13 October 2121, Monday
19 Gemini, Year 272 1
International Orbital Port is made of three parts. First is lower docks where orbital cargo ships are docking to deliver supplies for sustaining port and cargo for interplanetary ships, and passenger ships transferring crews and passengers to the port or from port to the ground, and facilitate annual rotation of port’s crew. The second part is three upper docks where interplanetary ships are assembled and docked to wait for their travel. Both of these parts, designed similar to the International Space Station, the predecessor of the port, are stationary for incoming ships to be able to dock, and like onboard any orbiting spacecraft state of weightlessness is experienced. The third part is a wheel with radius of three hundred meters made of dense metal frames, placed perpendicularly to the central axle joining other two parts together. On the inner side of the wheel several habitat modules for port’s crew and for crews and passengers of interplanetary ships waiting their travel are placed. Modules housing food-growing greenhouses, sports facilities for crew and guests to work-out, water circulation, atmosphere and climate control systems are placed alongside them. This part is rotating with a speed of two rounds per minute to ensure living modules have artificial gravity that is critical for a prolonged stay in orbit.
Docked at the upper dock is a ship assembled of five interconnected cylindrical modules with the sign of ancient Latvian deity Usins, patron of travellers, painted on the bort next to the official registration number. The ship is connected with port’s dock by a flexible air-tight tunnel enabling crew and passengers to embark and disembark the ship. It made of two parts connected by seal cap in the middle, one connected to the dock and one to the ship’s central module, a cylinder hundred meters long and twenty meters wide where pilot’s cabin, lobby with entrance tunnel and tunnels to other four modules, ship’s central computer, accumulators, entry for loading cargo and passengers luggage, fuel tanks and engines are situated.
On other modules, each forty meters wide, crew and passenger living cabins, caboose and dining room, gym, greenhouse for growing food on the way, luggage storage and cargo holds, atmosphere and climate regulation systems and water tanks are situated.
– Greetings! Lieutenant Martins Vilks arrived! – man in a brand new uniform with insignia of Air Force officer just glided in pilot’s cabin introduce himself.
– Greetings! Captain Albert Althaus! – silver-haired and little plump German in civil aviation pilot’s uniform reply, showing to second pilot’s seat next to him.
– Welcome on board of Interplanetary ferry Usins! First time on board of this ship? –
– First time in Space! – Martins reply enthusiasticly.
– What is the extent of your experience? –
– I am an Air Force pilot of ten years. Qualified to pilot all military aircraft and most of civil. –
– So, you will be familiar with most of the control systems here. Just brief crash course. – and Albert shows different switches and indicators while explaining sequential actions to the young officer.
– This is one of the critical moments on our journey, so follow my directions precisely. –
And switched some switch Albert continue:
– Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome on board of interplanetary ferry Usins on route to the planet Mars! Your captain Albert Althaus here. We are scheduled to depart in a few minutes, please take your seats, fasten your seatbelts and follow safety instructions my colleagues will explain you. On behalf of the crew, I bid you a pleasant journey! –
When hatches and airlocks on both sides are locked, the tunnel’s both parts are disconnected and pulled to each one’s side, flexible walls tightly folded. Fixing cables disconnected and supports keeping the ship in an appropriate distance from the dock, operated by pneumatic mechanism push ship away simultaneously with ship’s reaction control thrusters burn.
Martin turns his gaze towards the side window and through a gap in port’s frames catch a glimpse of the Pacific ocean spotted with scattered cloud masses beneath them.
“That is… nearly thirty-six thousand kilometres away. Impressive!” finally he starts to become fully aware of the scale of his extraordinary adventure, although he has a passionate interest into astronomy since childhood and most of the facts about Solar System he knows by heart.
“Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Go!” voice of port’s dispatcher return him into reality. He grabs switches in front of him and pushes them to the end, ships hull throb when chemical propulsion engines ignite in full power. Martin turns his gaze towards the side window once again. Port is already far behind and Earth is steadily moving away too. From time to time he’s shooting a glance on the velocity indicator on the screen in front of him. Approximately a minute later numbers of “11,18 km/s” enlightens green, indicating that they have reached escape velocity necessary to leave the orbit of Earth. Martin shut down chemical propulsion engines and switch on xenon ion propulsion engines which are the principal driving force of the ship and provide constant acceleration all along their way.
– And now let us get comfortable. – Albert says with a smile and pushes some button.
With a pneumatic thrust, lateral
modules fly each own direction away from centre module till stopped at three
hundred meters apart by wire cables connecting all of them together.
Monopropellant thrusters located along the outer side of each module starts short
simultaneous burns to start and gradually speed up ships rotation until the
speed of two rotations per minute. Humming appears to come from the wall behind
them where gearing starts to turn cabin in the opposite direction to ensure
static position suited for working in there.
This story is a part of my new novel which will be available staring with next Martian New Year. I would appreciate feedback very much!
- Since first permanent human settlements were build on the planet Mars, for local timekeeping purposes their inhabitants addopted the Darian Calendar made by Tomas Gangale on Year 1985. Its 24 moths are named after Zodiacal constelations using their Latin and Sanscrit names. The epoch year is a Year 1609/-10 by Earthly calendar, when Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei made first telescopic observation of the planet Mars. More information here: http://ops-alaska.com/time/gangale_mst/darian.htm