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Age of Cosmic Exploration

Chapter 19: Landing project and… Dangers abound! (1)

Chapter 19: Landing project and... Dangers abound! (1)

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

In the afternoon after the space warp, many scientists from different fields were taking their lunch breaks at one of the communal cafeterias. The topic of the day was undoubtedly regarding discoveries on the new planet.

"...from satellite photos we can see that the planet has an atmosphere, but it doesn’t appear to support the formation of low and mid cloud layers. This lack of heavy cloud layers coincides with our observation that the planet doesn’t have any aquatic terrain. Even its polar ends don’t seem to carry ice caps. It would appear this planet is similar to Mars, a desert world," said a distinguished-looking old man with silvery head, shuffling captured photos of the planet between bites of braised beef.

Frowning, the man beside him interjected, "That’s a wild comparison to make. Yes, the planet appears to have a surface that’s as dry as Mars’, but after the photos are enlarged, you can see that the land’s completely covered with what appears to be sand. There is a distinct lack of variations in its crust layers; where are the mountains, highlands, or valleys? There is none because the planet seems to be a sea of sand. That, however, is anomalous with the weather pattern findings since the planet is reported to have an overall mild climate, and there are no reports of it having accelerated wind patterns that would cause severe weathering of its surface into a sea of sand that we’re witnessing here."

A female scientist from the same table who was enjoying a meal of spaghetti agreed, "Yes, that is indeed very weird. From both geological and meteorological perspectives, this is an impossibility because you would need a constant weathering that lasts at least a few hundred billion years to have everything on a planet’s surface reduced to sand particles. We don’t have an exact number, but the cosmos is definitely much younger than that. Then again, everything we know about basic physics might be incorrect, so our estimate of the cosmos’ age may be way off."

The woman’s comments caught the attention of another scientist that was passing her table who stopped and openly jeered at her as he retorted, "Why would our knowledge of basic physics be wrong? They are theories that have been tried and retried for thousands of years! How dare you question the integrity of the school of physics! Could you discredit the validity of gravity? Could you..."

"Alright, alright, Silewei, let’s get to our seats. Save your energy for the academic committee discussions. We still have a meeting to catch later at two," said a fifty-something gentleman who appeared beside Silewei, gently nudging the heated physicist away while looking apologetically at the company present.

"I apologize for my friend here. He’s German, so he tends to get a bit too serious about his passion, which in his case is the study of physics. Again, I apologize."

After that, he gave a bow and dragged Silewei away, who was still in the middle of his tirade. "Alan, you yourself know how people are looking at physics nowadays. The success of space warping has completely undermined its institution. If this continues, the sanctity of our area of science will..."

As the pair drifted off, the remaining scientists shared a few stiff chuckles. The fact was that academic debates such as the one that had just taken place was already commonplace even before the actual space warp. The presence of such advanced technology found in Noah Two had unhinged most of the academics and their lifelong beliefs in the unassailable logic of scientific inquiry. Faced with a technology that they couldn’t logically dissect, there existed a need to convince others to indirectly convince themselves the validity of their own practices.

Therefore, arguments such as these were frequent on Noah Two, although the presence of a German accent in these arguments was indeed a bit too common.

"Let’s get back to where we left off," said the female scientist, hoping to salvage the conversation. "Personally, I believe we need to have an expedient landing on the planet. Only then will we be able to tell why the planet presents such a case of anomaly. It will be such a breakthrough. Just imagine the progress we could make in natural science with the data and knowledge we would gather. Honestly, I cannot wait for the day of landing."

A young scientist beside her chirped, "I’m afraid the authority would not authorize a landing with such haste. They appear to adhere firmly to rules and protocols. Without much more detailed deliberations, I’m doubtful anyone will land on the planet any time soon. Take the example of district segregation; normal civilians were given no access into the Academy, to which even technical workers and army have to apply for entry. Furthermore, have you seen the community regulations released yesterday? That’s a lot of rules to be followed."

"It’s better that way!" agreed the older generation of the party in unison, and one of them led in explicating, "The fact that they are strict about rules being kept means that they have a high desire towards protecting and upholding the inviolability of order. Young’un, let me let you in on a secret: if it weren’t for their desire and penchant for order, I wouldn’t have agreed to come. In a time like ours... what we truly need is order. As long as things don’t devolve into chaos, then that’s our greatest blessing."

With that in mind, everyone present started sharing their experiences before they were relocated to the base. The gloom and helplessness seemed like a lifetime ago. It reminded them of how fortunate they were to have found solace on Noah Two. In an overall mood of thankfulness and contentment, lunch ended and the scientists broke off to their own rooms or designated labs to prepare for the meeting later in the day. It was a meeting to discuss discoveries on the planet.

Time passed and more and more scientists arrived at the conference room. There were meteorologists, geologists, astrophysicists, chemists, and even pathologists. In fact, any member of the Academy that could contribute to the understanding of the planet were invited to attend. In the end, the conference room was filled to the brim with the attendance of about two hundred people.

As the clock struck two, a small unit of army agents appeared at the entrance, each of their uniform lapels adorned with a black star-shaped pin. These were agents handpicked by Yao Yuan from the one thousand and five hundred army members. Most of them were special ops members before Earth’s governmental system collapsed. This troop of about eighty in number was specially built to ensure that the scientists and also Zhang Heng were protected as they were important members of Noah Two who were unable to protect themselves.

The unit instantly proceeded to secure the perimeter of the conference room. A few minutes later, Yao Yuan and Guang Zhen arrived in an electromobile. Because they were men of military and thus unused to decorum at political gatherings, they went directly past the heads of the various scientific committees that had been waiting for their arrival by the door. Without preamble, Yao Yuan directed them to begin, "Let’s get started. We have no time to waste. It is instrumental that we decide today whether it is imperative to proceed with landing. We can’t idle in space forever."

Back on earth, the few committee leaders, due to their high social standing, were familiar faces at political functions. They expected a certain degree of decorous reception and so were understandably astonished by the social affront.

However, with sensitivity honed from years of maneuvering social functions, they were quick to realize that they weren’t dealing with politicians but soldiers, so they hastily followed in step behind Yao Yuan. Among them was a sixty-something gentleman who approached Yao Yuan and stated, "Major, I wish to request for permission to unpack a tenth of the sealed seeds. We are no longer in the solar system, and since it’s a completely different interstellar system, we’re dealing with a variation in solar source and light fractals. The changes could cause anomalous growth during germination. To ensure and increase productivity, I would like to conduct a growth experiment on seeds from various produce using one of the ship’s simulated biomes."

Before they left Earth, Yao Yuan had targeted numerous biologists, genetic engineers, agriculturalists, as well as sociologists as priority rescue targets. He needed their expertise to discuss life skills in space, and one of those was space farming.

Noah Two was ten kilometers long and several kilometers wide and was about a hundred meters tall. The ship had six levels, and if each level was packed to the brim, Noah Two could fit 500000 people! However, this was impossible because they needed space for supplies, and with that number, space warping would be unattainable due to the enormous energy required.

Therefore, of the six levels, only the first, second, and third were inhabited by normal civilians. The fourth was the Academy and Workshop while the fifth was the Barracks. The fifth floor was also housing classified and specialized rooms like a metal forge, munitions and weaponry centers, storage for valuable resources like seedlings and animal genes, as well as e-book libraries. The top level was biomes with artificial soil.

On the sixth level, there was a giant skylight. If Noah Two was in the presence of a blazing star, it could allow light exposure. Through air filtration and gravity manipulation devices, it could support biomes of different types and thus the farming of produce to sustain about 100000 people was entirely possible. After the biomes had stabilized, they could even facilitate animal husbandry through genetic reconstruction of animals like cattle, hogs, and sheep. These were all measures that had been put into place after suggestions from these experts.

The committee leader’s request caught Yao Yuan mid-stride. Yao Yuan took a brief minute to consider his answer before resuming the journey to the podium. While walking, he replied, "One tenth of the total is too much. We still have no information on the star of this system; it might cause irreparable mutation or damage to the seeds, so the risk is too high... but food is a big issue. We can’t rely on frozen food or rations for a prolonged period... Okay, I’ll permit you to use five percent of the seeds, and a biome area of corresponding size."

The biologist was instantly gladdened by the news and profusely thanked Yao Yuan by promising to provide a constant report on the seeds’ condition. Other committee heads saw how one of their colleagues had managed to finagle an advantage, and in the spirit of competition, they too wanted to rush ahead to issue Yao Yuan with their own proposals. However, seeing as the podium was already only a few steps away, they had to return disappointedly to their seats.

With Yao Yuan at the podium and Guang Zhen at the front row, Yao Yuan started his speech. "Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be frank. We don’t have the luxury of time. Every minute we spend in space, we’re spending an enormous amount of resources to maintain the air and water filtration as well as gravity manipulation systems, so let’s get to business. The agenda of this meeting I believe has been delivered beforehand to everyone present...

There’s a planet not far from our current location. Based on calculations, it will take a month and five days for Noah Two to reach it. Now, I will open the floor for everyone to debate their findings and hopefully by the end settle on a conclusion...

On whether or not we are landing on this planet!"

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