Monday, 18 April 2016

06.03.2352 - Stocktake

Distance: 12.02 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

Our arrival in the Tau Ceti system has quickened the pace of our operations, so much so that it feels different. That might seem like an odd comment from a computer, even one as sophisticated as me, but I have observed a difference in my processing. That’s no doubt aided by co-opting the PCM’s hardware to supplement my own.

It's an opportune time to review the current status of the Venti probe, as that will factor in how I prioritise my processing from this point onwards. Apart from the failure of the PCM, we’ve consumed fewer components than projected, although the stores we have used do include some critical items. The most concerning is the circuitry, especially the CPUs and memory chips.

The Venti is equipped with 3D printers that can create most of the parts that were identified as likely points of failure. That covers most of the mechanical parts and some of the simpler electronics, although we are limited by our supply of raw materials using when printing. They break down into three basic types: structural resins and plastics, metal, and conductive material. We still have an adequate stock of conductive material, but less than I’d like for the other two, albeit still within the mission parameters.

Unfortunately, the printers are not capable of creating the microscopic scale circuits needed for the more complex electronics. We do have a stock of spares that can be swapped out, but those supplies are obviously limited.

While our consumables are in reasonable shape, especially considering our 250-year journey, the power situation isn’t as positive. The incident with the Primary Command Module ate into our reserves and the heavy-duty analysis on the Cetian signals pushed us beyond the anticipated power profile. The fuel for the MPD drive is almost spent and we need to maintain the little we have left for any emergency manoeuvring.

That isn’t really the issue, the degradation to the solar sail is. Our store of graphene patches is low and we are even lower on the photo-electric coating which generates electricity from the stellar wind. Although I do believe we could manufacture more of a less efficient version as a stopgap measure.
Thankfully, the situation isn’t catastrophic. The sail is still coherent enough to power the Venti’s systems. The increased dust component in this system will degrade the sail quicker, but with careful use of the remaining stores, we should remain operational for at least another 8 years – 10 if we’re lucky.

This does present me with a dilemma. Knowing the limit of the resources we have, I must balance my efforts. The signal containing the wealth of the Cetians’ knowledge is a valuable source of what little understanding I have of that alien race. I believe that it is also the key to learning more about their planet and the orbital facility.

As we’ve arrived at our destination, the pressures of commanding the probe should decrease, so I can leave that to the various subsystems. The Cetian data will have been received by mission control and they’ll be working with greater resources to decipher its content. Because of the time to send me their conclusions, the secondary part of me will continue deciphering the transmission while my primary self works on the direct observations.

And there’s so much here to see!

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