downtoearthCh.3

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As Science Fiction adventures


"It's Down to Earth" 

By James E. D. Cline


Chapter 3


The biggest problem longer term, of course, was the need to supplement the kinds of elements that were not present in the Lunar crust. They once had actually spent the energy for delta-vee to experimentally bring back a small asteroid of a few hundred pounds, but it had little carbon and nitrogen, and no water to provide fuel for delta-vee to go get more asteroidal material. Capturing an icy comet was more of a massive project than they wanted to try to tackle yet, considering their difficult state; as the Clarke Belt ring of cities was never intended for full occupation for more than a half dozen years, and certainly not with the lack of supply of some materials exchange between them and the ground below, via the KESTS transportation structure. So Donna's daring plan to strive to build a kind of KESTS, to again link the Clarke Belt with the ground somewhere, to gather desperately needed materials, like water, carbon, and nitrogen, might solve lots of problems, wild and risky as it was. 


He mused that it was kind of like the old fairy tale of 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' except in reverse: here they were planning a raid to far below, instead of up to high above; and the 'treasure' would not be gold, but instead water and coal. He smiled to himself at the change in things.


Floating in the observation dome at the hub of their newly arrived at city in the Clarke Belt, admiring the view of the Earth from over the east coast of equatorial Brazil, Donna was chattering about her latest ideas for creating a new KESTS structure between here and Malasia, half way around the world. 'How many of the fighter spacecraft remain, of the type you flew to intercept me? Is there any way one could be loaded with the materials for a thin solid KESTS to be launched from Malasia?' she asked, perhaps more to herself than to John. 'Well,' he replied after a moment, 'all they carry is the one nuke rocket for its one shot at a bombship; and that is attached to the outside of the fighter. Perhaps it could carry a load externally in a streamlined container. The spacecraft does have wings, as it would glide to a landing at the Cayenbe airport after its defensive run; and wings would similarly be needed to make it through the atmosphere to land in Malasia. I doubt there are many of the fighter spacecraft remaining, as mostly they were re-used after landing at Cayenbe airport, being brought back up here by the KESTS to be refurbished and readied for the next bombship defensive run. Several were lost, including mine when stopping you; and I don't know what happened to the one which tried to intercept the bombship which destroyed the Cayenbe KESTS terminal site including its airport, since it had no way to get back up here, nor probably any other place to land safely. And, it will take a lot of equipment to launch and then sustain energy in the thin solid KESTS, which will have to be somehow gotten into place in a good site in Malasia, and a fighter spacecraft won't be able to do all that.'


They floated thoughtfully awhile, looking wistfully down at the west coast of Ecuador, dimly visible some 23,000 miles away, as they remembered the sight of the majestic KESTS hoop that once had linked the two civilization sites together.


With that mental image in mind, John suddenly had another idea. 'Maybe we can do it differently. Remember, in your original enthusiasm you had suggested that the new KESTS be constructed from up here? Maybe the thin solid KESTS could be launched from up here, into the Orbital Transfer Trajectory shape path to graze Malasia at the Equator and continue back around the planet to link back up with itself here. And if the direction of launch of that one strand of KESTS is retrograde to the Clarke Belt City Ring's motion, the reaction force's direction would be such as to help replace the energy the ring is gradually losing, cutting down on the energy needed expended in the rocket thrusters. It would be just applied at the one point on the ring, of course. Anyway, there are some potential plusses to this mode of emplacement of the seed KESTS between here and Malasia.'


So it was a whole new ball game, a new kind of KESTS emplacement and construction project, that of starting from above instead of from below.


'Wowee,' she responded, 'it will be a wild ride in Malasia to capture that thing and get it into an accelerator channel down there on the ground!' But then, she paused thoughtfully a long time, absorbing the implications of the dangerous and difficult task that had never been done before, so far away in an unknown land and no way to get back up here if it all failed.


'Let's see if we can soft land a heat-shielded re-entry form of vehicle' John mused. 'The early Moon landings returned to Earth using that technology, cumbersome as it seems and utterly wasteful of energy, but it worked back then. Although we don't have the records of how they built and guided them back in the mid-1900's, we do have a lab up here that was equipped to build manned landers for the trip to Mars, and they used heat-shielded landers. The equations ought to be adaptable to an Earth-atmosphere re-entry.'


Donna replied that she was not eager to be constrained a pilot as to be stuffed into what was essentially a man-made meteor, without wings nor guidance control, limited to just setting the attitude of re-entry and stabilizing spin, and away we go, like a 'cannonball' jump into a swimming pool, good luck. And it would have to be a hard landing on land, there being no recovery ships for a recovery at sea, like was used in the Mercury-Gemeni-Apollo vehicle days. 'The Russians used such re-entry vehicles that landed on ground, with their fiery re-entry and parachute descent, well into the early 2000's', John added. 'There are probably no usable airstrips where we need to build the ground terminal anyway. Who knows what happened in Malasia during the world ecosystem collapse created by the greed of the Ownma Corporation.' 


Go to Ch.4

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