|APAGear II Archives||Volume 2, Number 2||March, 2000|
[NOTE: Look for "From Caprice to Collapse," part two of this series of articles, in next month's APAGear! --Ed.]
Earth has had torturous past. The reestablishing its ties with the colonies make it now face an unknown future. The historical legacy of new ice age, the massive interstellar colonialization effort and finally all tearing World War III brought the New Earth Commonwealth into the power.
Ice Age lasted over two millennia. It was the biggest individual change of geopolitical structures of Earth. Huge ice cap had covered most of the Earth landmass and the humanity was forced to squeeze itself into a narrow band around the equator or burrow itself under the thick layers of ice. The massive refugee population completely remolded the Earth nations. New nations were created and old ones disappeared.
Earth's effort to relocate itself was chaotic effort. Series of brutal wars, prejudice, intolerance and disease brought forwards worst of the humanity. Within few hundred years Earth population had fallen from over ten billion to mere two billion inhabitants. Survivors of this brutal relocation lived now in Equatorial areas. Worst of excess population could be relocated into a giant super city of Rangstadt, while Earth tried to overcome the menace of ever expanding ice.
Earth scientists and engineers were committed towards various technological approaches towards stopping or at least slowing down the seemingly never-ending approach of the ice. These great efforts had unsatisfactory results varying from worsening to indifferent. The urgency of the crises was overriding concern over other matters such as deep space exploration effort or the colonies and outposts already circling various stellar bodies of Solar system. The money, interest and support were similarly reversed towards problems of surviving the harsh seemingly eternal winter.
The new situation practically finished off the lunar colonies but Mars and almost autonomous colonies in asteroid belt managed to go by. Mars thrived thanks to wide resource base and large population. It soon severed its few remaining ties from Earth and became totally independent. As glaciers continued ever forwards, the Mars became land of dreams to desperate people of Earth. It was seen as a harbor of peace and prosperity beyond the cruel and desperate Earth. Facing continuously increasing flood of immigrants the Mars soon changed the policy of independence into a policy of isolation. Stiff immigration policies prevented most refugees from entering Mars. However, a small trickle of applicants was allowed to enter Mars. The rules and regulations changed by the time. Still, as a rule, immigrants could enter if they had the wealth, connections or skills appreciated in Mars.
The best and brightest minds of Earth continued to escape the chaos of Ice Age to Mars. The brain drain advanced Mars's technological prowess considerably. Soon Mars became the starting point of new breakthroughs in most areas of science and space technology. It became almost a necessity for any serious scientist in theoretical physics or aerospace engineering to do it in Mars or at least with close co-operation with research institutes and extensive facilities of the Mars. It was a common quote to describe this situation by stating that bright Mars had became mind of the body of a sick Earth.
Young scientist Markus Tannhauser had studied astrophysics and developed a theory for faster -than-light travelling during the ice age. Academic world in Earth had little resources to spare for his potentially ground breaking observations but the Martians scientists were quick to explore it. The collaborative effort between Earth and Mars turned Tannhauser's dreams into a credible scientific study. Martian scientists continued on Tannhauser's ideas on theoretical astrophysics through the Ice Age. His theories of gate phenomena and possibility of travelling through them was eventually verified in separate scientific experiments. Tannhauser's theories could not be put into a practice because the astronomical cost of such a venture was deemed to be far beyond Martian resources. However, plans, ideas and blueprints were constantly updated and scientists dreamed for the future.
End of the Ice Age in the 5th millenium is generally regarded as one of the major turning points of the human history. No one had any idea why the ice age had ended, nor why it had begun in the first place. However, the rapid retreat of ice was a welcomed fact and Earth inhabitants could now turn their minds from surviving a never ending winter to growth and a bright future. This great mood shift happened in various aspects of life from fashion to literature. New ideas and philosophies came, lived and died in an emotionally volatile New World. Welcomed news of retread of ice cap seemed to go hand in had with yet another fad, idea or dream.
Ordinary people could afford to have beautiful dreams but top minds in Earth nations were working overtime trying to cope with the change. Reclaiming the lost land was clearly the most important goal. New land allowed humanity to expand and grow further increasing material and social well being. Everyone agreed to that. The problem -however- was dividing new land without a gold rush fever. Even worse, such a war could include use of weapons of mass destruction turning everything again into a wasteland. There had already been series of claims and wars over newly reclaimed land. Everyone did agree in principle that they had to divide these lands in fair and equal basis.
Second problem was rising massive funding needed for redeveloping the lost land. New ecosystem could be rebuilt with complete flora and fauna taken from the gene banks. It would make Earth into a green planet again. This idea required several decades long commitment. The alternative was rapid overexploitation that would turn into ecological catastrophe in long term. No one could afford that kind Earth. However, only very few nations could afford to fund massive construction projects needed to avoid that future.
The answer to problems of Earth was Human Concordat. It started as an agreement between nations on land division and investment program aimed to rebuild Earth and then develop humanity. The lofty ideas did sound good but deep down Concordat was a union of common interests rather than a band of brothers. It was the best alternative to current affairs the nations could agree to.
Concordat was originally a club of most influential nations of Earth. These countries were clustered to Rangstadt and North Africa and had most money to share. Favoritism and corruption were problems but nothing worse than seen before in similar organizations. Furthermore, while Concordat offered a rough deal, it was still better than no deal at all for smaller nations as well.
When the advantages of cheap capital and better land sharing deals became apparent Concordat grew rapidly. The nature of Concordat changed as well from a common negotiation board into a true supra-national entity. Little by little the decision power moved from nations to Concordat in various fields from architecture studies to finally nuclear weaponry. Every new step in influence played its small part in Concordat plan for better humanity. Rebuilding Earth was followed with a similar work in orbit. Moon soon followed. Deep space exploration and exploitation was next item on the drawing board.
Concordat had thus moved to traditional sphere of influence of Mars. This sudden change in the balance of power caused shock waves in Mars. The Ice Age era of snobbish overbearing was now over. It was obvious that their lead in political, military and scientific power would disappear eventually. Martians were unable to agree on themselves on right course of action and planet soon divided into those wanting to join Concordat and those against it. After a savage civil war the winners joined forces with Earth and Mars joined to Human Concordat. Now the entire humanity was under the same flag for the first time in its history.
Human Concordat planned carefully its path for the future. Futurology, the study of future, became a highly respected field amongst the scientists and decision-makers moving this super-nation forwards. The original idea was to avoid the future errors with careful planning and extensive simulations. These studies originally just predicted the future but they were soon connected to actual decision-making process.
While no one could claim that these models ran the fate of humanity, the reliance on them was ever present in decision making process. The importance of these models in decision making lead to situation where more and more unwanted influences, such as politics, money and personal interests crept in. The end result was a set of complicated models that had little to offer compared to the previous prediction and forecasting methods.
Long term models were constructed as well. These models tried to study eventual fate of humanity. Their ideas were probably closer to guess work than actual science and each new idea usually rise a huge uproar amongst the futurologists. Variety of ideas, predictions and models were introduced, studied, argued and discarded. Two most influential models were Helms doctrine and Lot's theorem.
Helms doctrine was dystopia. He predicted that humanity would grow faster than resources on solar system. In the end the resources would became inadequate and human population would collapse. Furthermore, he predicted that the time just before collapse would consume Earth resources at vicious pace so that depleted Earth could only barely support the population even after the collapse. Humanity would live by in bare subsistence and then possibly disappear in next catastrophe.
Lot's theorem was tarnished utopia. He predicted that humanity would always invent a way to get enough resources to reach and to keep a state of ultimate happiness until internal problems would tear humanity apart. Lot believed that once everything was at hand, humanity would turn lazy, lose focus and whole society would stagnate. End result was vicious civil war that could possibly destroy all of humanity with super effective weapons of future.
Neither model was ever officially accepted nor used as models for the future. Critics attacked both dogmas as groundless theorems. However, they were both widely discussed in the mass media thanks to excellent salesmanship of both authors. Various political and social causes used these models as proof of their case and population at large slowly accepted these models as dogmas. Since politicians follow the cues from ideas and attitudes held by majority of their voters, these two models had unsaid but clear influence to Human Concordat decision making. Generally, however, these studies showed that Concordat should try to control and guide human development towards sustainable ecological, economical and social equilibrium.
Both models had subtle effect in discussion of population. Futurologists had came into broad consensus that human population would eventually increase over Earth natural balance. There was no agreement what was Earth's limit but specter of inevitability floated above the discussion. The alarming news stories in media, public anxiety and political pressures mounted as well. With these pressures around futurologists built up idea that humanity's population growth has to be directed somehow.
Two broad methods were suggested. First was population control. Second was expanding resource base. First option was to limit the population. This idea did not appeal to anyone. It was feared that the only system capable of running that kind of methods would be authoritarian nation, even a dictatorship. Such prospects did not appeal to planners (much less to population as whole) at all. Second option was far more agreeable. Possible methods included recycling resources, savings in resource use and finding new resources from solar system. Idea of interstellar exploration was added to the list as one of the very long-term solutions.
Martians especially endorsed the exploiting the solar system and beyond. The idea seemed God's gift to their badly depressed aerospace industry. Furthermore, they guessed they'd get a leading role due know-how in space operations and associated research base they had collected during the ice age. As a sugar coating on the cake, Martian scientists could also present the best available theory on interstellar travelling. Martian politicians eventually got majority of the population behind the concept. The promise of revitalized economy and employment fueled their urgent lobbying.
Earth people not exactly thrilled at the conclusions drawn by Human Concordat futurologists. There was a view that Earth had to be rebuilt first. This work would continue for decades more. Successful, if slow, implanting of Flora and Fauna had given new possibilities. There had been idea of turning Earth into a Gaia world with the extensive use of genetic engineering and environmental control. Earth politicians had balanced themselves between turning Earth into a paradise and expanding beyond the planet. They decided to choose latter because they wanted to avoid putting all eggs into one basket. The memory of sudden global ecological catastrophe that put Earth to its knees was still fresh.
Thus a compromise was reached. Majority of the resources would be dedicated to the immediate task of terraforming Earth and to rebuilding ruined Mars after the civil war. At the same time space exploration would be expanded and even the interstellar travelling would be subject to a careful scientific studies. It would be carried out together in both Earth and Mars under guidance of Human Concordat.
The post Ice Age era was one of rapid growth. The increasing prosperity brought also new fresh ideas and thoughts. This era was known as a Second Renaissance compared to 'dark' Ice Age, where primary concern had been survival in misery. Cultural and scientific work was done under aegis of Concordat as part of its development of humanity was all encompassing from poetry to literature studies, from social studies to chemistry. As Earth became more and more prosperous the investments were increased in space as well. Mars was first but within few decades there were again space installations from caves of Mercury to orbit around the Pluto. Within the framework of expanding space exploration the Concordat could focus on problems of interstellar travelling.
Any large-scale research project, such as Tannhauser gate studies, needs supporting infrastructure. Concentrating everything into a single research city seemed best from scientific viewpoint. This infrastructure would be eventually huge and its effect on local economy enormous. Thus everyone was jockeying for the location and sore losers were bound to be furious. Project leadership decided therefor to divide the work into two locations. First was Earth and second was Mars to ensure as wide political support as possible. This way the money pouring into local economy would be divided over several areas.
Martian politicians choose Olympus City as their location. This huge terraformed area was a model city of Martian prowess in social engineering and aerospace might. It was also capital and the home of the most influential politicians and biggest companies. Since Olympus had been built very sparsely, there was plenty of room for building enormous research facilities needed and to expand them if necessary later.
Earth had considerable arguments in the choice of location. Rangstadt had highly skilled work force and a seat of best and brightest institutions. On the other hand there were no room for massive particle physics facilities. Farmlands of Sahara were intended to provide all the room scientists would need. The fate did not, however, smile to that giant city. The interstellar travelling project had been divided into civilian and military halves. Mars had a civilian project and Human Concordat military dropped Rangstadt out cold.
With the advent of Human Concordat the militaries of Earth had been reformed as well. Military had chosen Australia as their base. The continent was practically emptied of civilians and dedicated instead to soldiering. It had everything from nuclear test sites to gunnery ranges, from barracks to airfields. It also had enormous tracks of land, where research could be done without prying eyes seeing or public demonstrations hindering the work. There was also plenty of room to test and demonstrate projects. As far as soldiers were concerned, it was a perfect place for such a work.
Alice Springs became the center of military related research. The huge rock was chosen as a perfect location for highly delicate particle accelerator necessary to study matter behavior during the travelling through the gate. While the place was perfect there were other political concerns. Huge rock had been chosen for conservation as part of humanity's heritage. Military overcome that problem by burrowing inside the rock so that it looked perfectly virginal outside, but had inside huge tunnel network needed for the engineering. While the whole arrangement had extreme cost and dubious scientific value compared to simply moving the project to another location, soldiers did it just because they wanted it, and could do it. Cost was not an issue. This kind of thinking would become a pattern of the whole interstellar research.
Military justified this arrangement with secretive nature of high-energy physics in general. This kind of work has enormous military potential because it is closely related with weapons of mass destruction. They feared that such an information might slip to hands of potential enemies of the Human Concordat. What was left unsaid was the military interest in building new weaponry. They wanted very much to study potential of Tannhauser's findings as a weapon technology. Practical anti-matter weaponry was a pure military offshoot of related studies in this project on possible energy sources.
The dual nature of the project had both advantages and disadvantages. For one it was extremely expensive to build two sets of laboratory complexes that were almost complete copies of each other. However, this also made it possible to rapidly duplicate research findings of one group by another. With enormous resources and free hands the science was certainly best humanity had ever seen. On the other hand, the administration had several problems. Secrecy was the biggest drawback. A lot of work was unnecessarily duplicated, ignored, reprocessed, rejected and reformed times or never reviewed due complex security arrangements. Series of reforms were introduced from time to time to address these issues but to little avail.
Tannhauser gate principle was first proven in a particle accelerator in Olympus City in Mars. This result was soon duplicated in military laboratories in Alice Springs in Australia. Following engineering work was then divided between Mars and Earth. Earth laboratories continued their work on Tannhauser gate theory while Martian laboratories concentrated on building a Gate drive. At the beginning the work concentrated on interstellar vessel plans built during Ice Age. Unfortunately these plans soon proved unpractical. Various Tannhauser gate-using systems had to be tried and tested instead. The engineering testing of the first gate drives robust enough for space travel was finished in 4582.
Martian infrastructure work done for gate travelling capable vessels was nothing short of staggering. Huge water reservoirs had been used to train astronauts to for EVA work before. Now more similar tanks were constructed to rehearse for gate ship building and operating. Tanks allowed work in secrecy compared to easily observable orbital work. Water also works as a radiation shield allowing exotic matter tests in caverns under these tanks. Each tank could hold a full sized space vessel inside. Water reservoirs were enough that they could be used to prevent a drought in nearby farming lands in case of a bad year. Each tank had a system where water weight would allow it siphon through osmosis layer on bottom and then be pumped again into the system. This kept water clean but also introduced highly dangerous cross currents into pools, especially close to the bottom.
Next item was actual gate opening. There were awesome powers associated with it. Therefor the actual field-testing was moved from Mars to Jupiter. Three moons of Jupiter formed a triangle of resources. Ganymedes was used for main habitation, research and work. Europa had ample reserves of water that could be used for hydrophonics or research. Io supplied sulphur and other reactive materials. Its caverns were filled with mining operations. Raw materials from Io and water of Europa allowed habitable space life in Ganymedes. Asteroid belt was scouted for mineral reserves as well. Most important function of Jupiter was its chemical industry. It was a major source of hydrocarbon-based materials and products such as various plastics. These vessels would have complete chemical factories allowing the material to be processed into liquid or solid material (such as polymer-based composites). Furthermore, it already had a military base capable of transformed into a staging base. There were other bases further in solar system but Jupiter was first affordable choice despite radiation problems and long distance to actual test area outside orbit of Pluto.
The Vanguard-series of gate drones started era of Tannhauser theorem utilizing vessels in 4588. These first experiments had high failure rate but technology matured with each success and failure. Human interstellar travel had been the ultimate goal all along. Therefor the Vanguard-series was soon followed with experimental loads of flora and fauna as early tests on effects of gate travelling to human body. The first human flight through the gate was not done until 4650. Keldysh jump moved its military pilots some 7000 light years away to another solar system. These pilots returned one month later, which was time they needed to prepare for another jump back to Earth.
The Keldysh journey had started a pivotal change in Human Concordat policies. The Helms doctrine was touted as true sign of Earth destiny in stars but the real fighting was done behind the scenes. Keldysh trip had been pinnacle of humanity's scientific and technological prowess but practical economical and social results had been meager. All they had found was a single star with no planets to exploit. The original enthusiasm was soon matched huge disappointment. The signal from vast majority of population was that the era of unlimited budgets was effectively over. Without popular support it was difficult to justify the possible long-term advantages to more immediate concerns on Mars and Earth.
The help came from unexpected corner. While Martian laboratories had perfected gate drive design, military laboratories had been busily working on theoretical physics. They had perfected series of scientific breakthroughs about whole phenomena and of methods to radically drop down the cost of interstellar travelling. They had also been working on series of less public endeavors such as anti-matter weapon technology. Military did not want interstellar research per se. They did, however, saw it as a useful tool of receiving more support to aerospace research and that way indirectly to military weapon development. Their support was instrumental in securing the financial support for continuous exploration.
At the time, however, the civilian nature of interstellar exploration changed slowly but surely towards military attitudes. This shift complicated the already duplicated project structure even more as doubled organization started to get autonomous and top secret- spheres of research effort. Secrecy had another, equally poisoning result. Militaries are -by their very nature- very good in declaring things secret. By making efforts secret, wasteful, duplicated, and ultimately unnecessary efforts could live and even prosper under cloak of secrecy. Despite the technological advances the fact remained that interstellar exploration remained as expensive as ever.
Whatever doubts of the space exploration remained, the exploration lead to inevitable founding of the first, at least marginally habitable planet, Caprice. While trip of Keldysh had been first real trip across the space, the discovery of Caprice brought it to real public knowledge. Further studies found out numerous potential gate points for further exploration. However, the support of extremely expensive space effort was still lukewarm. Facing mounting pressure, Concordat officials decided that some kind of new approach was necessary. It paid a dear price for obtaining the knowledge of space exploration. Now they had the technology. Question remained how they should proceed further with the new Pandora's Box.
Welcome to the Future.
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 2, Number 2||March, 2000|
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