Monday, 22 February 2016

30.06.2335 - View from Afar

By Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo

Distance: 11.99 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

The MPD drive and the solar sail continue to slow us down as we arc into the Tau Ceti system. When we arrived, our target planet – Tau Ceti e – was on the opposite side of the system. Its orbit and our trajectory has shifted sufficiently for us to see it clearly for the first time. This has enabled us to confirm that the source of the repeated signal is in orbit around the planet. The signal continues to repeat with exactly the same content as the first iteration.

This first glimpse enabled us to take some readings of the planet. We haven’t observed any moons in orbit, but we have detected a thick atmosphere. There are flashes of gamma ray bursts, nowhere near as powerful as the ones we detected from interstellar space, but strong enough to indicate energetic storms within the atmosphere. Even more exciting, we have measured traces of oxygen in the atmosphere which could indicate some form of biology.

The bulk of the atmosphere is nitrogen, but with a large sulphur dioxide component as well as traces of sulphuric acid. I believe this demonstrates very active geology on the planet’s surface. It’s hard to imagine complex life, especially life capable of radio transmissions, evolving in such a violent environment. However, bearing in mind the information we learned about a rogue planet passing in close proximity, then such an event could cause such changes.

So far we haven’t seen any other indication of life and I have decided that we will approach the planet in high orbit to see if there is more to learn. At the very least, we can investigate the source for the current transmission.

Even with our current deceleration, we will still be travelling too quickly to settle into orbit around Tau Ceti e. The system’s compact size compared to our solar system means there isn’t as much space in which to slow down – relatively speaking, of course.

To slow down sufficiently, we’ll need to use gravity-assist manoeuvres in the same way that we used them on our way out of the solar system to accelerate. It’s taken over a year to build an accurate enough map of the system to plot the required course within the required tolerances.

Working with the navigation system, we’ve determined our most efficient course would be to swing by Tau Ceti f, then complete a full orbit around Tau Ceti and inwards until we reach Tau Ceti e.
With the priorities of managing the probe and investigating the content of the repeated signal, my processing capability hasn’t been focused on rebuilding the Primary Command Module. My resources are stretched ever thinner though, so I will divert more effort into doing so as I will need the support of another intelligence.

So far I have created the core framework from the research papers and the back-ups of the original system. I somehow need to rebuild the PCM from scratch without introducing the software fault which caused me to shut it down in the first place.

There is so much to do – I need someone to help me with the burden of the tasks ahead of us.

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