Monday, 18 January 2016
04.11.2135 - Booster Burn Stop
Distance: 27,070 AU from Earth | Content Flag: Public
We departed from Earth orbit 130 years ago and throughout that time our graphene-coated solar sail has provided the bulk of the thrust. It’s looking a bit more ragged now than when we left. It’s so huge at 9 square kilometres that even in the utter emptiness of interstellar space, we encounter enough fragments of ice and rock that punch holes in the thin material.
This far from the sun, there isn’t enough pressure from the solar wind to provide any thrust or generate electricity so the sail is currently furled away to protect it from damage. While it’s stowed we’re able to conduct integrity checks and make repairs where needed. Once we approach Tau Ceti, it will be released to assist in slowing us down so that we don’t shoot straight through the system.
Our current speed has been greatly aided by the gravity assist manoeuvres on our way out of the solar system and from the two booster sleds. We rendezvoused with the second booster near Jupiter and ignited it after passing through the termination shock zone 19 years ago. It has burned continuously since then and has now run out of fuel.
From this point until we fire the MPD we will coast along at our current velocity of 16,128 km/s – that’s an incredible 5% of the speed of light! As astounding as that speed is, the relativistic effect is still quite marginal, enough that we have to allow for the changes in using the laser comms system but well within the boundaries of radio communication.
We haven’t received any further signals from Tau Ceti. I’ve run a series of random attempts at deciphering the remaining components from that beacon signal without any success. It’s frustrating, but it looks like we’ll have to wait for more information to unlock further secrets. We should arrive at the system in about 200 years time. We have a long way to go.