On the last leg towards WP2, a stupid mistake while entering the system brought me into the exclusion zone of the brown dwarf. I must be getting tired because it was due to indecisiveness. I could avoid any heat damage however and reenter supercruise. To be safe I used a heat sink to avoid any more damage to systems. The emergency stop has caused some minimal damage to systems...
I have reached WP2. A beautiful planetary nebula with a big fierce bright white star. I made some visits to the nearest ringed planets, well, one brown dwarf and a gas giant, with the colourful background of the nebula it was a brilliant experience. It always makes me feel small and humble.
Not only I spend some time on the observation deck to take in the sights. Not only the colours but also the single asteroids in the belt around those planets that just dwarf the big Anaconda class vessel.
I will continue on from here though and find a better place for a longer stay. No landable planets in this system. Our medic insists on gravity time every once in a while. According to her records and application, she has been on several exploration trips also dealing with space madness and that is one of her preventive measures. No point in arguing with the doc tried it and found out that she will just let you talk, making all the non-commital encouraging sounds and grunts that could mean anything between you have one day to live or you are healthy and have nothing to worry about.
So on we go.
Luck of the explorer. After many jumps that lead me to believe we ran out of luck and hit another of the famous exploration dry spots, we reached our initial destination. The system randomly chosen from the star maps had some indication to be a bigger system but it turned out to be just two bigger bright stars on the main sequence. Bright and beautiful but they managed to accrue all the matter available during their birth which left nothing for any planets in the system. Because the crew and I were getting ready for the next rest I plotted a random jump into the next system.
A quaternary system with smaller M class stars, but undiscovered and containing the first uncartographed Earth-Like World on this expedition.
The system even contains a Water World and a terraformable HMC World orbiting each other in close proximity to the ELW. A system with the potential to support a lot of life.
The ELW is even comparable in size and mass to old Earth, with a gravitational force field of 1.09g.
The temperature on the planet is a bit higher averaging 318K. Because the orbital eccentricity is 0 and the axial tilt of the planet with 4.9° is very low there should be no seasons making the temperature very stable during the 155-day orbit around the dimmer A and B stars.
The only major difference is that the planet is tidally locked and therefore has got no day and night cycle.
After carefully mapping all the interesting planets I landed the ship on one of the planets orbiting the stars C and D. The whole system looks more like two binary systems both orbiting the common center of gravity. This second system does not hold potential for terraforming but a decent amount of minable basic raw materials.
All in all a very good find and a nice package of research data which warranted opening one of the proper drink crates in the cargo hold. Here is another advantage to taking a big ship on exploration, the chance of carrying a lot of supplies, and since the skeleton crew is just five it can last long. Actually, half of the sixty-four tonnes of the cargo bay is dedicated to limpet drones and the rest is enough for crew supplies and enough free space for some ball games when the planet's gravity is high enough.
By now the crew that was put together on Wilson Port has come to know each other some more and somehow it has become custom to meet for one meal in a standard day in the galley. My reservations to start on to a long trip with unknown crew members have been unwarranted so far and it was not easy to pick and choose if the prospects are to be out in space for probably 6 months. Betsy is the second pilot and the only crew member I have known for some time. Although the ship's automation allows for a lot less crew the bare minimum was to have two engineers and a medic.
While out on a moon exploring some of the geological phenomena I managed to destroy a fighter. Obviously I didn't say that to Betsy, mumbled something about a mulfunction and something about dodgy mix of guardian and human technology. I could see in her face though that she did not believe one word. Well she is the fighter pilot after all and knows these fighters better than me.
At the moment I am thinking of how to go on from here, it could be a good idea to take a detour on the way to way point 2 and visit the crescent nebula. It might not be following the main theme of staying of the beaten paths but if I fly back to point 2 from there it would be managable. It is about 1500 ly away from the current location. Need to sleep over it...
I have decided to move on towards the second waypoint of the tour. After checking the maps over and over it looks like that I am actually leaving "tourist" country after WP2. It therefore goes against the idea of this expedition to spend more time hunting down popular spots near the bubble. However I will continue on my economic route for I am finding so many new systems just by staying off the centre plane. Just now I found and mapped a unknown Ammonia World. A cold world with an ammonia nitrogen atmosphere. It is always incredible to think that the only other space faring civilisation is so different from us. Maybe our obsession with what we define as habitable and terraformable is limiting us somewhat in our exploration efforts. I do not mind the payout for these finds but we maybe missing something by leaving out what is potentially valuable to someone else.
Another new system. I am on a roll now with new discoveries at the moment. Not one of the last systems was mapped. Apart from the found Ammonia World there were a lot of terraformable planets and now I have set down in a big quarternion star system. Not only does the system provide two Water Worlds and a terraformable high metal content world but also a planet with a gravitational field force of about 1g to land and rest on. The planet is eery and sends shivers down my spine, and that is not the unexpected weight on the body. It is really big but flat in every direction. It feels like sitting on a huge round ball in space, as if the planet has never seen any kind of tectonic activity. There is however silicate magma mounds right in flont of the ship and the temperature of the planet is really high. I would expect some more irregularities in the surface of such a planetery body. It doesn't feel right.
Jumping and scanning...
Jumping and scanning...
One of the realities of deep space exploration has started to show it's face and we are not even at WP2. Here in the Wredgaei Systems, roughly 3500ly away from Sol, I have decided to decrease jump range and therefore explore more systems more thoroughly, every explorer has to face the reality that for every interesting or stunningly beautiful system out there are between 10 to 30 boring ones.
Surprisingly even out here many of the interesting planets were already marked and in some cases even mapped. Maintaining our small jump range I therefore took the decision of moving up a bit, away from the centre plane of the galaxy. Some terraformable planets could be catalogued. No new water worlds though and not one earth like world so far. It is a long way yet so still many thing to discover. For now it is mainly some geological features that I haven't seen yet.
Pleased though with the ship so far. Since the small damages from the mishap with the cruise computer was fixed nothing else happened. The Anaconda class is incredibly apt in supercruise and fuel scooping has never been easier. It is literally on the fly without having to throttle down after jumps.
After moving out of the centre of the galaxy plane I am finding more unexplored systems including the first water world that could be marked with my name if I am able to deliver the data. Find like these always make exploration worth while independent of the time it took to make them. Determination and Perseverance are the qualities of every good explorer.
I made about a third of the way to WP2. Not many interesting things have happened on the way so far. Even the galaxy map did not want to reveal interesting finds and I stop regularly to see if I should make manual changes to the route by checking the galaxy map data.
For the stop we found a new system with interesting terraformable planets. They are high metal content bodies with mainly carbon dioxide atmospheres but in a system with G type stars. Despite being a dual star system the stars orbit each other in wide orbits, whereas the planets orbit the A star. They are not comparable to earth in terms of temperature and gravity though. Never the less the system also provides a 0.96G planet for a stay and a break to the weightlessness.
After some fairly uneventfull jumps always looking for potentially interesting systems on the galaxy map, I found a black hole. These things are always fascinating and creepy at the same time. We spend some time close to gather information without risking too much time dilation. However, just like the Waterworlds and the terraformable high metal content worlds, all these are already marked as found. We still seem to be to close to find completely new systems.
The system also contains terraformable planets and landable moons. Some of these with geological and biological signs and an abundance of raw materials.
I have reached the first way point in the Elefant's trunk nebula. There was some debate about skipping the system due to the expected pirate presence but the chance to load up on fresh supplies was promising. I was interdicted twice before I could even land in the system, it was the system authorities though and they did not bother me any further. The system itself is beautiful and has biological and geological features to explore. There is however also a lot of pirate activity in the system. I will dock at the mining colony station after having explored some of the signals in order to get some repairs done that the silly emergency stop caused due to the supercruise assist system beeing unable to regognise a planetary ring. Finally I settled down inside the nebula on a planet with a gravity of 0.91g. This will allow everyone to walk around freely and train normally before heading out towards the second waypoint. Inside the ship it will all be fine, the planet is close to it's B7 star and has surface temperatures of more than 900K. We will also send the SRV's out to gather some Polonium which the scanners have reported.
I left Tewanta today and started the journey. Even though we are not far away from the Bubble yet I already start to feel a certain calmness setting in. It might be the constant chatter of money and mining that was going on throughout inhabited space. The Drake fleet carriers did start a new goldrush it seems, which, like they always do, either do nothing or they disturb the markets. The second thing seems to be happening and as a result we can see how humans usually deal with change they might have kicked off - badly.
On a more cheerful note. No point in postponing exploration I might be flying through HIP and WREDGUIA sectors, hardly even deep space, but there is a lot to behold out here. I ended up in HIP 106085. Illuminated by a bright and big A0 star this System has a ringed brown dwarf orbiting the main star. In fact there are two rocky rings, the outer one has an outer radius of 2.6ls.
By the way, I did take the luxury of installing a supercruise assist module, which I figured can be handy when exploring big star systems out there. Turns out that these stupid modules cannot handle rings. It tried to fly me right into one which caused an emergency stop of the ship and rattled everyone through properly. What do you know, didn't mention that in the brochure.
We will take a rest on the first moon of the dwarf which orbits just outside the ring. Thanks to the close proximity to the dwarf and the main star it is 440K on the surface of the first moon.
Last raw materials for my trip gathered. Will stop in the Wen Tsao Gu system to trade the last Materials and make sure I have everything I could need for synthesis on stock. I will also upgrade some of the materials I have because I figured that it will be much easier to find lower grade materials. For that reason I will leave some space in the Iron, Carbon and Sulphur compartments. It will be easy enough to fill those along the way.
This is it. I just gave the guys on the docks of Tewanta Port the Krait MKII so they can store it. Time to board the Astreaus. The crew is already on board and Betsy has gone ahead to take care of getting everything ready. I like to take my time to go through the ship by myself before putting her through the paces. My exploration vessel is configured for comfort and possibly everything rather than for jump range. Most commanders seem to suggest large jump range for exploration, I don't agree with this approach. A good jump range will certainly allow you to navigate difficult places or reach distant systems, however while I am out exploring I do want to find many new systems. The problem is therefore rather how many systems can I visit on my way to the next way point without the voyage taking to long. Main reason for choosing an Anaconda really is that it still has a pretty impressive jump range even after filling every slot she offers. Indeed every slot is outfitted, even the hardpoints. Together with quite strong shields it does not make this a combat ship, but given that running is difficult it will provide a fighting chance. I've heard comments like "Well, against a dedicated combat ship..." yes that is right. But what about the half witted pirate, the desperate criminals out there. Why should I make myself a target for them as well? Despite weapons, big shields, a fighter and SRV's an additional 64 tonnes of fuel the range of nearly 60 light years with full tanks will allow me to navigate the scarcer places of the galaxy. I cannot wait to test it. And if something should go horribly wrong then I have everything on board to not go gentle into that good night.
I delivered the Astraeus into the docks of Wilson Port in Tewanta in order to get the last checks and maintenance done. During this time I have been helping in some of the conflict zones in the area. The Buurian Protectorate has grown and is still expanding.
Even if I could help in some conflict zones I realize that I am not the best combat pilot.
A couple of days ago I met up with some colleagues of the Buur Pit and we actually spend some time in CQC which despite being a lot of fun, and luckily just telepresence, just screamed out loud that I should go back to exploring. I truly enjoy flying fighters and small ships a lot but I lack the "killer instinct" I guess?
Since checks on an Anaconda take some time and I want them to be thorough I outfitted my Krait MK2 for exploring signal sources in the Buurian systems and help people in distress. It is surprising how many pilots end up badly damaged or out of fuel. Now that I am fully equipped to respond these calls I will keep scanning signal sources while admiring the beauty of the systems in the bubble. I will also land on some moons I haven't seen yet to collect materials and stock them for the great expedition.
While exploring some of the signals in the Tewanta system I found a strange signal. It seemed to be an encrypted tight beam but it didn't say much. Naturally I had to go explore the source and when I dropped back into normal space I just found a mysterious Type 9 waiting there for me. It had a transponder that identified it as a Buurian protectorate ship. I just hoped that this was not a trick. They hailed me and asked me to run a discrete mission to acquire some specialised military equipment for them. The fact that I was supposed to deliver it to one of the stations under the control of the protectorate made it seem like a legitimate mission. I agreed to do it and I knew it was not going to be a long journey. I should have thought when they told me to watch my back. I am not sure what I got myself into there but I was interdicted four times on the way, by pirates in Anacondas. Luckily I was able to destroy them thanks to expert assistance of Betsy who is pretty good in a fighter. Will buy her an extra round for this. System authority was also not bad, I must say the protectorate reacts quickly. After having explored some more signal sources around I have been informed that the last checks on my exploration ship are being finished this week. That means I could plan to start the trip on the coming weekend. I cannot wait to be back out there. I did manage to get some materials on stock and my combat adventure gave me some combat bonds that I will save up for now as I have heard that they are needed to get the attention of one of the engineers in Colonia.
The big plan!
The route of the big exploration is taking on form. I have tried to find a way that avoids the big travel routes taken so far and I have taken my time to study the maps available by universal cartographics. The idea of course is to find new systems and trilaterate them to improve maps as well as document new stars and planets while still incorporating the big obvious stops at Colonia, Sagittarius A* and in the end reach Beagle point.
I have not plotted a return journey from there yet and I am not sure if I will follow a predefined route back as well or if I plot one step at a time. This is already a very big plan.
I am not under time pressure but looking at the stats so far is somewhat intimidating. Not only is the furthest point more than 65 thousand LY away but the actual path is almost 140 thousand LY long.
I will check all my plans and replenish my stocks of manufactured materials before I leave the bubble. Not only for the purpose of synthesis but also for the chance to visit the engineers I have been told about in Colonia.
I am confident at this point that my ship will be able to carry me all this way. Named after Astraeus, or Astraios, the Titan and God of the dusk, father of the four winds. He was also known as the Titan god of stars, planets and the art of astrology. This ship is meant to be out there amongst the stars and map the galaxy.
Hesiod, Theogony 375 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.):
"And Eurybia, bright goddess, was joined in love to Krios (Crius) and bare great Astraios (Astraeus, the Starry-One)..."