Monday, 1 February 2016
09.08.2276 - A Shot in the Dark
Distance: 8.94 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public
The Venti probe has operated now for just shy of 180 years which is by far the longest time any space mission has remained active. Considering the length of time, we have been fortunate to have only suffered a single major problem. That changed minutes ago with a collision against an unknown object.
The object struck the High Gain Antenna – our primary connection with Earth and mission control. We still have the laser comms system, but keeping that aligned is much harder than using the radio system. It is imperative that we restore the High Gain Antenna’s functionality.
There are cameras positioned around key areas of the probe’s exterior and with them the engineering system has ascertained the extent of the damage. It reports that the damage is to the mounting for the antenna. The object had smashed against one of the brackets used to align the dish.
The probe has stores for all vital parts in case of emergencies such as this. In the event of damage to a part for which we don’t carry spares, we have patterns stored in memory that our 3D printers are capable of constructing with a blend of all materials used in the Venti’s construction.
Spiderbots were dispatched to replace the damaged bracket and they returned with the broken section so that its alloys can be recycled. They also brought samples from the remnants of the object which struck us.
That presents a greater worry than the damage it caused. Even in low power mode, the navigation and sensor systems remain active to maintain a careful watch ahead of our course. At our extreme velocity, any collision is potentially fatal to the mission. We have been fortunate that the damage was so slight.
However, any object with enough mass to be dangerous should be detectable by the laser and radar scanners. The first the navigation system knew of the object was when the damage control systems activated microseconds after the impact.
Operating at full power, we are draining our power reserves, but this mystery had to be solved in case of further risk. We are equipped to analyse physical samples and determine their composition. The results solved the original mystery, but only by presenting a new one. In space the objects likely to cause us harm would be fragments of rock or metal, or a combination of the two.
The fragments are made of a previously undiscovered (in space, at any rate) ceramic polymer. Its molecular structure is relatively simple, almost deceptively so, as analysis indicates that it possesses considerable strength. Pertinently for our encounter with the substance, it is light enough to not register on the radar return and also weak enough to disintegrate under the laser’s pressure.
Its structure isn’t recorded in our database, however that doesn’t mean that it is artificial in origin. There isn’t enough evidence to assume if it is natural or not. It does, however, present a problem for us. At our current speed, we cannot detect this substance in time to avoid it. Natural or not, I’ve estimated that we’re not likely to collide with another fragment.
This is my first command decision with the potential for disaster – I hope it is the correct one.