Tag Archives: Planetary Resources

Factual Basis for Ahbee’s Universe

6 Nov

As a reader of science fiction, I enjoy authors whose stories are set in a believable universe. I don’t blame them, of course, if they get certain things about the future wrong, as long as their predictions are realistic or based on known science at the time. For example, Larry Niven’s Neutron Star or Ringworld are not less engaging because he writes of characters using outdated technology (data tapes). It’s actually somewhat comforting to a newbie writer; if one of the greats can get a detail wrong and still write some of the best science fiction of the century, I should quit OCDing about all the details in my stories.

Still, that doesn’t excuse me from doing my research. Here are some of the events that have happened in space exploration in the past three years that I am using to guess how we colonize our solar system in the next hundred years.

  1. In an article on July 31, 2010, Elon Musk said, “I’m planning to retire to Mars.” He founded SpaceX to do just that. You can read the full article at
  2. In 2010, SpaceX, though the best funded and furthest along, was not alone. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, had founded Blue Origin in 2000. John Carmack (the man behind Doom and Quake) founded Armadillo Aerospace. Richard Branson was starting Virgin Galactic. Jeff Greason had started XCOR Aerospace. Steve Bennett owned  Starchaser. Private industry was beginning to sail in waters previously controlled mainly by governments.
  3. Also in 2010, NASA made Commercial Crew Development awards to stimulate the private sector, encouraging them to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities.
  4. In 2011, a number of companies began making noises about space missions and mining asteroids. The United States retired its space shuttles and contracted out its astronaut and supply runs to the International Space Station (ISS) to private contractors.
  5. On May 31, 2012, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule returned to Earth successfully after its first commercial flight to the ISS.
  6. On July 16, 2012, SpaceX received its first science mission from NASA, launching a NOAA spacecraft.
  7. On August 1, 2012, Eric Anderson announced the formation of Planetary Resources, Inc., to mine asteroids. He laid out his business plan and named some (but not all) of his co-investors: Google bosses Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Titanic director James Cameron, and Ross Perot, Jr., (son of the former presidential candidate).  [In Captain Tsuvecki’s backstory, she gets her start on Planetary Resources’ refueling stations.]
  8. In 2013, all of SpaceX’s missions can be considered a success. In fact, they have six Dragon rockets in various stages of construction.  Check out their Facebook page for more information: https://www.facebook.com/SpaceX
  9. The icing on the cake, as far as my story line goes, is the 2013 Congress’s current refusal to give NASA any 2014 funding for asteroid retrieval science. Since Congress has not actually passed a budget, that decision isn’t final, but I think some sly person linked climate warming science with asteroid retrieval science in the minds of the US Representatives. That’s what the articles I’ve read suggest, anyway.

So, I predict that Earth governments will not be the ones to colonize our solar system; private industry will do it.

That may be a good thing. Mining asteroids in space or on the moon will hopefully mean we can stop hazardous, environmentally damaging mining operations on Earth.

While asteroid mining and space exploration can be mostly automated, and while automation may be cheaper than human-staffed missions, I think some people underestimate the human psyche’s need to explore: ” to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Those words have resonated with audiences for three generations now, and I find it inconceivable that human beings will settle for exploring our solar system by remote control. Some of us will actually go there.

Proof of Life, Part 6

13 Aug

November, 23, 2121

Captain Tsuvecki sat strapped into her harness chair with her VR helmet on her head and the control sphere in her hands. “Phobos Control: I’m ready for departure.”

“Acknowledged Motherlode. You are scheduled for clearance in 17 minutes. Final debt checks coming in now.”

“Thank you, Phobos Control.”

Twenty-six minutes later: “Motherlode, this is Phobos Control. Your credit is clean; you are cleared to depart. The next open orbital slot occurs in 33 minutes. Does that work for you?”

“Yes, thank you, Phobos Control.”

“Sending the autopilot program to you now. Do not disengage the autopilot. It turns off automatically as soon as you are outside the 50-mile zone.”

“I understand and will comply,” Hidaya replied. She tongued off the com channel and waited. Something much more substantial than butterflies ran amok in her stomach as she waited for the autopilot to engage. She did not remove the VR helmet, but she did release the control sphere and stretched out the kinks which tension had knotted into her shoulders. She couldn’t wait to get away!

As she waited, she logged onto MarsNet and checked the latest news feeds and the share prices for Planetary Resources. She had just started some deep breathing exercises when the autopilot engaged and Motherlode at last left Phobos’ orbit.

Proof of Life, Part 4

6 Aug

May 12, 2121

On arrival at Deimos, Captain Tsuvecki was pleased to find that the price for antimony had recently spiked. Her clusterroid sold for almost twice what she’d expected. She used most of her profits to purchase some land to retire to on her return: 12 hectares of unimproved land 15 kilometers outside of the smallest Martian settlement, Cuidad del Cortez. She then set up automatic property tax payments to MarsGov through her Mars Bank account.

She took Motherlode to the shipyards on Phobos and turned her over to the modification crew recommended by Sir Zuberi. When Hidaya handed the crew leader her list of requested modifications and the credit transfer authorization provided by Nassor, the crew leader’s eyebrows climbed to his hairline.

“Mon Dieu! What did you find out there, Cherie? The Holy Grail?”

Hidaya let the folds of her burkha slip, exposing her scars and causing the man to visibly wince and avert his gaze. Professing boredom, she sighed and gave him her cover story: “Oh, my last find was a nice clusterroid, full of antimony.” The man whistled sharply, still not making eye contact. Hidaya continued, “But these mods are for a think-tank science survey.” She tapped the list with her forefinger. “I’ll be gone at least a decade, doing information gathering for a brain trust that wants to prove the asteroid belt was once a planet. Can you believe they even want me to check for evidence outside the elliptical plane? That will add years to the survey and take me out of range of the refueling stations.” She shrugged and added, “At least they agreed to all these mods. And they pay well….”

The crew leader shook his head in sympathy and studied her list. “We can have all the mechanical mods done in about three months, more or less, but you’ll have to stock the bio-gardens and purchase your seed supplies and other items yourself. Try the Benedictine abbey at New Pisa. They specialize in modifying plants for spaceships.”

Captain Tsuvecki thanked the man, gave him her contact information, and took a shuttle planetside. Mars had a population of nearly a million now since low gravity made it a popular choice for retirees with resources. How was she to cope for three months around so many people? She seldom remained more than a day or so on the surface after bringing in an asteroid before the press of people pushed her back into space.

Her first move was making an appointment with a psychiatric physician. She’d need a sedative to sleep regularly. Her second step was renting a secure sleeping cube in Dragon Dome Inn. She deposited her personal items in the tiny room and left to find a virtual arcade where she could successfully ignore the press of people and check out the newest games.

Five hours later, she pried herself away from the VR console. Mission to Mercury was merely okay, but Sundiver was definitely addictive! Still, her stomach told her firmly that it was time to eat. She splurged on some swai, a Chinese catfish that had adapted well to the new Martian oceans. She always missed meat when she was in space. She shook her head. Thirty years on a vegan diet! Kuzimu! She made a mental note to splurge on beef, if she could find it, before beginning her pre-trip cleanse.

After dinner, she met the doctor, who blanched on reading her records and readily prescribed a mild soporific. After filling the prescription, she returned to her rented cube, took her medication, and started making lists of items she would need to purchase for the journey. She caught herself nodding over her seed list, turned off the lights, and slipped into a mercifully dreamless sleep.