Slipped through a wormhole from 2267
Curiously, after yesterday’s events in Florida, a message seemingly from the far future slipped through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and just happened to appear in the ether here at Mansfield Towers. Other than trying to convert it into present-day English, I have left it untouched.
From: First Citizen Michelle (human)
To: All humans & interested AIs
Location: Proxima B, Antigone Moonbase
Date: March 30, 2267 (Mars Standard Calendar)
Five years ago we reached our new home. Proxima Centauri and the worlds around this dwarf star is the first permanent outpost for humanity beyond the Sol system. The journey was long and hard. The loss of Tomasz and Antigone hurt us almost more than we could bear, but here we are celebrating this small milestone. We are 50,000 new minds, many organic, some not, in a new star system.
While we await the return signal from our home planet of Mars, we have been busy. This magical system has been extensively explored and the Dyson sphere nearly completed to power this staging post from which we expect to soon be able to take another step even further out. While there are many wonders, as expected (though we still hoped otherwise), there was no life here, just as none was to be found on any of the worlds (large and small) of the Sol system. This reinforces us, strengthens our determination, to spread the wonder that life brings, whether organic, machine-based or some mixture of the two, throughout our Galaxy and beyond. Each step we take teaches us more about how precious life and intelligence are.
It is worth noting that this voyage of exploration and discovery, the way we are now wading out into the waters of the cosmic ocean, would not have been possible without an event that happened 250 years ago today, according to the Standard Calendar. And it occurred not on our homeworld, but on (and above) Earth, the original cradle of humanity – before runaway climate change and the subsequent nuclear conflicts made the third planet uninhabitable.
Many think of Elon Musk as the original First Citizen of Mars, and it is true that he was pivotal in engineering the systems later humans and AIs came to rely on, but Musk originated on Earth when it was still viable and, in fact, at a time before humanity had begun to spread across the system. It is hard to believe now, but although humans had visited Earth’s satellite, Luna, almost 50 standard years before, they had not returned and the few rockets they launched were only ever used once, incredibly being left to fall back to the planet to be destroyed after completing their initial mission.
I am grateful to the AI, No Compromise, No Surrender, for discovering some incredible footage of a youthful pre-Neuralinked Musk. It is captioned “CEO & Lead Designer, SpaceX”, roughly analogous, I believe, to First Worker. Until this time the cost of reaching space from such a deep gravity well was almost prohibitive, making it the province of nation states (Earth never achieved a planetary-wide government) rather than corporations or individuals. But then Musk founded the cooperative called SpaceX, which succeeded against incredible odds to build the initial colonial fleet that reached Mars in 2036. But those early Mars voyages were long after the fifteen-year struggle to create reusable orbital rockets that would eventually reduce the cost of access to space to a fraction of what it had been before.
So it was that on March 30th, 2017, the very first used orbital class rocket (called a Falcon 9 because of its 9 primitive chemical engines) successfully relaunched, carrying with it a communications satellite destined for geostationary orbit, before landing on a floating platform named Of Course I Still Love You which had been positioned in one of Earth’s oceans. While the very idea of chemical rockets has long since been consigned to history, the name of the platform brings a smile to my face. Just as we organic humans have tried to build a Culture-style civilization in collaboration with the mighty AI Minds of our ships and cities, the literature of the great Iain Banks inspired Musk and his followers in the distant past.
The mission on that fateful day, apparently named SES10 after the satellite launched, would pave the way for a transformation of human fortunes. For a Standard Calendar century, Earthlings had flown around their planet in vessels that were seemingly reused thousands of times, without being discarded. Yet they were so very slow to attempt this same principle to go beyond the planet. Only when SpaceX made reusable rockets the norm, could the Mars colonization project eventually be realized.
It was not long before turnaround times dropped to a Standard Calendar day people switched to preferring launches on flight-proven rockets rather than than untried new builds. In this era of mighty fusion engines powering hollowed out asteroids to the stars at relativistic speeds, controlled by Minds that are far beyond human comprehension (albeit in welcome cooperation), it would be a mistake to belittle the achievements of a small group of engineers who created a chemical rocket that would fly reliably multiple times.
Without them, our ancestors would not have left Earth in time. Without them, life would not now be spreading through the cosmos. The recovered footage is only a two-dimensional low-resolution projection, but all of us should take a moment to witness it and remember the pioneers who have made this wonderful future possible. We owe them a great deal.
First Citizen Michelle (human) out.