(Continued from Part 5)
(Figure – This is a collage of several vantage points in the story. In the background is the Earth at night with lights of North America showing. In the lower right is the Earth with two elliptical orbits overlaid about the Earth showing the path of the momentum satellites, diverted by the two polar space stations so that the satellites never experience the outer portion of their respective orbits. In the center left, Polaris Station hanging from tethers supported by the mag-lev rails uplifted by the momentum satellite stream. There is a space elevator hanging from the bottom of the station.)
Kendall took a few more ascent strokes then paused and stared instinctively back downward from the cable towards the station, now framed by the Earth below. He could see all of Canada, but only part of the United States. Texas was just over the horizon. “I read you, Houston. Go ahead.”
“Kendall, I see A4 beat you out of bed again.”
“Uh, copy that.” Kendall said. “I’ll see if Dmitry can make A4’s daily regenerative cycles more like teen-age sleeping patterns. That ought to slow him down. You would think that getting out of bed at a point-eight (0.8) ‘g’ should be a piece of cake, but for some reason…” Kendall lost his train of thought. “Anyway, what’s the word on these M-Sat anomalies? We had another bump this morning.”
“Yes, we saw it on telemetry,” Flight replied. “Our best analysts are working on the sensor and tracking data. We’ll keep you posted.”
“Ya,” Kendall said below his breath. “Roger that. Don’t forget to keep Becca in the loop.”
“What?” Flight said. “Don’t you trust the ground team? Don’t worry, we’ll keep her informed. Katya, Becca, and Dmitry just passed through the solar blackout zone in the Quad so we lost communication a few minutes ago. We’ll get her caught up shortly.”
“Roger that, Houston.” Kendall looked back up the cable toward A4.
“You did not need to come,” A4 said to Kendall. “As you know I am fully capable of performing the inspection. You could have attended to telescope calibrations. Your son programmed me to…”
“I know A4,” Kendall interrupted. “But I feel the need to make sure everything…” He stopped, then continued.” To make sure I understand the condition of everything about this outpost in case…” He paused again.
“You were saying, sir?” A4 prodded. “In case what?”
Kendall thought about Dmitry as he looked up along the nanotube approaching A4 and the wing rails above. He did a great job on A4. If only he would take his professors more seriously, his grades wouldn’t be an international controversy, like mine were. He spends way too much time playing that video game, Knights of the Middle Ages.
“You were saying, Captain Parker?” A4 repeated.
“Listen A4, we’ve got another 45 minutes on this cable. How about my favorite audio?”
“You mean the sound track from 2001, Space Odyssey?
“No, I’d like to hear the NASA press briefing given before we launched. Please play back from the beginning.”
“But sir, I played that for you three days ago.”
“Just do it.”
Yes, sir.” A4 accessed the file remotely from the station then transferred playback to Kendall’s helmet.
While the briefing played, Kendall remembered the space environmentalists, the hecklers in the background the day of the briefing. He stopped his ascent, braced himself against the cable and looked up at the long narrow maglev wing above, the edge near the center reflected the brilliance of the sun. The wing curvature was hardly detectable especially from below but he could see the two slightly blurred parallel maglev rails extending across the bottom from end to end, five-hundred meters in length of arc. Over the entire curve, the rails were supported by a bridge structure, longitudinal members connected by triangularly placed beams and tension rods. Streaking across the wing, each five-meter diameter bullet-shaped M-Sat was programmed to approach the wing inline with each neighboring M-Sat within two millimeters minimizing shock to the station during M-Sat arrival.
Each M-Sat levitated about 10 millimeters below the maglev rails traversing across the full 500 meter long wing in 132 milliseconds. Counter magnetic surfaces on each M-Sat interacted repulsively with the maglev rails providing lift to the station. At any given time, 4 of 175,955 satellites chased each other across the wing pushing it upward as the satellites turned slightly downward. They made no sound in the vacuum of space, but from Kendall’s position on the cable, he could feel the low 15 Hertz buzz caused by the M-Sat passing rate. During development and M-Sat launch and deployment, it was determined to include a grappling tether subsystem in each M-Sat to allow for minor corrections, mitigating the risk of drifting satellites in the event of a control system failure.
He then realized that the recording was still playing.
“I’d like to announce the two families that will occupy and operate the observatories for the next twenty-four months,” the NASA director said.
Kendall interrupted, “You should have been there, A4. The eight of us stood there in front of the press, and the world. The event was even broadcast to the outpost on the moon and Mars.”
The recording was interrupted.
“Captain Parker, this is Houston.”
“Come in, Flight,” Kendall said.
“Kendall, we have an update on that M-Sat anomaly.”
(Continue with Part 7)