A brief summary of the history of space exploration.
In 1863 Project Epicus, an effort by Baltimore based industrialists and munitions manufacturers, succeeded in firing a projectile that impacted on the surface of the moon. In 1865 a second mission was attempted with a capsule-projectile containing three passengers. Although the projectile successfully circumnavigated the moon and return to splash down on earth, upon retrieval it was discovered that the first “space travelers” had been killed instantly by the force of the acceleration required to escape earth’s atmosphere.
Despite various proposals to protect potential spacefarers, the fragility of the human body was considered an insurmountable obstacle to travel by means of space cannon. This was proven incorrect (depending on your feelings about non-baseline humans, evolution, and genetics) in 1909 when Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as the indestructible man, was launched into space – although no one would know this until 21 years later.
Able to withstand the incredible force involved due to his superhuman durability, Gaspard survived the launch, the 5-day trip around the moon, and was headed back towards earth when an encounter with space debris caused his module to deviate from its course. Although the capsule was equipped with rudimentary maneuvering rockets, Gaspard was unable to course correct to achieve re-entry, and his craft ended up in orbit around the Earth and the moon which scientists predicted would last more than a century before decaying.
Attempts were made to launch equipment into orbit that could be used to help Gaspard reach earth, but because there was no way to communicate with Gaspard, and due to the limitation of what equipment could be sent because of the large g-force experienced by a ballistic projectile, these efforts were failures. Gaspard was given up for dead, his silver bullet circling earth a grim reminder of his presumed fate.
Gaspard proved as good as his name however, his body entering a state of suspended animation after running out of oxygen. Gaspard’s inert body was examined by an extraterrestrial scout ship that mistakenly took the projectile for an artificial satellite (which technically it was). Incorrectly surmising that earth had achieved space flight (which technically it had) and therefore was primed for first contact, the alien ship instead found a dormant, yet still technically alive, Frenchman.
The aliens returned the capsule to Earth in 1930 and a few weeks later, Gaspard revived to tell his astonishing tale. Gaspard was ready for another trip, he hoped to visit Mars. But in his absence, space cannons had largely been abandoned in favor of rocketry research.
Gaspard’s return reinvigorated interest in space exploration. 1933 saw the birth of Project Archimedes, which many consider the most progressive scientific undertaking in human history. Project Archimedes was a top-level scientific exchange involving nearly every major industrial power in the world (the Empire of Japan being a notable exception) with the goal of space exploration and eventually, colonization.
In order to facilitate this novel project, the city of Artesia on Merritt Island was carved off as a separate legal entity of the United States, like the District of Colombia, where laws could be crafted specifically to serve the needs of the exchange of sensitive scientific information between world powers and to allow for the project’s many unusual requirements. This project was opposed by many in the US government but ultimately was pushed forward (possibly due to bribery, blackmail, and assassination depending on who you ask).
Artesia became the site of a massive scientific center, home to more than 15,000 researchers and scientists as well as a residential and office complex for more than 50,000 support staff. Buoyed by a surge of enthusiasm for space exploration, Project Archimedes was an unbridled success (and a massive financial windfall to the US). Several of the project milestones are as follows:
- 1946 first artificial satellite is launched into orbit
- 1948 first pictures taken of the dark side of the moon
- 1950 first application satellite launched
- 1952 first data retrieved on another planet (Venus)
- 1955 first spacewalk
- 1955 first pictures of Mars
- 1956 first baseline humans walk on the moon
In 1957 with the aid of several NBH’s capable of orbital flight and surviving in space, a joint CSA, USA, and Canadian project began constructing space station Daedalus, largely using the once abandoned space cannon technology, which proved efficient for transporting freight, fuel, and ruggedized equipment into earth orbit. This station would work in conjunction with Project Archimedes as part of an overarching plan to construct a base on the moon designed for launching craft to Mars.
In 1960 as the station was nearing completion, Project Archimedes was derailed in a manner that no one anticipated. An alien being appeared before Congress and accused many of the top scientists involved in the program of being alien imposters and moreover, galactic criminal fugitives. The initial reaction of the governments involved in Archimedes was hostile to say the least, but a few months later one of the project leaders, Dr. Kyle David Pennington, came forward and confessed. He and a dozen other critical members of the project really were criminal extraterrestrials posing as humans.
The alien law officer declared her intention to arrest Dr. Pennington and his cohorts and remove them from the planet. Since earth was benefiting from the actions of these criminals, many people were in favor of ignoring whatever extraterrestrial laws or covenants had been broken by Dr. Pennington. Grant he and his fellow exiles asylum and make them citizens of earth nations – some claimed that the work of Project Archimedes would lead to a golden age, ending world hunger and war, and expanding human lifespans by a hundred years.
The alien official declared that any such act would be considered unlawful and met with force, a small legion of additional aliens was called in as reinforcements to back up this threat. The only card the technologically inferior earth governments had to match this force of “alien invaders” was to martial their NBH assets. The world prepared for a war unlike any had seen before. Spacefaring aliens against the supermen of earth.
The conflict did not come to pass. The governments involved in the project eventually offered their full cooperation with the alien authorities in the hopes that this would build goodwill towards earth’s early entry into The Alliance of Free Stars. The alien forces took Dr. Pennington and his friends into custody as planned. However, what was not expected was that hundreds of humans were taken into custody as well, their knowledge considered “fruit of the poisonous tree”. The aliens stated they could not be allowed to continue teaching and using what they had learned from Dr. Pennington. This was followed by the further outrage of the disassembly and destruction of all technology created by the project.
Considering this a betrayal of their good faith agreement, several governments reversed course and once again prepared their NBH assets for an armed response. However, public opinion had shifted. Factions that had opposed the project spoke the loudest – earth is for earthlings, take away corrupt alien technology, we don’t need their help. Rivals and political opponents whipped up anti-alien sentiment into a frenzy. Many industrial business interests saw opportunity in the collapse of Archimedes and threw fuel on the fire.
In the end, the project governments backed away from the edge of conflict. In one of the more shameful moments in history, hundreds of citizens of various nations were allowed to be taken from their homes to spend the rest of their lives incarcerated on alien worlds for the crime of trying to make the world a better place for everyone.
Many consider the spectacular collapse of Project Archimedes to be the death of space exploration as a human endeavor. While enthusiasm for space research is certainly at a nadir, there are many who have already started to pick up the pieces and begin anew. Government funding for space programs has been wildly curtailed, but it persists in one form or another. As Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.” The dream of space travel can be delayed only, never denied.