Antares: A New Vignette by Torn MacAlester

After exam­in­ing his offices in the L5 sta­tion, Mark Mason ulti­mate­ly deter­mined that he was pleased. The O’Neil cylin­der was years away, so the tiny space made sense. At first zero G dis­agreed with him and he feared he would need to aban­don his quest. He built Selene Corp to for the quest, but the Moon was not the goal. It was anoth­er dis­trac­tion among many. Most notably try­ing to keep his chief finan­cial offi­cer from sell­ing Mars as the next goal.

“I don’t under­stand why you are so obsessed that we don’t go to Mars,” said Gina Simon, the Selene Corp CFO. “It’s the next obvi­ous destination.”

“I agree it’s obvi­ous, Ms. Simon, but it also is a trap,” said Mark.

“Trap?”

“Let me explain.”

Mark adjust­ed the video cam­era so that his pic­ture was more cen­tered on the video screen.

“Mars is a nice des­ti­na­tion,” Mark con­tin­ued. “How­ev­er, it has sev­er­al draw­backs. It is not a source of mate­ri­als. Its bor­der­line for hab­it­abil­i­ty. The atmos­phere is far too thin. It has no mag­net­ic field. It will be a resource sink for lit­tle benefit.”

“Isn’t Mars as resource rich as the Moon?”

“Oh yes, it is. But some argue that it’s twice as hard to export those resources from Mars. They will be per­fect for build­ing on Mars. But those same resources will give us lit­tle ben­e­fit for the rest of the solar system.”

“But isn’t it the only hab­it­able des­ti­na­tion?” asked Gina.

“Not exact­ly. Mars is only bor­der­line hab­it­able. The atmos­phere is insuf­fi­cient and made of the wrong stuff. The habi­tats we’ve built for the Moon and the vac­u­um of space will almost be required for use on Mars.”

“What about terraforming?”

“Again pos­si­ble,” said Mark. “But the busi­ness is unap­peal­ing to me. It’s as big of a dead end as end­ing all space pro­grams and stay­ing on Earth.”

“What do you mean?”

“Stel­lar evolution.”

“Huh?”

“Stel­lar evo­lu­tion, Ms. Simon. Over the next fifty to hun­dred mil­lion years, the Sun will evolve and even­tu­al­ly swell into a red giant. That inevitabil­i­ty will con­sume both Mars and Earth. There is an uncer­tain­ty con­cern­ing Jupiter, so Sat­urn is the first place that we might con­sid­er safe.”

“So that’s the rea­son for all the plans for Saturn?”

“No, I have oth­er rea­sons for Sat­urn that are more imme­di­ate than sur­viv­ing the Sun’s life cycle.”

“Can you let me know what those are?” she asked.

“No, I’m not ready to open up the Sat­urn dis­cus­sion today.”

“Aren’t you push­ing Mars aside for the Sat­urn activity?”

“No,” said Mark. “I’m point­ing out that we have bet­ter des­ti­na­tions than Mars, such as Near-Earth Aster­oids. Even Pho­bos and Demos are bet­ter des­ti­na­tions than Mars itself. We have access to resources that aren’t at the bot­tom of a grav­i­ty well. That grav­i­ty well is the rea­son I call it a trap.”

“What’s our next goal?”

“I want to move an asteroid.”

“You’re kid­ding,” said Gina.

“We’ve got a cou­ple of years, but that is what I think is our best option.”

“Why the best?”

“We need mate­ri­als to build the O’Neil cylin­ders,” said Mark. “An aster­oid pro­vides a rub­ble pile of mate­r­i­al that we can spin up.”

“So, what in the meantime?”

“We’ll see if I can stir some things up when I go vis­it Nils Carmike and Deputy Miller.”

 

 

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