hundreds of mimicron pilots and eighty-two human explorers. Mez guessed they had grown accustomed to the fatalities. What they weren’t used to was the price tag for this particular launch. Tacacorp, a quasi-government outfit that operated Callisto, was seeking to gain the commission’s contract and had sunk a lot of development into their Windslipper Project.
This deficiency in empathy didn’t stop Mez from feeling sadness over Natan VanWehl’s fate, a one-time colleague at the Goliath Project, a friend, and a human.
“Why do humans do this when we have mimicrons?” Mez had asked him once.
Agent Nasani felt the impact on her chest. The freefall suit could withstand a beating, but the human catapult formed by Team Artemis smashed Nasani so hard that her weightless body was sent back to the periphery.
Emmetrius wanted nothing else but to lay low and wait this out. Stranded fifty megaparsecs away from civilisation, I couldn’t understand his logic. I guess he didn’t trust me one bit, believing I would make some pointless attempt to escape his custody.
The ephemeris data seemed healthy enough. The storm, on the other hand, ripping across space from the comet’s horizon, appeared hazardous. Transiting through the comet’s coma the shuttle vibrated slightly. Carl Reagle knew the outgassing from the bright side lacked enough violence to cause any serious problems. The comet had just emerged from out of the frost line, so the sun’s rays were not harsh enough to feed a fully-fledged tail.
It’s not every night you stumble across something on the internet that is as bizarre as being officially acknowledged for helping to find an exoplanet. I enrolled with Planet Hunter years ago (around 2011), and dabbled for fun picking out images that may indicate the presence of a planet orbiting a star.
The process was both challenging and rewarding, as I learned more about the science behind exoplanetary research and had a chance to contribute to real scientific discovery. Although I haven’t been active on the platform for some time, I look back on my time with Planet Hunter fondly and am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this exciting field.
Planet Hunter is a citizen science project launched by the Zooniverse organization, which allows anyone to help discover new worlds beyond our solar system. After analyzing data from the Kepler space telescope, I found several potential transit events, which looked like they indicated the presence of a planet orbiting a distant star. I logged my findings and forgot about it.
Being officially acknowledged for contributing to the search for new planets is a unique experience for a writer, especially in science fiction, and a testament to the power of citizen science. It’s amazing to think that anyone with an internet connection can make a significant contribution to our understanding of the universe.
It’s really hard not to facepalm when confronted by headlines stating that 100,000 have signed up for a one-way trip to Mars. A Dutch, non-profit (yes, that’s right, non-profit) company called Mars One is collecting human specimens, and raising six billion dollars, to send these people some 225 million kilometres, one way, to the planet Mars.
They call it colonization. They market it as a “stepping stone in human galactic expansion.”