Friday, 1 January 2016

11.02.2121 - New Signal

Distance: 890 AU from Earth | Content Flag: Public

With the amazing science we’ve completed on the mission so far, we expected a quieter time until we reach the theorised inner radius of the Oort cloud in 6 years. That expectation shattered when we received a new signal from Tau Ceti. The signal is clearly different from the one that attracted the interest of the world back in 2076. That transmission contained a lot of noise, most likely because it contained a number of different broadcasts interfering with each other.

This signal is much cleaner and while we haven’t decoded it yet, I think that it is a deliberate attempt at communication. Its duration is relatively short at about a minute in length. It also seems to repeat, but the content varies slightly with each iteration. Although the signal is clearer than the one before, it is weaker, so much so that we’re relaying the transmission through the Venti probe’s systems to ensure that it reaches Earth.

This is amazing news in more ways than one. For the most of the journey so far, my processing has focused on my secondary roles of monitoring the Primary Command Module and chronicling the journey. As satisfying as it is writing these posts, they do not require years of attention. Receiving this signal has given me a chance to conduct my primary objectives. Hopefully this new transmission is the key to understanding more about who or what we will encounter when we reach our destination.

My primary purpose is handling a first contact scenario if we encounter an alien intelligence when we reach Tau Ceti. The original signal created the impetus for our mission, but when it faded there was concern that the signal’s origin was gone. What might cause such a thing provided another reason for our mission. This development changes all that.

The second signal gives my processors something new to chew on. Naturally the researchers back on Earth will conduct their own investigations and they have a lot more processing capacity than I have on the Venti probe. The farther we travel, the less we can rely on support from home, especially as it now takes almost 5 days for a transmission to reach Earth and that lag increases with every passing second.

When we reach Tau Ceti, I will hopefully have to crack further puzzles like this on my own (well, along with the computing power of the subsystems and the PCM). I was created for this challenge. So far my analysis hasn’t revealed much, and with the source being of alien construction I have no frame of reference to use as a basis for deciphering the message. It might take years, but if there is one resource we have in abundance on this journey, it’s time!

In almost more mundane news, we’re still accelerating towards Tau Ceti and have reached an incredible 1500 km/s – that’s almost 100 times faster than any other previous space probe! Despite that speed, it’s so empty out here that it’s difficult to appreciate how quickly we are moving.

To keep track of where we are, we use similar methods to those ancient sailors relied upon , using the stars as reference points. By taking the positions of known stars in the sky around us, the navigation system triangulates our exact position in space. This is crucial information. At our velocity, if our course is only the smallest fraction off then we will miss the Tau Ceti system completely!

The replacement of the motherboard for the Primary Command Module appears to have fixed the problem. The PCM has been operating without a hitch for the past 5 years. We’re still receiving data from mission control, so if you have any questions for us here in deep space then I’m happy to answer them. This is Seb signing off. I have work to do.