Mars: Genesis 2.0 (SF short story)

 

This is not the only end of days scenario from my Mindscapes short story collection, but unlike the far darker “End of Days” short story where more than merely our world hang in the balance, my “Mars: Genesis 2.0” short story offers a more optimistic view if there can be such a thing when facing Armageddon. A previously undiscovered 200-mile-wide asteroid is heading for Earth and will hit in 666 days. That is the unanimous, somber prediction of astronomers the world over. As civil society descends rapidly into chaos born of despair, the world’s nations scramble to find a way to preserve the seeds of humanity from extinction. In the waning days of homo sapiens, the indomitability of the human spirit shows once again that we are at our best at the very worst of times. What follows is a preview taken from the middle of the short story. I hope you enjoy it.

Preview – Mars: Genesis 2.0 © 2014, 2017 Victor D. López All rights reserved.

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But Earth had not put all its eggs in a single basket. Russia, China, Japan, India and the U.S. opted to implement their own fast-track space programs, and the European Space Agency opted to partner with a cadre of technologically advanced countries without the capacity to develop their individual space programs to exponentially expand the International Space Station providing the capacity to house upwards of 1,200 people chosen by a complicated system from each of the partner nations. China, India, and Japan chose to implement variations on a theme of Moon colonies consisting primarily of inflatable habitats that could be created and sent aloft quickly and, once on the Moon, could be easily inflated and attacked via networks of tubes. The largest of these resembled the familiar domed design of indoor tennis courts on college campuses. All three colonies were planned in close proximity to the limited water on the Polar Regions that would be mined and used to extract both water and oxygen for the colonies’ use. Eventually, they would have to find new sources of water or they would perish, but the readily available water above ground would serve the needs of a modest colony of several dozen people for many years, along with the normal water reclamation processes in place that in a closed environment would make close to 100 percent of the available water reusable. Three different colonies, albeit small ones, competing for a finite resource would certainly create some conflicts that the colonists would have to resolve. But there was simply no alternative. The available resources of each country were put to use with abandon towards launching as many payloads as possible into space in the available time.  It would have to be enough.

The U.S. took a different tack, in part to avoid the inevitable conflict it could foresee with a too many colonists fighting for a very limited resource—frozen water. In addition, The U.S. felt that the only type of habitats that could be used and were to be used on the Moon were not sustainable on a long-term basis. They would offer no protection from solar radiation; nor, or course, would the Moon’s nearly non-existent atmosphere. And they would be very vulnerable to even to micro meteorite strikes in the veritable shooting gallery for such objects that was the Moon in comparison to Earth, where these are for the most part either deflected by or burned up in the atmosphere. For these reasons, in part, and perhaps also in part as a final effort to showcase its technical superiority, the U.S. chose to send a crew of twelve– (six men and six women) to Mars instead. While this choice offered many challenges, it would also provide some practical advantages. As Mars has a significant atmosphere by Moon if not so much by Earth standards, made up primarily of Carbon Dioxide that could be easily reclaimed with existing technology to provide all the oxygen, hydrogen, water and methane needed to fuel all of the energy needs of the colony indefinitely. The reclamation systems could be housed in cylindrical containers about the same size as an ordinary water heater that obtained all of its power from solar cells and a small nuclear-powered generator. One of these could provide enough oxygen, water and methane to meet the daily minimum needs of colonists. They would have three of these as well as the best water and air reclamation systems that money could buy, assuming, of course, that they survived the trip and could be brought down in one piece from Mars orbit. Cost was not an issue. Maximizing the thin chance of survival for the tiny colony was.

 

If necessity is indeed the mother of invention, then no other time in history had ever provided a greater impetus to inventiveness since the dawn of civilization. With less than two years to come up with a plan, a laughably small window to launch even a routine unmanned planetary mission, the options open to the best minds that NASA could muster were limited. Once the decision was made to go to Mars rather than the closer space station or lunar colony options, a plan of action was quickly developed to press into service three of the mothballed space shuttles for one final mission. Herculean efforts were made to get all three to Cape Kennedy and readied with the necessary modifications that would allow all three shuttles to be linked in orbit into a serviceable, long-term makeshift station in geostatic orbit around Mars’s equator at a site where an extensive cave system was detected by ground penetrating radar surveys several years earlier, thought to be the remnants of old lava tubes from ancient volcanic activity, or perhaps long-dry underground rivers that had millennia ago fed a massive lake. These tubes were destined to become the colonists’ new home, sealed from the surface and divided by a series of ingenious airlocks that would allow sections of any desired length to serve as a serviceable, expandable habitat that would offer perfect protection from most solar radiation, smaller meteor strikes and the Martian dust storms that could make life on the surface difficult, even if they had the ability to create livable habitats from Martian materials over time. [ ***** End of preview ***** ]

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