Archive for April 20th, 2013

April 20, 2013: 2:42 pm: Pavaria, writing

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming,” said the woman in the grey flannel suit. “I’m Cynthia Wong, Chief Administrator of the Non-Aligned Space Administration. We know a lot of you have heard rumors and leaks about plans for a colony ship or ships. We’re here to let you know which of those rumors to believe,”

The room of 50 or so reported laughed appreciatively.

“To make our official announcement, I’d like to welcome the head of the project, Captain Damiao Corallo.”

Polite applause greeted the young man in the nation-neutral uniform of NASA’s vestigial military arm. The uniform was a barely modernized copy of the US Air Force uniform from which NASA had once grown. The current US Air Force wore nothing like it.

Captain Corallo looked much too young to lead an important project like this. But he met the skeptical reporter’s gaze with a steady intelligent look.

“Thank you administrator. Thank you members of the press. No, a wayward teenager from Sao Tome did not accidentally steal the Captain’s uniform, I am Captain Corallo.” The press laughed and what little tension there may have been, broke. He was certainly a charming man.

“They needed a young man because this project will take decades. In short, we plan to build and launch 6 colony ships on long-term, one way trips, delivering a total of 100,000 humans to identified habitable planets.”

The room erupted in applause. All the rumors had pointed to this ambitious plan.

“This is NASA’s answer to the World Contingency Challenge, put forth by the United Nations in response to the ongoing crisis. We believe the crisis is solvable. But we also specialize in space travel. And we have received partial funding already and are confident we can achieve full funding for this project.

“We are making this announcement at the start. So many decisions have yet to be made. But the goal is clear. Build vessels to take large numbers of humans safely to live on other worlds.”

The Captain paused to let that sink in. The room was silent.

“Thousands of years ago, Scandinavians moves through the oceans in longships. They made incredible voyages, reaching distant shores against incredible odds. These will be our modern longships. They will voyage much farther than any human endeavor but they will carry the same spirit. To survive and to explore.

“We honestly have spent most of our time up until now securing basic financial backing. Insuring the continuation of our nickname the “No Amount Sent Away” agency,” snickers. Nobody really called it that anymore. It wasn’t that clever to begin with.

“And i’ve stated our goal. But I will take questions. And most of the answers will be ‘we don’t know yet’ so be prepared.”

Reporters asked the usual questions and Captain Corallo delivered the promised answers. A few details such as dates for future announcements were given but not much.

Finally an aging reporter that had kept silent raised his hand, catching the Captain’s eye.

“Ekachai Ratanaruang, from The Guardian. What will the names of the ships be?”

The Captain got an odd look on his face. “They will not be named until they are ready to launch. That will be my final press conference, should I live that long.”

The Administrator appeared at the Captain’s side at that point thanking him and shaking his hand.

“That’s all the time we have for questions right now. Luncheon is set in the outer conference hall. And I’ll be leading a tour of our Kenyatta headquarters for those who haven’t been here before. Thank you again for coming.”

: 12:26 am: Pavaria, writing

The old man was winding to a halt and the reporters began to fidget and jockey to get the first question.

“… Which is why the four longships that will serve as colony arks will be named,” and here he beamed as he saw the reporters caught out mid-fidget. They had not been told they would get the actual names of the arks. “The Qiu, Majira, Zima, and Primavera.”

“Now, I can take a few questions.”

Most of the reporters were caught trying to make sure they had capped the name announcement. A bright young reporter in a fashionable tan moodsuit caught the old man’s eye.

“What can you say about the government on the arks. Will it be a military dictatorship as many have described it?”

Not so bright after all, sighed the old man to himself.

“The longships are in fact ships. They need a crew and that crew needs to be qualified. And it will need to train the next crew. And in cases of ship wide emergency it needs to be able to command operations for the preservation of the ship. So the highest officer on board will be the Captain.

“However, when the Captain is not ruling on a ship matter, he will be restrained by the council of settlements. A small council with one elected representative from each settlement area. They will elect a council head who will act as executive in non-ship matters.

“That council will also appoint judges tasked with reviewing the decisions of the council and the captain and resolving grievances. Too much democracy in an environment this constrained could lead to inadvertent disaster by the untrained. Too much dictatorship and the society will revolt and collapse. We believe we’ve struck a balance.”

“It’s a typical three-part check and balance system with a weak executive then?” Said the reporter without looking up from note-taking. Maybe some brightness in there after all.

“Exactly,” the old man snapped. “Except,” and this made the reporter look up. “Once the ship launches, we can’t control it any more. They can decide to switch their government the moment they’re out of orbit.

“So the real answer about what kind of government they’ll have, genre actions down the line when the arks finally reach their destinations, is, we don’t know!” The old man smiled. He wished he was going with them.