The following is a recorded except from Cornell University's "Planetary Colonization and Husbandry Fundamentals" class as taught by Professor Jean Greenfield in 2228. This lecture is intriguing for its speculation of the Arclight's purpose and the possible disposition of Alpha Prime.
Aris Holden - Historian
Alpha Prime was founded largely out of necessity. The incredible time and cost of transporting mass across interstellar distances would not otherwise be justifiable. It takes enormous amounts of energy to reach speeds even approaching one tenth of the speed of light, which is why our first probes were powered first by nuclear fusion, and then by nuclear pulse propulsion. Even so, it took the first crystite powered probes several years to arrive and map out Alpha Prime.
It was the advent of crystite reactors, with their incredible power output, that finally cut the trip down to more a more manageable seven to eight years. Even so, the mass of crystite required for each leg of the journey was enormous, requiring starships with mile long reaction chambers constructed and fitted entirely in orbit. It is for this reason that so few starships have ever been built, especially those with the power to actually leave the solar system.
It was, of course, crystite that drove the push to the stars. Crystite, not naturally occurring on Earth, is born of interesting star stuff and sprinkled sparingly through the universe. The devastating Firefall event deposited a generous amount of the blue crystals on Earth, but if mankind wanted more, it would have to venture outside the solar system.
It was Hadrian Ashworth, the Omnidyne mogul, who led the movement. He founded the colonizing subsidiary, Centauri Company as a part of Omnidyne and sold shares to major governments in exchange for mineral rights to any crystite found in the Alpha Centauri binary-star system. By doing so, the Centauri Company amassed the huge sums required to build the ships that would eventually colonize the distant star. More importantly, it pushed the world into a united ceasefire as nations were forced to work together for their common good.
Alpha Prime was discovered thanks to the very asteroid that nearly destroyed us. By understanding the small differences in the way crystite reacts to gravity, Omnidyne scientists were able to discover that the asteroid was not in an elliptical pattern around our solar system. By recalculating the reverse trajectory of the Firefall Asteroid before it collided with Earth, they were able to map the asteroid's path back to Alpha Centauri. Confident enough to invest in its hypothesized trajectory, Omnidyne next sent crystite powered probes to further investigate the system. By pure luck, or the anthropomorphic principle, depending on your beliefs, spectral scans were done on Alpha Centauri with an emphasis specifically on Centuari A. The scans revealed the presence of overwhelmingly more crystite, located in captive planetary debris, forming a ring and circling a marginally habitable planet we now call Alpha Prime.
Three colony ships were built for the voyage. Led by the CMS Ichizoku, all of the ships were fully dismantled upon arrival to provide the raw materials and habitats for the new colonists. With a total population of over 3500 individuals, the tested genetic pool showed sufficient diversity to become self-sufficient and for robust population growth to begin...
(Dr. Greenfield looks over her glasses at the students)
That means sex and children.
(The room erupts in laughter)
The colonies are tailored specifically for the mining and extraction of crystite from Alpha Prime's planetary rings. The first freight ship to leave and return, the CMS Victoria, arrived back at Earth only three years ago. It was a full eighteen years after the launch of the Ichizoku.
To ship ore more frequently, and to bring news, supplies and a semblance of order to the colonies, two massive starships were constructed: the CMS Aegis and the CMS Wei-Ling. The next shipment of crystite, aboard the Aegis, is still eight years away from today. Meaning it's a staggering eleven years between shipments.
The ships are intended to eventually operate on seven year rotational cycles. When one ship is arriving at Alpha Prime, another is returning to Earth, carrying a precious cargo of crystite to be unloaded and dropped planet-side, quite literally, to fuel our hungry economies. Of the six starships ever built, the Aegis, Wei-Ling and Victoria are the only three currently in operation. There is enormous pressure from Centauri Company shareholders to develop a faster way to ship crystite.
Now, in addition to the issues of profit, the management and development of remote colonies is extremely difficult. Made more so by the four year transmission time for messages between planets. These types of remote challenges haven't been encountered since the 16th and 17th centuries when the British Empire attempted to control roughly a quarter of Earth's available land mass and over 480 million souls. Which, of course, did not work out so well for the British.
It therefore seems inevitable that issues of independence and the tensions that accompany them will take their natural course, and that the colonies on Alpha Prime will one day cut their ties with Earth and form humanity's first extra-solar sovereign nation. Such a nation would have an exceeding amount of influence, given its control over crystite production. A point not lost on both Omnidyne executives and investing nations.which may explain the tremendous effort being expended by the Centauri Company to develop a faster than light warship.
Make no mistake, the Arclight, albeit currently cast in the mold of humanity's next great triumph of science, is indeed a warship... armed and designed to project Earth's authority over this distant colony and its most valuable resource, hence the capacity to carry an entire marine division, known as the Centauri Accord. Of course, only time will tell if Omnidyne's technology and strategy is enough to overcome the lessons of history.
|Twelve Days of Firefall|