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Adventures in Orbiter

Mining the Moon - Pt. II Author: David Organ ( Staiduk )

I'll say this for Intersolar - they don't skimp on off-world bases. There are currently 6 "colonies" on the Moon; each belonging to mining/low-G development corporations and consortiums.

Lunar One is owned by Star Petrochemical out at Fra Mauro. They mainly do work in low-G development and refinement techniques in the plastics industry. Good for them - it's a messy business; but there's no atmosphere to pollute on the Moon; waste is simply reclaimed or shot into the Sun.

AgriFutures Inc. has New Iowa at Mare Nectaris - it's a massive underground complex developing underground farming techniques. They produce amazing yields under low-G hydroponic conditions - they'll almost certainly be the major food supplier once colonization really takes hold up here.

Heinlein Base is of course owned by 3M; down at Mare Tranquilitatis. Underground mineral/chemical processing; but they've also got a pretty good tourism industry going at Armstrong Park. They couldn't take over Tranquility Base itself; it's a historical site, but they run regular tours out there. I did the tour a few years back - seeing the Eagle's descent stage still sitting there, untouched, sends a shiver up the spine. It's amazing what they did way back then with the technology of the day.

IAC owns the King Charles Memorial telescope complex; a colossal VLA array of radio telescopes on farside. Not much out there; but they seem to like it.

Sun City was built by Energy Holdings Inc. It's a solar farm ten thousand hectares across. Solar power is collected and beamed to the Sunflower satellite reciever in low Earth orbit; and from there to the planet. Powers most of central and eastern Canada; from Manitoba to Labrador.

Finally, Brighton Beach is owned and operated by Intersolar; up on the south 'coast' of Sinus Roris. It's primary purpose is low-G refinenment, processing and manufacture; its second goal is expansion.
No question; Brighton Beach is big; it houses twenty thousand in underfround comfort. The only things aboveground are the Intersolar offices; insanely expensive condos, the raw resource monorail and of course the landing field - 6 pads; only Heinlein has more with 7.
It's a comfortable place to spend time as well; with a full working economy. Shops and services are plentiful; accomodation is well planned and cozy; if a little small.

A fine place to spend time at; the only problem is getting to it.

It's easy enough to get there from a technical point of view; the trouble is it takes two days from Earth. That's fine; if you're one or two people in a DeltaGlider. It gets a little problemati though; when they decide to cram 5 people - a pilot and 4 passengers - together for the flight.

Anyway; back to the story.

Refuelling at Waypoint One (W-1) is a quick, simple task. Normally; pilot and passengers can drift into the station's recieving module for a little stretch and change of scenery - it's just a tin can; but larger than the DGIII's passenger compartment. This generally lasts for a couple of hours while we wait for the orbit to take us into position to align for the Moon's orbit.

This time; however, time was short. By the time we docked; we had just over thirty minutes to refuel and undock from the station. Company rules demand that an alignment burn begins no closer than 1000 meters from any station - a wise precaution. Even travelling cautiously; it takes about 5 minutes to move 1 Km. away; so total dock time was to be less than twenty minutes.

After docking I matched pressures and opened the airlock; then drifted down from the flight deck into the airlock to manually check the refuel fittings. Once connection was complete; I started the pumps and turned off the Seatbelts light; allowing my 4 charges freedom to move about.

Geez; I really wish I could just keep them belted into their seats for the entire journey; passengers are a pain. I was immediately smothered by questions, complaints and comments about what could be done better. OK; I should really show some sympathy; after all; they're not exactly at their best - if you're not used to it space travel can be decidedly hard on the stomach; my passengers were distinctly green-faced and therefore not in very good moods. I had to point out to them - calmly, that is - that:

    a) artificial gravity hasn't been invented yet,
    b) as yet; there are no luxury space liners,
    c) I just fly it - I didn't build it, and
    d) I'm Captain of this particular ship; and don't take orders from passengers - particularly nonsensical ones. ("No, sorry Sir; I can not burn at 1 G the whole way there. Freefall's fun - might as well learn to enjoy it!....Well; if you didn't take your Gravol; there's some in the medicine kit behid you.")

Oy vey.

Alignment burn for the Moon's orbitBy five minutes before undock; I was really sweating. According to procedure; I'm supposed to have everyone belted in and secure 10 minutes prior to departure. These nits seemed to have no idea that leaving late is simply not an option - missing an alignment window means losing an entire orbit - or more; if we lose the TLI window. It took the coaxing of myself and the one Courier that had been in space once before - and thus thought she knew everything - to get the other three out of W-1 and into the Weasle.

We broke connection and pulled away from the station using full RCS with barely 5 minutes to go until Alignment - it was going to be close. I had to cheat a bit and burn the retros briefly to get the necessary speed.
Fortunately; that did the trick, and using autopilot I was able to turn to the Orbit Normal position with a bare twenty seconds to go.

TLI burn - leaving Earth orbitFollowing the 40 second alignment burn and recircularization manoeuvers; we had a restful fifteen minutes until TLI. Restful for me - it was getting kind of messy down in the passenger compartment with little white bags drifting everywhere. I was nice - I drifted down; collected the ickily warm bacs and put them in the disposal before the TLI burn. (Hey; I didn't want to smell it for two days either.)

If I want to go easy on fuel; I can get us to the Moon in three days. That would use less than ten per cent of the Weasle's fuel though; and 3 days is a long time. By burning later and longer; I can get us there in just under two days; with a screamingly fast orbit that would whip us right past the moon and into deep space if anything happened. The burn was very long; using over a quarter of our onboard fuel.

Then came the hard part - the long wait and drift until arrival in the Lunar vicinity. Without passengers; it's a perfect time to relax and reflect; and to prepare for the mission. With passengers - whining, queasy, bored passengers - it can be a nightmare.

 Boxes of Gravol and a Cribbage board are considered essential equipment on passenger runs.

After the burn; I shut down all major systems; leaving on only Environmental, radar and the flight computer. I repressurized the airlock and opened the inner door to give a bit more room; and joined my passengers for lunch - always held immediately after the burn.

40 hours after TLI; we arrived in the Lunar vicinity; with 4 bored bitchy passengers, one harried pilot and about a dozen empty Gravol boxes.

 4 hours later saw us drifting backwards over the Moon at 80 Km. up. My passengers forgot their discomfort; drinking in the magnificent, desolate spectacle of the Lunar surface.

Finally; we were able to burn into alignment for Brighton Beach. I burned retrogade until we were frefalling towards the colony; 500 Km. out. It was a careful approach; drifting in cautiously to land on Pad 6.

Touchdown was whisper-soft; only instruments told us we'd landed. That's manual flight too - yes; I'm that good.

I got myself and 4 desperate passengers suited up; checked them out then cycled them out of the airlock in twos. Pausing only long enough for a full shutdown; I cycled myself out and closed down power to the Weasle; then led my passengers - who were busy gawping at the magnificent scenery - into the colony's airlock. I took my time - they were standing on a different world for the first time in their lives; and didn't want to rush. Nor did I want to rush them - it's an incredible feeling, standing on a new world; so let them feel it as long as they want - it's little details like that passengers appreciate.


Mining the Moon Pt. III >>


You will need the following add-ons to run this mission for yourself.

- DGIII and skins
- Moon Base Alpha


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