Friday, April 4, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 62:

The docking clamps connecting the Reykjavik’s docking arms to the station released.  The arms started to retract.  Fuel and oxidizer lines released and sprayed a small amount of their precious fluids out in to space.  The thrusters on the Reykjavik fired off to full thrust directly away from the station.  The station’s thrusters fired to push directly away from the ship.  The two vessels slowly started to drift apart.

Cargo containers drifted out of both the station and the docking arms as they retracted.  The empty cargo containers in the forward arm were already heading for the ship and the direction of the conveyors on the aft arm were reversed, but emergency retraction of the arms was faster than the conveyors so some of the containers would be lost.  This is a calculated loss for serious situations.

The ship had substantially lower mass and much more thrust available so it was accelerating away from the station much faster than the station could move. 

Observers on both vessels watched as the arms disengaged from the gaps between the rotating sections of the station.  Everyone watched the critical distances between the moving objects for the slightest movement toward each other.  This wasn’t a routine docking operation, it was an emergency separation to move out of the way of a dangerous object accelerating in their path and the possibility of error was high. 


The asteroid continued to accelerate toward the station, shedding ice, miners and transports along the way.  The ice formed a cloud around the path in its wake and the glow from the back end lit the cloud up like a nebulae.  It was a breathtaking sight for anyone not in immediate danger from an uncontrolled missile of unknown origin.  Unfortunately the miners and the transport pilots did not have the luxury of being able to appreciate this magnificent sight, they were too busy trying to stay alive and find each other.  The cloud was thick with mostly fine particles, so there wasn’t a collision hazard as much as there was almost no visibility.  Beacons and radio contacts were all they had to go by.

The lights from the transport craft and the space suit emergency beacons added to the nebulae look of the ice cloud.


Tim and Sam watched the spectacle on their monitors.  The shuttle was pointed away from the station in braking configuration to slow down their alien cargo.  It was very clear the asteroid was headed straight for the station and there was no way the station would get out of the way in time.

Tim looked to Sam “Get out there and record this.” He was serious.

“We’ve got 3 cameras on it already.” She was hesitant.

“But you’ll be faster with a handheld camera, and we don’t know what is going to happen.” He looked straight into her eyes. “Or who we’re going to have to find.”

Sam gulped and launched herself toward the airlock.  She understood the urgency and was, for once, actually thankful they were already suited up.

“And hang on while you are out there.” Tim was clearly concerned “It is likely to get bumpy from here in.”

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