Tag Archives: aeroponics

Proof of Life, Part 24

22 Sep

April 7, 2128

“Another response came to your search for Dr. Nwosu, Captain.”

Hidaya was working in the ship gardens. “Read it aloud.”

“Yangu Kipanya! My Little Mouse! It is very good to hear from you. I’ve often wondered how you fared after you left my care. I apologize for not responding more quickly, but I caught ImmunoDef4 this winter. I spent months in a slow recovery, but I’m better now and would like to know how you are doing. Tutaonana!”

Hidaya laughed, “That’s my old doctor! No one else ever called me Yangu Kipanya!” She inserted a transplant into a larger holder, tenderly spreading its roots for maximum exposure to the nutrient spray. “I’ll finish up here, Memre’, before replying.”

Proof of Life, Part 12

23 Aug

March 2, 2123

Hidaya looked at her meal of fresh greens, legumes, and groundnuts and shuddered. “I want beef, Memre’! Beef or chicken or fish or goat or even sheep! I am sick of beans and peas and nuts!” She pushed the food away from her.

“Perhaps you should check the aeroponics nutrient mix, Captain.”

“Don’t you monitor the mix automatically?”

“Yes, but sensors can fail.”

After manual testing, Hidaya found she needed to add more protein to the nutritive spray. Further diagnostic checks revealed that the intake valve for protein analysis was malfunctioning. “Do we have the specifications to print a replacement valve?” she asked her AI.

“We do, Captain, and we have the raw materials in stock. Shall I send the file to the 3-D printer?”

“Yes. After we fix this, I want to hook up that food printer Nassor convinced me to bring along and try printing something with lots of protein. I wonder if it prints anything like a good steak.”

The resulting printout was nothing like a good steak, but it did satisfy her protein cravings, if not her taste buds. She added to her chore list weekly physical checks of the aeroponics system in addition to Memre’s automatic electronic monitoring, commenting, “It’s not like I don’t have the time!”

Proof of Life, Part 5

10 Aug

November 8, 2121
Hidaya decided the crew leader’s promise of “three months more or less” must be contractor code for twice that. The three months had stretched to six, but finally the mechanical mods to her ship were finished. Captain Tsuvecki had spent the interval gathering supplies. When personal interaction became overwhelming, she holed up in her rented room, reading everything she could find on the solar system beyond the asteroid belt.

She’d filled numerous storage devices with various forms of entertainment and exercise programs. To her delight, she found a small shop in Falcon City that sold embroidery threads and needles. Needlework was a convenient hobby for a space captain because the supplies were light and took up little space.

The up side to the agonizing wait was that the abbey had been able to prepare everything Captain Tsuvecki wanted for her bio-garden. Over the next week, they would set up the plants and starts in the ship garden. One of the monks even had four small tea plants that were responding well to low and zero-G conditions. He included one in her consignment on the condition she make regular reports on the plant’s progress. Hidaya promised eagerly. A pouch of hot tea even once a month would be heavenly!

She carefully stored away seeds, water additives, and nutritional supplements as the monks worked on the garden. She double and triple checked the sci-com satellites that she would deploy along the way, and ran system checks with Memre’. They made sure the AI’s data banks were fully functional, were virus-free, and contained all the information necessary for the trip.

Proof of Life, Part 3

3 Aug

April 27, 2121

On her return to Deimos, where Planetary Resources had its asteroid processing headquarters, Hidaya arranged a second face-to-face with Nassor. They played speed chess, in which players must move at the timer, as they awaited each other’s responses.

Over one tightly fought game, they’d agreed on some abort protocols, on energy systems, and on a cover story for her to use at Deimos when ordering the ship upgrades, which were extreme enough to spark unwanted curiosity. Nassor stressed Africa’s goal of  being first to the Kuiper belt, which meant keeping Hidaya’s trip a secret from the Americans and Europeans, many of whom loved nothing so much as a race. Over the second game, the siblings argued about the life support system:

“You deserve the best!” Nassor repeated stubbornly, arms folded over his chest and feet planted in the stance that Hidaya remembered all too well from their childhood together.

She smiled at him with a mixture of love and exasperation, “I know you do, Nassor. And I thank you. But I don’t believe that the new 3-D printers are the best. New is great where backups are available. If this 3-D food printer fails out past Jupiter’s orbit, I’m dead.”

“You can always print new parts for any that fail.”

“I’m more concerned about the programming and the circuits. I also worry about the fact that the raw materials, the substrate, are only good for 30 years. This trip could easily end up taking longer than that.”

Nassor’s arms remained crossed. Hidaya was mildly surprised his lower lip didn’t move out, just a bit. Perhaps he’d finally gotten that gesture under control.

“Besides, Nassor, I enjoy working in the aeroponics section. The full spectrum lighting, the smell of growing things, the way working with plants feels in my hands. All these things are psychologically healthy for space travelers, especially those who won’t make planetfall for a while. Don’t forget the ISS Udokan disaster in 2105. The programming in their ‘new’ model 3-D printer had a virus, planted by a disgruntled Synthotec employee.  The printed food poisoned the three crew members. Before they could make it back to the nearest refueling station, the virus had infected all of their ship’s systems, including the AI, which opened their airlocks and killed them.”

Nassor tossed his head, “I’ll trade you the ISS Udokan disaster of 2105 for the ISS Rio Tinto disaster of 2093. A nasty virus took out that crew, too. But this one came out of one guy’s gut and compromised the life support recycling system! They died slowly as the plants which made their oxygen rotted away, which seems even more gruesome than the deaths aboard the Udokan.” He shuddered violently.

“Yes, but they hadn’t followed proper cleansing protocols before heading out. I never head into space with animal residue in my gut, Nassor. I eat sterile for at least a week before shipping out. You know how careful I am.”

Nassor shifted his weight, which meant she was getting through to him, so she pushed on. “And the further we travel from Earth, the more we need reminders of Earth. The psych evals from the Europa scientists prove that. Weren’t you warning me last time we spoke of the psychological dangers of this trip? I need my gardens, Nassor.”

Wagging one finger at her, Nassor relented, “Very well, Hidaya, but I insist you take a smaller, proven food printer and some substrate for any emergencies.”

“If it will make you feel better, Brother, then okay. You have too much faith in technology, though.”

“So says the captain of an asteroid mining ship?!”

“Who else is in a better position to know just how untrustworthy technology can be?” she retorted, and laughed with him before capturing his queen.