The Unexpected Satellite – Part 3

After several hours of discomfort for all of the crew members, the Chronos had finally reached a velocity more suitable for making contact with the stranded asteroid miner. Alan had switched the centrifuge in the main crew compartment back on, but it would take several minutes for the motors to defeat the inertia of the heavy disc that comprised that part of the spacecraft. In the meantime, the Commander and Vice-Commander traded reports about various navigational and scanning issues. The evidence was becoming clearer: There certainly was a metallic object of substantial proportions proceeding on the trajectory that the ECSA had predicted for the asteroid miner, large enough to be a spacecraft and, to the relief of all, appearing to be in one piece.

As Alan rolled up his reading screen and placed it into his pocket, Gerhard, the mathematician on board the Chronos, pulled himself out of his seat and floated over to Alan.

Is the crew compartment almost prepared?” Gerhard asked, in a German accent which Alan perceived with his paltry knowledge of German to have been tempered somewhat by years of speaking English.

Yeah, Gerhard,” Alan replied. “Just waiting for the centrifuge to spin up fully. Do you have those read-outs handy?”

Yes, yes,” Gerhard said with an air of reassurance. “They’re on my tablet.”

Right, then, Gerhard. I’ll see you in the recreational room, then?”

Gerhard raised his hand in a salute, turning towards the hatch in the centre of the room and pushing himself towards the ceiling to grip a handhold. Alan checked his wrist computer to check the rotational speed of the centrifuge, seeing that it was close to full speed, and unstrapped himself from his chair. He shouted over to Gerhard, telling him that he could pass through the hatch, then pushed himself up to the ceiling, pulling himself over to Andrew’s chair.

Andrew, by this point, was slumped over his chair in a deep slumber. Alan knew all too well the exhaustion that was inflicted on inexperienced spacecraft crew members, but there was work to be done. Gingerly, Alan pushed himself down and gently prodded Andrew in the shoulder with the toe of his boot. After a few attempts, Alan finally elicited a response as Andrew groggily shook his head and murmured some barely understandable words, “Whadda you want?”

Time to wake up,” Alan replied, “We’ve got work to do.”

After a few seconds’ pause as Andrew awkwardly fumbled with the straps of his chair, he managed to free himself and push himself out of his chair. Alan, not content to wait for Andrew to wake up properly, pulled himself towards the central hatch and plunged into the tunnel beneath him.

A couple of minutes later, he made his way back into the crew compartment and proceeded towards the recreational room. Once he arrived there, he saw Gerhard sitting at one of the tables, looking inquisitively at his tablet. As Alan opened the door, Gerhard raised his head, waved his hand and took another brief glance at his tablet while Alan found a seat on the opposite side of the table.

Where’s the computer expert?” Gerhard asked as Alan adjusted his chair.

Andrew? He’ll be down in a few moments. I just woke him up a few minutes back.”

While Alan and Gerhard waited for Andrew to arrive, they briefly discussed some of the technical details that they had arranged the meeting about. “I’d like to get as close to the asteroid miner as possible on autopilot,” Alan said. “That entry hatch looks awkward to get into, even if you’re a confident shuttle pilot.”

Well,” Gerhard replied, “we can go for a preliminary approximation here and try refining our guess when we have more information on the situation, right?”

Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. We’ll have to agree on the loadout on the shuttle here and now, though. I’ll take on some extra fuel just in case, but adding extra inertia doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time.”

Suddenly, the door slid open. Andrew stepped into the room, with a rather dishevelled look and bags around his eyes. “Sorry for keeping you,” he apologised as he sat down beside Alan.

Don’t worry about it,” replied Alan and Gerhard in unison. “Now that we’re all here, we can begin,” Alan continued once Andrew had made himself comfortable.

After some preliminary discussion of the mission profile, with some of the details reiterated for the benefit of Gerhard, Gerhard began to speak.

So, we’re basing this on a one-hundred kilometre round journey with some additional fuel for manoeuvring around the asteroid miner, correct?”

That’s correct,” Alan replied. “We’ll also have to take into consideration the mass of our payload, including myself and Andrew, my toolkit, the computer nodes and whatever other equipment and ephemera we need. Andrew, do you know off-hand how heavy each of those computer nodes are?”

I think about 10 to 12 kilograms,” Andrew replied. “The specification sheet says 11.2 kilograms, as far as I remember, but that’s for a certain standard which the ones we have on board don’t conform to.”

Well,” Alan asked, “that’ll do well enough for an approximation, won’t it, Gerhard?”

Replying in the affirmative, Gerhard proceeded to enter some preliminary data into his tablet, drawing up the framework of an equation in the process. Stopping occasionally to ask questions, Gerhard continued his work in relative silence while Alan and Andrew discussed and occasionally argued about the equipment that they would need.

Are you sure that we need to bring all thirty-six nodes at once?” Alan asked as Gerhard continued on with his calculations. “I mean, we don’t even know if the power is on in the asteroid miner, and we don’t have anywhere to put them on the other spacecraft if we need to come back to get the equipment to work on the generator over there.”

We don’t need to bring all thirty-six,” Andrew conceded, “but I will say that I’d prefer if we brought the lot in one go. It’ll save us time later in terms of going back and forth.”

Right, well, you’re bringing that equipment down to the shuttle bay then. I’m going to need to get the plasma cutter out of storage anyway.” Alan paused for a second, then continued with a sardonic undertone, “I’m pretty convinced that the power in the asteroid miner’s gone, and that we’ll have to cut our way through the doors.”

Andrew ignored him, and the room remained in silence for the next few minutes while Gerhard continued to calculate. Suddenly, Gerhard raised his head and said, “Alright, gentlemen, I have all the information I need so far. Alan, I’ll discuss this with you later. Andrew, thank you for the assistance. Good day!”

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