Rendezvous with Ceres

Asteroid mission

Sixty one days out from lunar orbit and monotony still had not set in. The thrill and excitement of travel to new realms still occupied my mind.

The sun was riding up nicely; the stars glistened like jewels against the heavenly canopy. They were blue, red and white; sparkling with a clarity never seen from the surface of the Earth.

Our radiant home (the Earth) lay in the distance, a small circular blue orb hanging out the port side window. Its oceans and forests, mountains and streams, are a breath of fresh air to the body, mind and soul. Yet today, as we navigate through turbulent times, the well being of that globe balanced upon the success of our mission to Ceres. So I approached this task with all the eagerness begotten of a final chance.

Serving as 1st officer for this mission, I was also interested in exploring the epitome of this marvelous undiscovered world.

The smaller asteroids look like potatoes and other odd irregular shapes tumbling through the silent firmament. Thousands had been discovered and were deemed innocuous. But ever since the implosion of the planet Jupiter in 2418, the asteroid belt became unstable and began to hurl an ever increasing number of objects toward the inner planets.

The resulting redistribution of mass in the solar system had started to affect the Earth’s orbit. Becoming less circular, the Earth now traveled greater distances away from the sun. The 100,000 year and 25,000 year glacial cycles would became more pronounced. The Earth’s surface temperature was decreasing, after four centuries of global warming.

The multiple eruptions of Mt Vesuvius in 2123 and 2131 ejected over 400,000 cubic kilometers of ash, along with water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and a cocktail of other deadly gasses.  Portions of Europe were without summer for three years and global temperatures decreased by 3.5 degrees Celsius.  Although many lives were lost, the resulting decrease in temperature gave us a temporary respite, helping to secure the survival of the human race.

I wanted my children, and my children’s children, to be able to witness the glorious gold and crimson sunrises on the Earth. The soft scented flowers of the countryside and the amphitheater of mountains in the western states. The rolling hills, frolicking rivers, estuaries, sea beds and volcanic islands circled by glorious reefs, filled my vision of days gone past.

At first I thought the mission would be to Vesta. Discovered in 1807 and about the size of the state of Ohio (USA), I was looking forward to visiting its heavily impacted southern polar region. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around Vesta in 2011 and beamed back some astounding pictures. But that undertaking was on hold for now.

My ship the “Jericho” was assembled in lunar orbit in record setting time; 62 days. Although it did not have all the accoutrements and comforts of home, our cargos of sixteen ion engines were the tapestry of hope that was to be placed on the surface of Ceres.

That asteroid’s current trajectory was a harbinger to a meeting that was destined to take place with the upper Earth’s atmosphere. Friction would slow the projectile and plunge it down to the surface. All manner of calamities could take place. That needed to be avoided. Although time fluttered away there were still weeks left to plant these engines near the dwarf planet’s equator, initiate propulsion, and thereby nudge the rock’s orbit just enough to bypass even the moon.

Our lunar base at the foothills of the crater Cabeus was always surrounded by eerie silence. No matter how many days I spent there, and how many Earth rises I observed, desolation and stillness was a stark reminder of that lifeless world. If not for the presence of free flowing surface water our base would have been built elsewhere. But even at another crater, or at the Sea of Mare Tranquilitatis, or at the mountains of Haemus; or at escarpments, valleys, ridges and plains, the scenery would still be lacking. I would always long for the precious Earth.

But now on the Jericho, I and the remaining crew left that secluded oasis of human energy, yearning and hope, for the prospect of securing safety on Earth for generations to come.

The asteroid belt

After the discovery of Ceres in 1801 the list of solar system wanderers quickly grew. By 1850 it was thought that our solar system had dozens of planets, in part because the sizes of all of the asteroids were not yet that well know. At first blush many passed the test.

But as a civilization we had our first serious scare in 2029 when the asteroid Apophis (270 meters) passed within 28,000 km of the Earth. So in 2032 a mission to Apophis was launched, that planted ion engines on the wobbling rock, which in turn successfully altered its orbit. As intended, it bypassed the Earth completely in 2036.

The sighting of star Capella at right ascension 5h 16m, and declination +45o 59′, confirmed that our craft was dead on course.

Before we started our Ceres landing maneuver I retired to my ships quarters to spend 30-minutes in meditation. Since I was now drowsy, meditation would give me relief from stress and help to clear my mind. Both were essential for the immediate task ahead.

Some years ago I started with guided meditation sessions offered by the Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Centre in Australia. I then progressed to breathing (Pranayama) techniques, walking meditation, mindfulness, and my current Dzogchen practice. In the six years that I have been practicing meditation I can truly say that my mind is more clear, my heart more soft, and my yearning to love humanity blossoming.

In my six short years of meditation I found that …

It’s not important what everyone else has.
Don’t be concerned about things you can’t control.
Care about yourself, not everyone else’s opinion of you.
Discovery of the Self is more important than fancy clothes, academic titles and accolades
Don’t adhere to boundaries set for you by others.
There is no longer the need to be forcibly right all the time.
Making mistakes is fine, so long as I learn from them.
Be patiently content.

While living at the lunar base I found these quotes, which have helped me …

Author, unknown:
“Life is what you make it,” this is very true.
Find beauty and magic in all things,
and the Love that sees you through.
When you look at the world where you live,
seek not your gain, but what you can give.
When a man is poor, and hungers, and thirsts,
serve not yourself til you serve this man first.
When a man is down and seeks shelter from cold, give him shelter.
You’ll receive blessings untold.
Live by the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you’d have done unto you.
And always remember:
When you destroy, you destroy a part of you, too.
Life is what you make of it!

By Gautama Buddha:
Do not believe anything
because it is said by an authority,
or if it is said to come from angels,
or from Gods,
or from an inspired source.
Believe it only if you have explored it
in your own heart
and mind and body
and found it to be true.
Work out your own path,
through diligence.

After meditation I was wide eyed and ready to initiate orbital deceleration to make our appointment with Ceres. I was now confident that our mission would be successful.

Meditation has helped me, and I’m sure that it will help you also.

But now it’s time to get back to the cockpit, and land on the asteroid Ceres to change the destiny of time for the human race.

§§

Although this story is science fiction, its premise is based on current scientific fact. It represents one of many possible futures yet to play out.

Here is a brief list of the larger asteroids:

Name Diameter (km) Mean Distance from the Sun (in AU) Date Discovered Discoverer
Ceres 952 2.766 1801, January 1 G. Piazzi
Pallas 544 2.773 1802, March 28 H. W. Olbers
Vesta 529 2.362 1807, March 29 H. W. Olbers
Hygiea 431 3.139 1849, April 12 A de Gasparis
Interamnia 326 3.062 1910, October 2 V. Cerulli
Europa 301 3.095 1858, February 4 H. Goldschmidt.
Davida 289 3.168 1903, May 30 R.S. Dugan.
Sylvia 286 3.485 1866, May 16 Norman Robert Pogson
Cybele 273 3.439 1861, March 8 E. W. Tempel
Eunomia 268 2.643 1851, July 29 A de Gasparis
Juno 258 2.672 1804, September 1 K. L. Harding.
Chariklo 258 15.79 1997, February 15 James V. Scotti
Euphrosyn 256 3.149 1854, September 1 J. Ferguson
Hektor 241 5.235 1854, February 10 A Kopff

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99942_Apophis
http://www.space.com/5587-strange-asteroid-shapes-explained.html
http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/News/2009/11/Water%20in%20Moon%20crater%20LCROSS%20impact%20reveals.aspx

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 23rd, 2011 at 1:58 pm and is filed under Our apparent world. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

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