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Earth to orbit transport, in the last quarter of the 21st century, is accomplished via a two-phase combination of rho-based acceleration, and mixed chemical and electrothermal engines. In the first phase, a rho-field is applied to a rho-key within the vehicle within a large framework with multipe 'anchors' (rho). This has the advantage of providing an extremely efficient thrust/weight ratio because the weight of the fuel to generate the rho field energy is not a part of the vehicle. In the second phase, as the vehicle begins to accelerate in the rho field, chemical and eletrothermal engines come online, with a brief burst of hydrazine or mixed rocket fuels providing a initial thrust and assisting in moving the electrothermal engine to superplasma temperatures. As the rocket fuel is reduced, bulk matter is instead heated via electrothermal induction in a closed rho/magnetic field and the generation of plasma thereby provides the remaining energy to move the vehicle into space (and to control it acceleration once therein).
A number of phyles have begun to seriously consider the development of a space elevator. It is generally accepted that with the new molecular compiler technologies developed by New Atlantis and adopted by Qeng Ho and Lei Peng, we have the necessary tools to make it physically possible. A number of problems remain, specifically: ensuring the security of a stucture who's failure could lead to a 100,000 km whip around the equator, ensuring protection against space debris, and finally, finding a reason to invest such a vast amount of resources in the structure (both return on investment and necessity).
While a number of temporary bases were established on the moon during the sixties and seventies, most of these dedicated to exploration and scientific inquiry, the early 2070s saw a sharp decline in mission by every nation and phyle as the Kessler Syndrome debris cloud effectively closed space travel for several years. It was only after the Apauruṣeya were able to demonstrate succesful travel through the cloud using high-power laser 'brooms' was a return to Luna possible. In 2078 a permanent, economically viable, habitation was established.
The first permanent lunar colony was the Apauruṣeya's Kshupakara base, an H3 mining operation, which was able to utilize advances in dust mining to not only provide increased H3 output but also provide sufficient quantities of frozen water from the regolith. Combined with new rho-based mass-drivers to assist in getting mined materials and personal from surface to orbit, the base was almost immediately economically viable after coming online.
In the 2080s Mitsubishi developed their own lunar mining program, focusing on the equatorial region, avoiding much of the hardships of luna-based colonization by maintaining their personnell in orbit and operating their surface machinery by teleoperation. Operational in 2083, it finally became economy viable in 2086.
The Qeng Ho are also establishing a lunar colony, following the Apauruṣeya model more than the Mitsubishi one. Qeng Ho scientists are establishing a base in lava tubes near the Byrd and Peary craters at the north pole, where their explorers have identified extensive subterranean ice sheets potentially totalling over 600 millions tons.
Kshupakara lunar colonyEditIn 2078, after innumerable problems arrising from the 'Dark Sky' event and the closure of space travel, the Apauruṣeya completed and brought fully online a subsurface colony 4 meters under the surface of the moon. They named it Kshuparka, one of the names of the Hindu lundar deity and Graha Chandra.
The colony was originally home to 39 astronaut technicians and specialists but between 2082 and 2084 was significantly expanded to support 111 astronauts. One third of the crew is rotated every 3 years and so astronauts make their home aboard the colony for 3 years at a time.
They choose to site their base at the north face of the Malaper mountain, near the Shackleton crater, 122 km from the south pole of the moon, for a variety of reasons.
- Continuously illuminated by the sun's light. Its 'eternal light' only being interrupted for approximately 10% of the lunar south pole's winter and when the earth eclipses the sun. This eliminates or reduces much of the limitations on solar power and thermal management that arises from building nearer to the equator.
- Thick workable regolith. This is important because the regolith serves as substrate for lunar mining that ultimately provides the valuable H3 so central to making a lunar colony economically viable.
- Near to the Cabeus crater. The crater, in near perpetual dark, is a site known to have a high proportion of frozen water in its regolith. This water is mined as part of the H3-recovery operations in the area and used to grow crops as well as to electrolyze for breathable oxygen.
- Near to the Shoemaker crater. This site, also in deep shadow contains relatively high concentrations of hydrogen as well as rare carbon compounds.
Colonists mine H3 using remote operated tracked vehicles that slowly caterpillar over the regolith, sifting and purifying helium, rare water or hydrogen, and much more titanium than expected. They also focus significant resources on asteroid impact sites which have yielded a number of components not normally found in high concentrations at the moon's south pole including iron, nickel, cobalt, silicon, magnesium, calcium, or ice.
Farms are at the crater's surface, along the crater's rim and produce not only valuable food but oxygen. The farm and subterranean colonial facilities are closely connected and their exchanges tightly regulated, with all organic and atmospheric waste very efficiency recycled for maximal efficiency. Twice a year the Apauruṣeya lunar shuttle arrives to pick up mined materials and deliver new personnel, resources, and any number of new or replacement tools. At this time, the Kshupakara mass driver is activated to launch mined material into orbit using rho-based technologies, depleting much of the colony's (solar) energy supplies from the last six months in the process.
Dai-17 lunar orbital programEdit
Forward operational facilities on the surface (Grimaldi crater) allow for the temporary residence of up to eight astronauts needing to conduct repairs or other operations in person. This facility also serves as a nuclear fusion-based energy refueling station for the mining vehicles, a storage facility for mined material, and a launch point for the mass driver. Otherwise Mitsubishi personal teleoperate everything from their significant orbiting space station which can house up to 15 people at once.
Unencumbered by the need to protect their personnel from dangers of the moon's surface, Mitsubishi opted to focus on areas with the highest known concentrations of H3, ignoring considerations like thermal instability, radiation, or solar wind. They therefore built near the equator, where the high incidence of solar wind has resulted in a higher concentration of H3. While the Dai-17 was plagued with a number of technical and engineering difficulties relating to radiation, moon dust, and temperature in its early years, these have since been overcome and the operation is now a highly viable corporate asset.
Like Kshuparka, mined materials are projected into orbit (for retrieval by the orbiting component of Dai-17) by a rho-based mass driver. A space shuttle cycles between earth and the moon every 4 months, bringing food, water, parts and personnel and returning personnel and mined materials.
In 2091 Mitsubishi completed two significant upgrades to their orbital facility. The first involved installing a rho-based shield that protects the facility from kinetic or thermal damage of space debris and shields it during particularly heavy bursts of solar radiation. This second installation was extensive new solar panels and batteries to allow efficient energy capture and storage for the moon's long night.
Pham Nuwen (incomplete) lunar colonyEdit
At present the Pham Nuwen project is largely incomplete. Construction of habitable space, solar energy grid, greenhouses, etc, and import of mining machinery continues apace and a limited number of astronauts make their home at the construction site but it is still highly dependent upon earth imports and nowhere near to being economically viable.
Pham Nuwen is being built from lava tubes near the Byrd and Peary craters at the north pole. The site offers many of the advantages of the Apauruṣeya Malaper mountain site including near perpetual sunlight, thermal stability, and low radiation (relatively). Importantly and perhaps most impressively it was also found to have extensive subterranean ice deposits potentially totaling over 600 millions tons in relatively pure sheets meters thick, making viable greenhouses and breathable air much surer, and potentially allowing much greater population density.
At current rates of construction and investment, the project is targeted to complete in 2097, though when it becomes economically viable remains unknown.
The first succseful manned mission to Mars, after the failed NASA attempt in 2051, was that of the Ummah Al Salaam in 2058. In addition to the Ummah Al Salaam (2058, 2071), manned missions have been conducted by the Apauruṣeya (2061, 2066, 2081, 2088-90), Atlas America (2084), Mitsubishi (2084, 2088) (the later of which heavily invested in exploration of both the moons Phobos and Deimos), and Shenghen (2061, 2064). The careful reader will note that no major missions were launched between 2071 and 2084; this is primarily due to the effect of the Kessler syndrom debris cloud that made travelling through low earth orbit extremely problematic for all nations.
While most missions lasted days to weeks or at most a month, the Atlas America mission of 2084 was meant to be a 'Mars to Stay' mission, a one-way trip for a pair of dedicated astronauts but on December 3rd, 2084, after 3 months on planet, the astronauts succumbed after a critical life-support machine failure (conspiracy theorists continue to insist the systems were hacked). Other than this, the Apauruṣeya 'Mangala Loka' mission of 2088-90 was ground-breaking in its scope and duration. Apauruṣeya sent six astronauts to live on Mars for 18 (earth) months. All six returned safely home after an extensive survey of Mar's western equatorial region with a particular focus on the Tharsis Montes volcanos.
These explorations, as well as a number of unmanned attempts, have uncovered significant mineral wealth which could make economic development profitable in the longterm (assuming one could effectively overcome the twin gravity wells). Additionally, very promising quantities of subterranean water ice has been uncovered which might significantly alleviate many of the issues relating to maintaining a human pressence on the red planet.
While a number of phyles have detailed plans for a temporary or permanent Mars colony, there are no known projects readied for the near future.
Unnamed Project involving 951 GaspraEditI
While the Apauruṣeya phyle appears unwilling to share the details of their project, most observers speculate that the operation is meant as a large scale astroid capture operation, though the ultimate fate of the olivine and peroxene-rich S-type astroid, with a mass of 2–3×1016 kg, is unknown.