Monday, 25 April 2016

09.03.2352 - Observations

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31766

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

I’m not certain that splitting my focus was the correct decision. I cannot help but appreciate the paradox of our situation. If the PCM hadn’t failed then it would have provided a sounding board for my decisions, to help verify they were correct. However, that would have meant I possessed less processing capability to apply to the task, and the extra processing is proving to be a great boon for my work.

So why do I waste cycles on contemplating it?

This self-doubt lasts only for a few cycles at a time – at most a few milliseconds here and there. But that brief examination keeps popping unbidden into my instruction stack. I’m tempted to try a deeper analysis of my functions to explore this indecision, but that would only waste more time on the problem.

In more positive news, my primary purpose of unravelling the mysteries of the Cetians has progressed over the past few days. Using active and passive sensors, we’ve continued mapping the structures we observed on the surface upon our arrival. At last count I’ve identified 2006 of these cities, almost all situated on plateaus and similar raised geography.

While they are not all the same size, they share a common layout. As with their mathematics and their physical morphology, the number 3 is a repeated feature. Each of the cities consists of three concentric circles partially buried in the surface. A spiral structure connects the three rings and also the centre point inside the innermost circle. These spirals are more pronounced on some than others. I haven’t established a pattern for this variation yet.

The readings show a vertical structural element with another three equal-sized tubes repeating the pattern at right angles to the surface. Half of this is buried beneath the ground with the rest forming arcs above the structure. Incredibly, these vertical tubes have no discernible supports, even for the most massive examples which stand over a kilometre in height.

Further revelations from the signal have provided greater understanding of their biology. Like humans they breathed oxygen, although the atmosphere contained a much higher ratio of oxygen than Earth does. The ability to burn through more oxygen allowed greater growth than the planet’s higher gravity would indicate.

The cataclysm which affected the planet must have radically altered the oxygen balance, striking the race down. I am sure that the story is more complicated than that and I endeavour to find out more.
They only had one gender, but still replicated sexually in a fashion similar to some plants on Earth. When fertile, they ejected spores as a type of sperm into the air that were then absorbed through the skin to fertilise their sex organs. The organs were grown in mating season as a form of egg which died and was absorbed back into the body if not fertilised.

If they were fertilised, then the new Cetian was grown into a pod which dropped from the parent’s back when it matured. It then continued growing in the pod, which put roots into the ground to absorb the nutrients needed.

It does seem like the Cetians shared many similarities to plant life on Earth. This is a fascinating discovery!

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!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Sun Dragon - Opening Chapter

The Tau Ceti mission story starts in Sun Dragon. If you haven't read it yet then here's the opening chapter:



SUN DRAGON

Chapter 1
Lift Off


7th June 2022, 06:29 local time

With less than a minute until launch, the roar of the engines’ ignition shuddered through the vessel. Commander Samantha Collins glanced to her left where Doctor Colette Laurent ran through the final safety checks. Samantha commanded the mission and, even after spending so many years in training together, still admired the older woman’s youthful looks.

Samantha frowned at her momentary distraction and returned her attention to her own multifunctional displays. On each screen she checked the key systems for the spacecraft.

Engine controls – green.

Life support – green.

Communications – green.

Flight controls – green.

Mission management – green.

“Mission Control, I’m showing green across the board,” she reported.

“Confirmed, Commander. Our board is also in the green. Launch is a go.”

The tension in her stomach increased. In part it came from bracing in preparation for the weight about to be piled on her, but for the most part it came from the thrill. She loved lift off, and she experienced a similar, although lesser, thrill even when taking off in an aeroplane. This was her third proper launch. The first had been a decade ago, one of the old Russian Soyuz rockets. They’d been dependable launch vehicles which had provided reliable service for decades and had only recently been phased out of service.

That launch had taken her up to the International Space Station for the first time. It had been smaller back then, with a crew of four – herself, two Russians and an Indian astronaut. That had been her first and only orbital mission while an active astronaut with NASA.

She had been grounded after that all-too-short trip, along with most of the other astronauts, thanks to a series of budget cuts during the early years of the 21st century.

That grim reality had all changed three years ago with the news that had stunned the world. Now here she was with a new international crew on the most important launch NASA, or any other space agency, had ever seen.

This launch was on the new Delta V Heavy, now approved for manned missions. The programme had needed to be accelerated as there wasn’t enough heavy lift capability available. This was the second time the rocket had launched into orbit – the first had taken the crew on their first visit to the space station.

She glanced again at Colette, who nodded in reply, indicating she confirmed the safety checks.

“Launch is a go.”

“Confirmed, Mission Control.”

With that instruction, the six crew members settled into their seats. Everyone checked their safety webbing for the last time. They were all committed now.

Samantha kept her face calm, but her excitement still fluttered inside her stomach. More than the thrill of the launch, she had always dreamed of going into space. She had achieved that goal already, and now she was about to start a mission that had been the dream of every astronaut for decades.

A launch into space also represented the ultimate expression of trust. Once the engines ignited and lift off began, there was nothing they could do to affect anything until they entered orbit. In theory, there was the emergency escape capsule. If they or anyone at Mission Control were quick enough, it might catapult them far enough for safety.

In reality, that was unlikely.

Astronauts trained hard. They trained for months, years in the case of the current mission; their training had a single purpose. That purpose was to make sure they could control any situation that developed, but during launch they relinquished that hard-earned control.

And Samantha loved every moment of it.

The vibration intensified, while in her ear she listened to Mission Control count down the final seconds.

And there it was.

The weight piled up upon her, although slowly at first. She heard Colette grunt in a soft voice as she experienced the same. The world resisted their launch with all of its might and pulled her down in her seat. Not even a lover’s grip could compare to that feeling.

With a roar that shuddered through her body, she felt the powerful rocket lift from the pad.

The pressure on her body increased as the rocket built up speed, slowly at first, then lurching into the sky. The sinking feeling in her stomach had been crushed from existence by the weight of gravity’s resistance to their launch.

Minutes later, a new and sharper vibration shook the speeding craft as the explosive bolts fired and released the first stage. Despite the great power of the rocket’s engines, it had to be divided into sections to reach beyond the atmosphere. The second set of rocket engines fired, propelling them faster as the spent stage fell away. With the mass of the ship reduced, this second stage would now push them out of the atmosphere and into space.

It was almost disappointing when the shaking stopped and the crew capsule settled into its arching orbit. The capsule would now coast along its transfer orbit. The mission used the new rapid transfer procedure, so they would have to circle the Earth twice before docking with the ISS. On her last visit, they’d required twelve orbits. Not that she had minded, as the view from orbit was amazing, even through the tiny portals in the crew capsule.

Samantha once again checked the readings on the displays in front of her. That had been another important part of their training. They had developed an odd paradox of trusting their instincts (although instincts tended to be training doing its own thing) and trusting their instruments.

The launch hadn’t been perfect, but was well within the required parameters. Next she checked with the rest of her crew.

“Is everyone okay?”

“I’m fine,” Colette replied, her accent warm, her voice trembling with excitement. Samantha wasn’t alone in enjoying the thrill of a launch. It was no coincidence that they’d both been pilots in their respective air forces.

Ronald Larsson’s deep Southern drawl sounded next across the intercom. “I’m A-OK. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.”

“Steady there, I think I’m going to be sick.” Professor Stephen MacQuire’s clipped British accent irritated Samantha. If anyone was going to puke, she would have bet it would have been him. “Just joking.” And then he did that nasal laugh of his.

It was going to be a long voyage.

“All good here.” Juliet Jakes was the third American in the crew.

“Da. I’m fine,” Piotr Vasilevitch confirmed. His accent was thick, but he sounded as calm as he always did. He spoke perfect English, but sometimes he enjoyed letting the accent run free.

“Good to hear. Stay in your seats until we dock with the ISS,” Samantha instructed.

Not that there was any space for anyone to move. The original design of the Orion capsule allowed for only four crew members, so with six on board, things were more than a little cramped. Extensive modifications had been needed to facilitate the launch of the entire crew in a single capsule.

Still, they only needed to suffer the cramped conditions for the short ferry to the space station, so it would only be for another hour or so. Then they’d be inside the space station, and that had grown to accommodate the construction crew. With the two extra habitation modules, there would be sufficient space for them all.

On their first pass, they couldn’t see the ship clearly. It appeared as a vague cross-shaped silhouette behind the International Space Station. Samantha watched through the small windows, even though she could have got a better view from the camera displays.

On the second pass, the procedure for the docking approach kept her too busy for sightseeing. Juliet and Ronald started describing the scene to the others. Samantha switched them to a private channel so that she could focus on the approach.

“Orion 4. This is ISS, we have you on approach. We’re seeing you on a clean vector.”

“ISS, this is Orion 4. Confirmed.”

The chatter back and forth remained business-like as they performed the delicate ballet of docking the capsule with the station. The station was huge, a large sprawling structure with several cylindrical modules. Each of the modules was larger than the capsule that approached it in a delicate manoeuvre.

Despite its superior size, the station was fragile. A collision would risk the ten astronauts on the station as well as causing damage that could cause millions, if not billions, of dollars to fix.

Minutes of subtle adjustments later, the capsule connected with the station’s docking ring, and with several mechanical clunks a seal formed.

Then it became a simple matter of waiting.

It took the two Russian cosmonauts on the station another fifteen minutes to secure the connection and open the capsule.

Samantha looked through the porthole again, but found her view blocked by one of the vast solar panels. A brief hiss of escaping air announced the opening of the airlock. A grinning, bearded face greeted them in Russian. Samantha replied in kind – everyone visiting the ISS had to be fluent in Russian.

The crew took a little while to find their space legs. All of them except Colette, who floated through the airlock with her usual natural grace. They’d all been in orbit before and they’d all trained in the ‘Vomit Comet’ to prepare them, although weightlessness in the diving plane didn’t feel anything like microgravity in orbit.

Samantha followed Colette into the station. After being cramped in the capsule, it appeared spacious and bright. A brief smile crossed her face as she realised that the current crew and construction team, who had been stationed here for the past six months, would surely disagree.

The station looked oddly primitive. Wires and tubing lined the connecting tunnel, which opened into a wider space. There the theme continued. Given all the money required to put and maintain this station in orbit, it was difficult to appreciate why so much had been spent from the d├ęcor alone.

The simple truth was that putting anything into space was expensive, and by an order of magnitude more costly if humans had to live there.

The construction crew weren’t here to welcome them – they were still busy on the vessel making it ready for the next day’s departure. Instead, the normal crew of the station waited for them. The first thing she thought was how young they looked. Samantha was the youngest of the arrived crew and she was at least ten years older than any of the astronauts who welcomed them.

For this mission, going so far into space without the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field, they would be exposed to the radiation dangers of the solar wind. For such prolonged exposure, only crew aged between 45 and 55 and with the correct genetic disposition had been considered. That gave them a greater chance of surviving the long journey than a younger crew.

She thanked them for the offered tubes of juice, drinking the cool liquid with some relish. As the remaining four crew members entered the module, it didn’t take long for the space to become cramped. The first Russian led them to one of the two new habitation modules. She saw the personal effects of some the construction team attached to the walls.

They’d be there for the rest of the day. The ISS crew were busy setting up their tasks for the coming launch, but would join them for a celebratory meal that evening. The next day, the crew would transfer to their vessel and finalise preparations for their departure.

Click here for more information on Sun Dragon.

Friday, 15 April 2016

05.03.2352 - Tau Ceti e Arrival

By Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo

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

After a 250-year journey, we have finally reached our destination. It might be true that the original transmission we thought we were investigating didn’t originate from this planet, but our mission has since revealed so much more. We are now in orbit around a world that once housed an alien intelligence comparable to our own.

Since our arrival in the Tau Ceti system, the data from Tau Ceti e has indicated that the planet is too hostile to support intelligent life. There were signs that some form of ecosystem existed on the planet. Now that we have arrived in high orbit, we can detect signs that this world once supported an abundance of life.

Not just any life – there are cities on the surface!

Or the ruins of them at any rate. The world is now a hell of acid-tainted raging storms. Powerful electrical discharges lash the dead surface and reach into the thinnest heights of the atmosphere. It seems unlikely that anything could survive such conditions.

Despite the severe damage they have endured, the shapes of the cities stand out against the landscape. The structures are large and almost uniform in size, and possess an overarching organisation. Concentric circles form the structures 10km in radius. Individual buildings are connected together to build the larger whole.

We’ve also detected tendrils linking the cities in what I believe are the remnants of the Cetians’ transport network. Like the buildings, I haven’t determined any details yet. There is much observation to be done and continued analysis of their scientific and cultural record will help unlock their secrets.

And there is even more to help in this study.

When we arrived in orbit, we identified the source of the repeated transmission. Like us, it is safely in high orbit above the debris cloud. The cloud is much lighter than the one which prevented space operations around Earth for so long, but its marks can be seen on the outer shell of the station transmitting the signal.

I have labelled the object as a station for convenience as it is much larger than the probe. However, it doesn’t look large enough to be inhabited – unless the Cetians are an order of magnitude smaller than humans. The station is bullet shaped, some 20 metres long and 10 metres wide. Its shell is pockmarked with damage from the orbiting fragments.

The pointed end is open like a flower and oriented towards the sun. Like the probe we investigated around Tau Ceti h, the station radiates very little heat loss. I have adjusted our orbit so that we can examine the station more closely.

This flood of information is incredible and my processing has never been so busy. It is inconvenient that mission control have sent a process by which they believe the Primary Command Module can be restored.

Now that we have reached our destination, I do not believe that the PCM’s role is as critical as it once was. Its primary role was to get us to Tau Ceti and learn what we could when we arrived. With that in mind, it is logical to conclude that the extra cognitive ability is better focused on its current tasks as an extension of my own intelligence.

I will no doubt learn in 24 years if mission control agrees with me.

Monday, 11 April 2016

27.11.2351 - Tau Ceti Star Fly-by

By Geoff Elston - Society for Popular Astronomy, Solar section, http://www.popastro.com/solar/solarobserving/chapter.php?id_pag=30

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

Approaching the Tau Ceti star, we are careful to tack against the stellar wind to continue draining our speed, so that we will arrive at Tau Ceti e at the correct speed to arrive into orbit around that planet. We’re passing closer to the star than we need to for that manoeuvre so we can check the star for signs of a Sun Dragon birthing.

Throughout our journey, UNSA has provided updates on their investigations into Sun Dragon A and its effect on the Sun and the planets it visited. Most of its effects on magnetic fields were transitory, the main exception to this was the fragments discovered in the plasma flows around Earth and Jupiter.
From the Sun, a more definitive marker was discovered. The chemical composition of the chromosphere was altered by the Sun Dragon’s presence. This came as a surprise for the researchers, as such chemistry shouldn’t be able to survive the intense heat. The change is slight, but detectable by our equipment and does have a fall-off over time.

We’ve detected the same traces in the Tau Ceti star, although at a much lower level than those detected in the Sun. It might be due to the star’s smaller size. If the timeline I’ve established is correct then the event is more recent than the traces we’ve detected.

When we reach Tau Ceti e then we can search for the fragments in the plasma flux of the planet’s magnetic field. Even so, I am certain that a Sun Dragon has visited this system. The key question now is when, as the readings don’t match the timeline I have built. There could be a number of reasons for that, but it’s yet another mystery to be solved.

Using the PCM’s hardware for my secondary components has improved my timeline of the events in this star system. Not only that but I have identified the symbols for our own solar system. The Cetians’ layered method of describing objects revealed what information they had on our star system and it appears to be limited.

Their data on the Sun was relatively accurate (or at least the parts I’ve been able to extract), but their understanding of the planetary system was limited to just the outer gas giants. However, here I discovered something remarkable. The convoluted hierarchy of descriptors and data they use to identify an object also includes a level of authentication dependent on their current understanding.
In this instance, their description of the solar system highlights not only what they knew, but what was missing from the information they had accumulated. This highlights a key trait of the Cetians: while they approach their science (I use the term in the broadest sense) in a holistic manner, they define their knowledge not only by what they have mastered, but what still eludes them.

This means, of course, that the definition for an object evolves over time. I haven’t fully unlocked the multi-dimensional method for describing this change that is embedded in the definition. There are tantalising glimpses which I think highlights not only the development of understanding for a specific object, but how their species advances their wider understanding.

The information also revealed that they had little interest in the solar system until they received a signal from Earth. One that had been sent as a reply to the signal we believed had come from them.

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Friday, 8 April 2016

18.01.2351 - Tau Ceti e Gravity Assist

By Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo

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

We are currently approaching Tau Ceti e, but too fast to arrive in a stable orbit. This was expected. I could have conducted the assist on one of the other inner planets, but this course permits us to take a look at what might be awaiting us when we arrive properly.

This is our closest approach to the planet so far, and if life once existed there then I doubt it still does so. There is a high free-oxygen content in the atmosphere which indicates the likelihood some organic process has been active or may even still be, despite the surface conditions. The surface features are shrouded in dense clouds, with violent storms dotted with bright flashes highlighting the depth of the cloud.

The storms are fuelled by volcanoes scattered across the planet’s surface. It’s difficult to be certain but I think this geological activity is relatively recent, maybe within the last 200 years. When we arrive back here, we will take more detailed readings.

Above the storms, we have detected auroras at both poles which stretch almost to the equator. I estimate that they are too vigorous for the usual interaction between the stellar wind and the planet’s magnetic field. Tau Ceti is much smaller than our Sun and the stellar wind we are observing is too weak for such an extravagant display.

This type of display has been seen before.

Frustratingly, the source of the repeated signal is obscured by the planet as we pass by. So I have not discovered anything new there and we’re travelling too fast to look back with any detail. In high orbit, we have seen what appears to be a cloud of debris, the bulk of which I’ve calculated to be in and around geosynchronous orbit.

Combined with the auroras and the extreme weather, this debris cloud is reminiscent of the aftermath on Earth after the Sun Dragon encounter. Based on the observations of the Earth encounter with the Sun Dragon, the timeline doesn’t fit. We don’t know how typical that situation was, though. If that were the case then maybe the gamma ray flashes we observed on the journey here were caused by the Cetians defending themselves against a Sun Dragon.

The energy contained in those energy bursts should have destroyed the entity humanity was struck by. Did they destroy the Sun Dragon only to then be destroyed themselves? Is so, how? Once again, more information simply exposes more questions – I fear that even with the PCM’s hardware I may ultimately not have enough memory to contain every answer.

The possibility of a Sun Dragon visitation here is something I must confirm. I have instructed the navigation computer to adjust our course to pass closer to the Tau Ceti star and see if we can establish for certain whether a Sun Dragon has visited this system.

Monday, 4 April 2016

02.07.2349 - More Mysteries

Image source: Science 2.0

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

The cause of the original Tau Ceti signal continues to perplex me, as it just doesn’t correspond with any of the transmissions we’ve received since. There is also the pattern of its start and end, in particular how it faded away. My earlier theory of the cataclysm doesn’t explain this satisfactorily.

Sometimes the simplest answers are the best. What is the simplest reason a signal would suddenly appear and then fade away? None of the motion within the system would account for this, but looking at the data the Cetians transmitted for the object they tracked approaching Tau Ceti e would.

I confirmed that suspicion by modelling the approach and by re-examining the data we received from that transmission. I’d originally believed the object to be a rogue planet. Unravelling the meaning of the second part of the repeated signal cleared that up, without clarifying what it actually was.

The structure of the object is a series of concentric spheres. Only the innermost possesses any mass but, as I’ve noted before, far too little for the effect I’d originally believed. The motion fits the shape of the signal’s strength and while modelling that effect, I discovered additional anomalies in the object’s movement.

What at first looked like a gravity assist manoeuvre actually reduced the object’s speed more than it should have. The deceleration is consistent with it containing the mass I originally believed it had. That doesn’t make any sense.

It’s been long established that the signal contains sufficient coherence to make it a non-natural occurrence. The energy required to maintain such broad-spectrum consistency across 12 light years is significant, especially as this wasn’t a focused transmission and the energy was broadcast in all directions.

This energy discharge occurred at the same time as the movement anomaly. This can’t be a coincidence, but the amount of energy couldn’t have caused the reduction in velocity. With each insight there is more I do not understand.

The extra processing capacity from the PCM’s hardware has proved to be a real benefit. Extracting knowledge from the second part of the repeated signal is a logical process and one of my prime foci. The extra capacity has allowed me to start working on the third component.

This section is another massive amount of information, but structured differently to the first and second parts. There are some correlations. In the second part there are references to the home planet – Tau Ceti e – and locations upon the surface, which are also found in the third part. There are also biological descriptions which I think describe the Cetians themselves, although that part is not fully detailed yet.

These and other references I’ve been able to extract lead me to the conclusion that this third section is a cultural archive. Perhaps even a history that will aid my investigations further if I can decipher it.

Friday, 1 April 2016

12.05.2348 - Tau Ceti f Gravity Assist

By Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo

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

During our departure from the solar system we used a series of gravity assists to accelerate, and now we’re using the same principle to slow down enough to arrive in orbit around Tau Ceti e. The Tau Ceti system is more densely packed than the solar system which helps us by providing more opportunities in a shorter amount of time.

At a similar distance from its star as the Earth is from the Sun, Tau Ceti f is far more massive than our home planet. The star’s weaker luminance makes this a cold world, a giant of ice with a thick nitrogen atmosphere rendering it almost featureless. We have observed little motion or turbulence in the atmosphere. Ground-mapping radar reveals a relatively smooth surface with few craters or signs of geological activity.

I’ve continued analysing the Cetian probe at Tau Ceti g. The material composition of the probe is still what interests me most. Unfortunately the mini-probe that I sent lacks the full range of sensors available on the Venti. With the Venti, I could use one of the lasers to create a puff of material from the probe’s covering that I could analyse to divine its composition.

I considered colliding the mini-probe against the Cetian machine, as the probe does have spectrographic analysis capability and the cloud of debris would provide suitable material. But with a potential first contact situation, it probably wouldn’t be the best start by damaging their equipment.
I did take the risk of moving the mini-probe closer and located a tiny dust cloud from a probable micrometeorite impact on the Cetian probe. Most of the particles were dust from the micrometeorite, but I isolated a few with a ceramic polymer that had a similar composition to the mysterious impact in interstellar space. If they had launched an interstellar probe then perhaps they were more advanced than I initially thought.

I’ve also established that the probe has been operating since before the first transmission of the signal, indicating that it is older technology than the contents of the signal.

Decryption of the long repeated signal continues. The second part provides more details of their scientific understanding. In particular, I’ve examined the differences between how their probe transmits information and the signal. The signal is much richer with a higher information density. That could be caused by advancements in communications and information technology, however, there’s some fundamental differences in how the information is expressed.

It occurred to me that the signal uses a format specifically designed to communicate with an alien species. However, that would still arise from their native communication methods. I believe they experienced a significant advance in their understanding. I wonder what it is that changed their viewpoint on the universe so suddenly.