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Authors: Giles Chanot

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Spaceport West

BOOK: Spaceport West
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About the Book

 

The year is 2025. The UK Government has, for reasons best known to itself, chosen Newquay, Cornwall, as an international Space hub, from which to launch missions to near Earth orbit, then the Moon, and ultimately to establish a colony on Mars.

Susan McKenzie is the Minister for Space and has overall responsibility for Britain’s Space presence. She is afraid of flying.

Prime Minister Ralph Hampton publicly supports Susan but is hiding a dark secret that will eventually cause him to be completely ostracised from polite society, and maybe even Westminster.

Meanwhile, volunteers for the Mars Colony seem to consist entirely of geeky, self-promoting, sociopathic narcissists. Which is convenient as the whole enterprise is to be made into a reality TV show.

Introduction

Welcome to the new edition of the
UK Guide to Space
. If you are reading this, listening on audiobook, or have just ingested the Speed Tab version, it probably means you are about to embark on the biggest adventure of your lifetime. Either that or you ‘accidentally’ opened another one of those Amazon parcels that the postman keeps leaving for the neighbour.

This guide exists to provide all the information the eager new cadet, colonist or grey market space trader needs to be fully prepared for the dangers, challenges and opportunities of Space.

Sponsored by the British Government, and written by leading experts at UK Space Command, you can be assured that this document represents the very latest and most accurate guidance relating to all areas of interplanetary travel and off-Earth living. Unbiased, ideologically neutral, and in no way xenophobic, you will find this book not only provides relevant details of cutting edge UK Space Research, but puts this advice into bite-sized nuggets of informational goodness, simultaneously setting it within the all-important historical context that the modern, and with all due respect, somewhat cynical, reader demands.

Where to begin? Well, later in this book you will discover the underlying motivation that lead the UK to become a leading Space power. You will learn what His Majesty’s Government hopes to gain from this programme of investment and expansion. And you will become savvy with regards to all manner of technology essential to enabling this exciting new phase in the history of our nation, nay, in the history of mankind.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before you can properly understand the bright and glorious future that Britain is carving out for herself, you must understand the dingy and morally reprehensible past that got us where we are today.

It is therefore humbly suggested that before continuing with this book, you go back and swat up on the history of the British Isles so far. Starting with, say, the construction of Stone Henge in 3100 BC, you will gradually, as you work you way through the centuries, come to realise that the British are not merely a race of poets, kings, navigators and engineers. We also have a long and proud history of opening our doors to the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted. True, this was followed by a short and wretched history of shutting and securely locking our doors once we felt the country was full, but no-one’s perfect.

As we embark on this journey together, one word of warning. Yes, Space is an exciting place. But it is also a dangerous place, and not somewhere to be explored lightly. By all means apply to Space Academy. Volunteer as a Mars Colonist. But know this: the hopes and dreams of a generation will rest on your shoulders. As will a rather expensive helmet that over time can give you serious neck ache.

Seriously though, are you sure you want to go through with this? It’s not too late to wuss out you know. Just close the book and put it back on that bookshelf marked
Maybe… But Probably Not
.

Still with us? Excellent. Then let the Adventure begin.

 

UK Guide to Space, 2025 Edition

1. Ground Control to Major Tom

“ISS Team GB what is your status please?”

“Mission Control, we are just wrapping up our last couple of science experiments, then we will be heading back to the transport for the last time.”

“Copy that Team GB. Please advise us when you are ready to undock.”

“Will do Bill. Expect to hear from us in about 60 minutes. Sorry, make that 90, I’ve just been informed we have some last minute tweets to send.”

400km above the surface of the Earth, two British astronauts were preparing to undock from the International Space Station. Now that Britain was investing heavily in its own space infrastructure, such collaborations with the Americans and the Russians would be less important, or so went the relevant section of the Liberal Green UK Independent Space Party manifesto.

“Just got to upload these last few files…”

“How did your microgravity hydroponics go Tiggy, I assume that’s what your sending now?”

“No, I finished that yesterday. As we suspected, those early results from NASA were reproducible, which is great news.”

“You mean doubling the water usage doubled the yield too?”

“Yep. Which bodes well for those lucky folk going to Mars, if they can tap into that frozen H₂0 reserve they’ve been promised.”

“So… what are you still uploading?”

“Oh, just some movies I took out the window. You have to keep your timeline fresh Dyson, I thought I’d taught you that by now.”

“You do realise how much every megabyte costs that you upload from the ISS link? It’s supposed to be for mission critical data only.”

“This is mission critical! If your mission is to boost your network visibility.”

“Which yours is?”

“Correct.”

“Tiggy, I sometimes wonder how they vet applicants at the space academy.”


There are three simple rules for choosing a Space Cadet. 1…

“Sorry Science Officer I’m going to have to interrupt you there. Did you just vent our excess CO₂?

“No sir, I did not. Why would I do that when I’m in the middle of a mission critical upload?”

“Okay in that case we have an air recirculation malfunction. As a precaution, I’m going to go for uncoupling in T minus 30 seconds. Is that going to cause you a problem?”

“Er, no I don’t think so. Let me just run down the checklist… did you release the power cables?”

“Done.”

“All the sample canisters correctly stowed?”

“Checking… yep all locked down.”

“Did you say goodbye to the Russians?”

“Yes, in Russian, English and Esperanto.”

“Glad to see you’re doing things by the book. Wait, where’s the cat?”

“Dinah won’t be coming home Tiggy.”

“Why ever not?”

“Well, as she glided through the airlock into the station she glanced back and gave me a look which said ‘Dyson, you and Tiggy have been faithful companions and I’ve appreciated all the Katty Munch Flakes, but now is the time for me to settle down and I think I’ve found my life-comrade.’”

“You could tell all that from one glance?”

“Didn’t I mention I was wearing the Neuro-Synaptic Amplifier? Anyway, she’s going to make a go of it with that slinky Muscovite Anatoly. Undocking in T minus 3…2…1…”

An unimpressive thud shook the flight deck of the Prince Harry I Reusable Space Transporter, (the
Phirst
for short), followed by a loud quacking sound over the ship’s speaker system.

“Tiggy, I’m getting an unusual alarm up here can you look into it?”

“Nothing to worry about Commander Dyson, that just means I’ve passed a million Likes on my mission status page.”

“Not the quacking ducks Science Officer, check the nav computer, it says
updating, 5%.

“Ah, that’s not so good. Last time it did that we waited an hour and in the end had to reinstall it from the CD.”

“Did you bring the CD?”

“Let me check, ah yes here it is. No wait, that’s David Bowie. I wish people would put discs back in the right cases.”

“Now it’s gone completely blank apart from a small piece of fruit with a bite taken out of it.”

“You know what this means, Commander?”

“We’re going to die horribly in the vacuum of space?”

“Yes. Or… you give me permission to bring this baby home on manual.”

“Look Tiggy, if those are the options, it seems pretty clear to me. How excruciating can it be anyway?”

“Don’t worry sir, I’ve done this a thousand times in the simulator.”

“Took you a few times to avoid a burn-up in the troposphere, Officer?”

“No, I’ve not managed it yet. But I have a good feeling about it this time.”

 

FORCED RE-ENTRY

 

Official UK Government advice on emergency re-entry is as follows. If you experience an incident whilst in orbit around the Earth, or other populated planet, and are forced to make an emergency re-entry, it is vitally important to remember your Space Passport and other supporting documentation, as you may land in territory not controlled by His Majesty’s Government.

The UK Space Passport is a convenient, credit card-sized plastic identity token, attached to which is
The Citizen’s Appendix,
a 233-page large format official document with attractive glossy hardback cover. To avoid any delays to repatriation, please do not separate these two parts.

 

UK Guide to Space, 2025 edition

“Prince Harry I Reusable Space Transporter, do you read me?”

“Good morning Captain! It looks like a glorious day down in Cornwall.”

“It’s a relief to hear your voice Hunter, we were beginning to get a little concerned when we noticed your navigation systems were offline. Are Tiggy and Dinah with you?”

“I’m fine Captain,” said Science Officer Tiggy Beauchamp, “I’ll… tell you about Dinah when I see you.”

Tiggy performed a textbook landing on the pristine 5km runway just outside Newquay and parked the
Phirst
in bay number 1. Within minutes Science Officer Beauchamp and Commander Hunter were in the debrief suite.

Captain Jonathan P. Watkins, head of
Spaceport West
, was pacing furiously.

“So you’re telling me this is the second time your nav computer has frozen since you left the academy three months ago?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Officer Beauchamp.

“And both times, it was after you let the Russians on board the
Phirst
?”

“Actually, the first time was the space transporter
Diadem
, but the second time was the
Phirst
.”

“Do you suspect our Eastern Allies, sir?” asked Dyson.

“Well, wouldn’t you? They’ve been trying to nobble us from day one. They’ve never liked sharing their precious station with us.”

“Isn’t that a little unfair Captain? The Russians have a long history of space collaboration,” offered Tiggy.

“Yes, and think of all the technology they’ve had access to in that time. I just don’t trust them, not since my own little incident up on the ISS.”

“Is that the time your lettuce experiment was briefly exposed to hard vacuum and all that was left was desiccated green crinkly bits like Chinese crispy seaweed?”

“Yes, I was not happy. And you know what, I am
still
pretty miffed about the whole thing. And they spun me some tall tale about the science mice fleeing in the escape capsule and leaving the airlock open.”

“That did seem slightly unlikely.”

“You’re telling me. Those mice would never make such a newbie error.”

Just then, the vis screen popped into life, briefly showing the UK Government Crest before the face of Susan McKenzie, Minister for Space, came into focus.

“Good morning Captain. What can you tell me about this morning’s incident?”

“Good morning ma’am. I will let Science Officer Tiggy Beauchamp explain what happened in her own words.”

Tiggy explained the incident again, but this time she didn’t mention David Bowie.

“Well this is all very irregular. I am going to raise this in Cabinet in a few minutes. But you know there’s not very much we can do about the Russians, they are a law unto themselves. The good news is, going forward we are going to be a lot less dependant on them. Look, Tiggy, the important thing is you and Dyson made it safely back down to Earth. Ultimately, that’s all I’m concerned about. Oh, and I’m sorry to hear about Dinah. I know from personal experience what a difficult time this is. These feline attachments are very important, aren’t they? The PM is still very touchy about that incident with Larry and the Chinese Premier.”

Tiggy thought, what’s all the fuss about? It’s no big deal. The attitude of the politicians was all wrong, she decided. Space was about having fun, adventure and excitement. Mixing it up with the Russians was clearly an essential part of this. She would clearly have to educate them in these matters.

2. Cabinet of Distraction

Number 10 Downing Street.

“So in conclusion Prime Minister, suspicions fall once again on the Russians. We’ve given them the benefit of the doubt for many years, but they’ve really gone too far this time, endangering British astronauts’ lives in this reckless manner.”

“Hmm, yes I see, thank you Susan. Ladies and gentlemen, I have invited the Russian Space Ambassador, Tristan Toropov to join us via vis screen. He should be appearing shortly. We’ll see what he has to say on the matter. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if he has
anything
to say on the matter.”

“Excuse me Prime Minister sir,” came a frankly ridiculous robotic voice just behind the PM’s left shoulder.

“Ah, good, coffee. Thanks Minnie. Just leave it on the table.”

Susan whispered to a colleague next to her, “I can’t believe Ralph still has that ancient hunk of garbage. Why can’t he just have a human assistant like normal people?”

“Because Ralph isn’t like normal people,” her colleague replied with a wink.

The Cabinet helped themselves to coffee, and then Commander Toropov appeared on the vis screen.

“Good morning Comrade Hampton, it is an honour to be invited to your cabinet meeting, at such short notice. Again.”

“Yes hello Tristan, good of you to join us. Now I imagine you know why we’ve summoned you?”

“I can only presume it is to complain about the cost of caviar, same as last time.”

“Ah now that was different, that was a purely personal call,” said Ralph, reddening slightly around the ears. “Now, look here you must be aware of the incident at the ISS this morning?”

“I understand one of your young crew members failed to apply software update before undocking, no?”

“That’s as maybe, but there was also an unexplained venting of gas that caused them to expedite their departure. Do you deny your crew have any responsibility for what happened?”

“We Russians take our responsibilities as ISS hosts very seriously. We also take pride in the utmost professionalism of our cosmonauts of every rank. We would never endanger the lives of fellow Space explorers.”

“Be that as it may, His Majesty’s Government is most definitely irked by the whole episode. You realise we’re second only to the Americans now in terms of Space investment, you don’t want to get shut out completely do you?”

“It needn’t come to that my friend. You seem to be forgetting everything you owe us, both as a nation and you personally, Ralph.”

“I’m not sure I really understand what you mean Commander Toropov.” As he said these words, the Prime Minister put a hand to his forehead and winced as if troubled by a memory he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Minnie came and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I refer of course to your training at the Vostochny Cosmodrome. If I recall correctly, this had profound influences on your choice of career,” continued Toropov.

“Now you mention it, yes of course that was quite an important time for me…”

“Indeed. Your Space training and subsequent missions lead you to form your own political party, no?”

The rest of the cabinet were staring at the Prime Minister who seemed to be lost in a private reverie.

“I was fresh out of college. I remember the training regime… it was so rigorous. Many of my friends were dropping out. And the herring! Some people couldn’t stand it, herring for breakfast, herring for lunch. But I loved it.”

BOOK: Spaceport West
2.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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