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Doomsayers had been predicting for years that the human race would
annihilate itself in a man made cataclysm. Atomic war, global warming,
created diseases all would be enough to do the job.

But we didnt have to wait for man to do himself in.

Several decades ago the solar observatory at Harvard University announced

that our sun was entering an unstable phase. Solar radiation was increasing a
fraction of a percent a year. There appeared to be no stopping it. Folks
currently alive would survive although summers would be hotter and winter
storms would be stronger. Hurricanes and tornados would become more
frequent. Our children and grandchildren would have a much tougher time
coping with the weather and our great, great grandchildren would be toast.
Even my children complained about the summers getting hotter. But for
them it simply meant more time at the beach.

The information about Earths probable doom was suppressed. Since nothing
could be done about it, the authorities decided that all the news would do
was raise pubic anxiety during an era of international tension. Hydrogen
bombs were enough to worry about. Releasing the information that the sun
might expand into a Red Giant would drive people into an absolute panic.
Besides we had years to find a solution. In that time surely we would solve
the problem.

Eventually the news of the sun's imminent expansion got out. Graduate
students and assistant professors just cant be depended upon to keep secrets
especially when their careers depended on publishing or perishing.
Newspapers splashed the story across the front pages. It was heralded as a
punishment for man's iniquities and blamed on everything from gay
marriage to failing to eat fish on Friday. Congressional committees met to
discuss possible solutions. And that was only in the United States. Similar
discussions were taking place in every developed country in the world.

But the problem still hasn't been solved.

Scientific journals published strong evidence that the Sun would grow much
larger and hotter in several generations. The North Pole is now totally ice
free. The snow cover on Greenland and Antartica is gone. Last year was the
warmest on record. Summer temperatures averaged well over 100 F in
Boston. Most coastal cities hide behind dikes. Soon much of Florida and the
low countries of Western Europe will be mere memories.

According to cosmological theory the Sun wasn't supposed to expand for

another two billion years but it was happening now. The laws of physics are
immutable. An expanding Sun will incinerate all the inner planets, including
Earth, and almost certainly make the moons of the outer ones, Jupiter,
Saturn, Neptune and Uranus, uninhabitable. The only way that humanity
could survive would be to leave the solar system entirely. Humanity would
be forced to become an interstellar species.

By this time astronomers had discovered several hundred Earth sized planets
located within 100 light years. Several were in the Goldilocks zone of their
stars with the possibility of liquid water on the surface. It was possible that a
few could be habitable by humans. The trick was getting there. They were
all so far away.

One hundred light years doesn't sound like much. The phrase rolls off the
tongue so easily. But remember that a single light year is about six trillion
miles. A spaceship leaving Earth with the average velocity of the Apollo
moon rocket would take nearly 100,000 years to travel 100 light years.
Despite TVs Startrek series and science fiction movies, the light speed
barrier seems just as unbreakable as when Einstein proposed it well over a
century ago. In a hypothetical interstellar space ship capable of traveling at
10% of light speed, we would be looking at a 30 year voyage to reach the
nearest potentially earth like planet. More likely the ship wouldn't go that
fast and the voyage might last much longer.

Scientists proposed several solutions to the public. The first was to do

nothing, or almost nothing. Simply accept the fact that the Earth had a good
long run, hold hands, sing "Nearer My God to Thee. Then wait until the sun
exploded. A fall back option was to collect and code all human knowledge,
burn it into some permanent medium like gold CDs or DVDs, and send
multiple copies off in all directions in tiny space capsules.

I recall that this is pretty much what was done on Voyager, the first NASA
satellite to leave the solar system. A gold plated record was attached to the
satellite with the recording of human voices plus instructions on how to
build a phonograph. For the modern version, packets of frozen human
embryos could be placed in each capsule along with the data discs in case
some benevolent aliens wanted to recreate the species. A full DNA sequence
of a variety of Earth life forms, including humans, could be included in case
the voyage took much longer than expected. Say a million years or so.

Several other options for escape from Earth were proposed. Ill describe as
many of those I remember but I must say that many were not practical in our
time frame. A favored option was to construct a fleet of generation starships
capable of supporting a large number of passengers and crew for a 300 to
400 year voyage. That's ten generations. The original passengers would have
long died but their great, great, great. great, great, grandchildren might take
their first steps on a new planet. Or not. The new planet might not be
suitable for human life after all.

The generation ship idea seemed to catch the fancy of the general public. It
required no advance preparation. People would just troop aboard like the
animals on Noahs ark and step off on a new home planet. It would be like
taking a cruise ship to the stars. Generation ships are a favorite of science
fiction films but the plots of these films tend to concentrate on the stories of
people living within the ship rather than the nature of the ships themselves.

Generation ships are not a fictional concept. The idea is at least 100 years
old. They are huge spacecraft, assembled in orbit. The design is loosely
based on the pioneering work of Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
almost two centuries ago. It is hardly cutting edge but rather a conservative

Tsiolkovsky recognized that many of the problems associated with

spacecraft were from the lack of gravity. Life evolved in Earths
gravitational field and many of our organs require gravity to function
properly. To provide an artificial gravity he proposed that the passenger
quarters of a spacecraft be constructed in the shape of a huge ring which
would rotate slowly on its axis. Centrifugal force would be a good substitute
for gravity. This was quite an insight for two centuries ago. The Wright
brothers had barely invented aviation when Tsiolkovsky wrote his papers.

Plans for planned generation ships were released to technical magazines like
Aviation Week to convince the public that something was actually being
done. The first one would be tentatively named the New Ark.

According to the published plans the generation ship would look like a giant
wagon wheel on a long axle, slowly spinning on it's axis as it makes its way
through space. The wheel, a circular ring approximately 6 kilometers in
diameter, would be attached to the central axle by a dozen thick spokes. The
ring was designed to rotate slowly and create artificial gravity for about
3,000 people living inside. That many people would not be needed to control
and maintain the ship for a three to four century trip but the planners wanted
to have a sufficient number to insure that the colony would be successful.
People would live on the inner surface of the rim of the wheel where the
gravity is greatest, about 80% of Earth's gravity. The axle, the long central
core of the ship, would be nearly half a kilometer in diameter and would
house the ships machinery and an ion drive for course alteration near the

The ring itself would be constructed like a large layer cake. The foremost
layer, nearly half a kilometer deep, housed supplies, water and raw
materials. It also provided shielding against both radiation and
micrometeorites which might be swept up by the ship's passage. The four
kilometer middle layer is the habitable space. One clever innovation was a
network of electrical cables around the exterior of the habitable area. If an
area of high interstellar radiation was encountered the output of one of the
ship's atomic generators was passed through the electrical cables to produce
a magnetic field sufficient to deflect most of the radiations.

The aft most layer of the rim would contain the life support equipment
necessary to keep the ship functioning for an indeterminate time and provide
additional radiation shielding. Most of the ship's atomic power generating
equipment was contained in a bulbous compartment at the rear end of the
core, heavily shielded from the living area.

The proposed plan showed the aft end the axle expanding to a large cone
about 1000 meters at the base. The cone would contain the Orion propulsion

The ship was to be assembled in low orbit. Sub assembles would to be lifted
into near Earth orbit by massive freight rockets that had been developed
earlier in the century to supply a Moon colony. The generation ship sounds
big but in reality the total mass was be no greater than that of a large cruise
ship or a twentieth century ocean liner. Aluminum and carbon fiber are much
lighter than steel and there is no need for 12 inch thick armor plate.
Structural elements would be thin, about like a conventional airplane. The
acceleration forces on a trip to the stars will be very low and the ship is not
intended to land on a planet.

Heavy supplies like water and building materials that don't mind high
acceleration will be packed in containers and boosted into orbit by a rail gun
mass driver constructed into the side of a Peruvian mountain. Mass drivers
are simply large electrical cannon that accelerate streamlined containers fast
enough to escape Earths gravity. The Peruvian mountains are actually taller
that the Himalayas and the bulk of the atmosphere is beneath them. Rail
guns simply use the output of a large electrical generator to provide the
accelerating force. The U.S. Navy adopted rail guns as a substitute for
cannons in the 21st. century.

The articles published in technical journals mentioned that the ship was to be
made of individual wedge shaped compartments which formed sections of
the wheel rim. Each was moved into position and fastened in place.

The walls between wedges helped support the ship's structure against the
forces of internal air pressure and the ship's rotational "gravity." In addition,
each wedge could be individually sealed. This would serve as a safety
feature against the perils of space. In the event that a rogue meteor punctured
one of the wedges, the openings between it and its neighbors could be closed
and people evacuated to the safe areas while the breach was being repaired.

Strategically placed light fixtures on the inner surfaces of each wedge would
provide illumination designed to mimic Earth's sunlight. The climate in each
compartment could be individually adjusted. Those devoted to agriculture
would be kept warmer and more humid than the remainder of the ship. The
lighting would also brighter and the lights kept on constantly for a longer
growing season.

Glass windowed observation rooms would be scattered along the rim of the
living area. These are not actually necessary but the designers felt that being
able to look at the heavens outside would make people realize that the
universe was bigger than the interior of the New Ark. It would stop crew
members from forgetting the purpose of their voyage. The "glass" of the
observation rooms is actually a multilayered glass/ plastic composite every
bit as tough as the metal walls of the ship. However it is not impervious to
hard radiation and the observation rooms would be evacuated during stellar
flare ups. I anticipated that people would spend a lot of time in the
observation rooms looking out at the stars.

Fastened to the outside of the starship would be a number of shuttle craft

designed to ferry people and supplies to the surface of the planet when the
ship reached its destination. I imagine that they could also be used as
lifeboats in case something catastrophic happened but since the ship will be
traveling most of its voyage in deep space, there would be nowhere to go.

At the very front of the spaceship would be a large combined laser and radar.
The radar detects solid objects in the ships path and the laser is used to either
disintegrate them or nudge them out of the way. One of the design engineers
told me that the idea was inspired by the Startrek TV shows of his youth.

The living area inside of the generation ship was intended to resemble a
quiet suburb or small town. Small apartment blocks, parks, farms and rivers
would fill the inner surface of the ring. The designers made full use of
stagecraft tricks to provide the illusion that the interior is much larger than
its actual dimensions. But there would be plenty of space for everybody.

Given the ring's diameter, the ship would provide about 75 square kilometers
of living area. When fully manned, the population density for most of the
voyage would be roughly that of the Hawaiian Islands, about the same as
that of a rural village. The internal environment would be similar to that of
Hawaii as well. The temperature and humidity would be maintained at a
comfortable level without hot summers or frigid winters. The engineers
called it a shirt sleeve environment.

The passenger compliment would be a mix of all ethnic groups and

nationalities to provide enough genetic diversity to provide resistance to
disease and insure successful reproduction when the destination planet is

settled. Besides it is good politics since the expenses of the trip will be
greater than any single country could muster.

The crew would be carefully selected to provide a mix of skills and

capabilities suited for colonization. Geologists, farmers, builders, scientists,
medical personnel, artists, musicians, teachers - in short everyone that the
planners deemed necessary to run a well ordered community. Those chosen
were to be of all ethnic groups and nationalities. Of course most of them
would die before reaching the destination planet but their descendants might
have several decades of productive life on the new world. What was most
important was that all passengers had to be willing to go on a trip from
which there was no return. They would have to sever all ties with friends,
relatives, and careers on Earth and face the challenge of the unknown.

Every effort would be made to emulate earth like conditions on board ship..
At the start of the voyage time would still be measured in minutes, hours,
days, and weeks. The days would still be 24 hours to approximate the
human circadian rhythm. While the ship has to be maintained 24/7, the
lighting was dimmed periodically in each section to simulate a normal day.
The length of the day would be slowly altered enroute to match that of the
new home world. Clothes, appropriate for the ship's climate, would be
selected from a catalog of available garments. No fashion show on board.

To prepare for colonization of a new planet a large stock of domestic

animals would be carried aboard. Not full sized cows, sheep, pigs, and
horses but frozen embryos which will be warmed and matured just before
planetfall. The seeds of useful plants would also be frozen. These will be
planted after arrival.

The generation spaceship was intended to be propelled toward its destination

by the Orion drive. This wasnt the massive Orion rocket that took man to
Mars but a far older concept that was proposed by scientist Freeman Dyson
soon after the start of the atomic era. Basically the Orion drive explodes tiny
atomic pellets, really small atom bombs, behind a heavy funnel shaped
reaction plate at the tail end of the spaceship. The reaction plate is made of
steel. Although a slight bit of the surface will wear away with each explosion
it should last more than long enough for the voyage. The plate would block
most radiation headed toward the inhabited area.

The explosions pushed the ship forward just like putting a firecracker under
a tin can. In actuality the drive is more complicated than it sounds. The
"atomic bombs" are little specially shaped capsules of tritium ejected out the
rear of the ship and detonated by an intense focused array of lasers.
Experiments show that properly shaped charges transfer more than 50% of
their energy to the reaction plate.

Each explosion adds about 10 meters per second to the ships velocity. It will
take many tiny explosions for the generation ship to reach its final speed. It
was estimated that the Orion drive would have to detonate about 8 million of
these hand grenade sized atomic bombs to reach 1.5% of the speed of light.
A series of shock absorbers in the plate mounting structure would attenuate
the impact of the individual explosions. The living area would feel a slight
vibration when the drive is used. The trip to Proxima Centauri, about 3.9
light years distant, would take about 300 years. That sounds slow but the
ship will be traveling at 2,700 miles per second. A speed fast enough to
travel entirely around the Earth in 8.5 seconds.

The Orion drive was tested with regular explosives during the 60s and it
worked as expected. Although theoretically capable of taking a ship to the
most distant planets, the concept was never implemented because of nuclear
nonproliferation treaties. It emitted too much radiation to be used in Earth's
atmosphere. However since the generation spaceship is assembled and starts
from Earth orbit there is no atmosphere to pollute.

The top speed of the Orion drive, as originally conceived was about 5% of
that of light. Theoretical advances in the shape of the reactor plate allowed
for even faster speeds. However ship velocity was purposefully limited
because of the danger of collisions with dust or gas particles. At very high
speeds the energy of a collision with a dust particle would melt a hole
entirely through the ships skin. A collision with a speck of sand would be
disastrous. Better to be slower but safer.

Many ships would have to be sent to a variety of destinations to assure a

perpetuation of the species. The technologists were certain that the ships
could be built. It would take all of Earth's resources, of course. But the
resources would be of no value after the Sun exploded.

The basic problem was keeping a small population focused on an objective
that only their distant descendants would ever realize. This sociological
problem loomed as large as the technical one. The spaceship had to be
navigated precisely over a flight lasting many generations. In addition the
ship's population had to maintain good order and preserve a functioning
society capable of surviving in an unknown environment after planetfall.

Social scientists finally agreed that the most flexible governance structure
for a small community was modeled after the New England town meeting.
Participants got together periodically, proposed solutions to community
problems, and voted as a group. It worked for small towns and would
probably work for a ship's population of fewer than 3000. After arrival at the
new planet the settlers could choose whatever governance structure was
most suitable for the new conditions.

History is full of stories of exploratory expeditions that failed because of

social problems, failure to adapt to environmental conditions, or leadership
inadequacy. You name it. It happened. In fact the success record of
pioneering societies is shockingly low. Historians estimate that a full 80% of
travelers on Earths voyages of exploration during the 17th and 18th
centuries died during their voyage. Even the Vikings who landed in the
Americas 500 years before Columbus lost 1/3 of their ships. The Vikings
never voyaged further than 150 miles from the nearest land. Our space ship
will have to cross almost 20 trillion miles before it achieves planetfall.

One concept was to eliminate the social problem entirely by putting the
passengers in suspended animation for the duration of the voyage.
Suspended animation ships could be smaller and probably faster than the
generation starships. NASA research had shown that a crew that was asleep
would only use a fraction of the resources of a wide awake crew. More ships
could be built and sent to a wider variety of planets. Only a few crew
members would need to be awake at any time to tend to inevitable
maintenance tasks in the course of the voyage. The problem was that no one
had figured out a way of inducing suspended animation for a 300 year
period. But that was simply regarded as a technical detail.

The extreme case would be to freeze several hundred thousand sets of

fetuses or sperm and eggs and rely on a small number of very dedicated
crew members to defrost them a generation before arrival, nurture them, and
educate them to be the first generation of pioneers.

So how did I get involved in this planetary exodus?

My name is Maxwell London. Im told that my great grandfathers name

was some unpronouncable conglomeeration of Russian consonanta but I
dont know anything about that. When my grandfather arrived at Ellis Island
in the late 1800s his English wasnt too good and he misunderstood the
question Where are you from? as What port did you sail from? His reply
London was entered into the books as our family surname and it has been
so ever since.

Thanks to my grandfather, a midwest banker, I'm both a part time farmer and
an old time rocket scientist. We lived on Grandpas farm along the
Mississippi River. My parents, both faculty members in the physics
department of the nearby small midwestern college, allegedly named me
after James Clerk Maxwell, a brilliant 19th century physicist, in the vain
hope that I would also grow up to be a scientist. But I think that I
disappointed my parents by becoming an engineer instead. Most physicists
feel that engineers are the carpenters of science.

Rather I think that they named me after Maxwells Demon because I blew
alternately hot and cold. Thats a scientists inside joke. If you dont know
what it means, look it up.

If you are reasonably familiar with the NASA lunar program, you probably
know who I am. Im one of the truly Old Guard who was involved in
rocketry before the Mercury prorgam. I was a charter member of the
Ameerican Rocket Society. Most of my colleagues and contemporaries are
either dead or in nursing homes.

Courtesy of the GI Bill I received a degree in aeronautical engineering after

my Army service during the Korean war. For the next dozen years I was a
technological migrant worker flitting from aerospace company to aerospace
company as it gained or lost defense contracts. By a weird throw of the dice
my jobs were always at the cutting edge of aerospace fantasy. My
fingerprints were on the Atlas missile, the Mach 2 Canadian Avro CF105
fighter, the Polaris missile system, the Mach 3 North American B70 bomber
and the Dynasoar space glider, the precursor of the Space Shuttle.
Fortunately none of these craft were ever used in combat.

I stayed the aerospace business for a number of years, moved to NASA to
direct some aspects of the Apollo program, and then accepted a
professorship at a major university. At the university I met my beloved late
wife. We spent 60 years together and had several wonderful children.

No matter what you see on TV science shows, the U.S. space program
wasn't a carefully planned NASA enterprise conceived and directed by
forward looking senior scientists. Rather it was a knee jerk political response
to the Russian success in putting a satellite in orbit. Sure, both countries had
plans to capitalize on their ICBM efforts by using rockets to loft scientific
payloads into space but the Russians succeeded while our Vanguard rockets
blew up on the launch pad. The Russians also mapped the back side of the
moon and put a mobile vehicle on the lunar surface while all we could do
was launch a beeping radio transmitter on a Redstone missile.

During the Kennedy era the politicians declared that we would leapfrog the
Russians and put a man on the moon. Yuri Gagarin had circumnavigated the
globe by the time we had barely put a man in a suborbital flight.

The initial phases of the space program were left to untried, naive
engineering nerds like us. No senior NASA scientist wanted to have his
reputation ruined if the project was a failure although they were all ready to
claim credit if it was a success. We were the guys who designed and tested
the big rockets like the Saturn 5 that lifted the Apollo spacecraft to the moon.
In fact we designed the Apollo and the Gemini as well. These were programs
that the established science community expected to fail.

Manned spaceflight was a creature of cold war politics. Both the USA and
Russia had ambitions to be viewed as technical superpowers. The real payoff
for both science and industry was in much smaller unmanned satellites and
remote controlled exploratory vehicles.

Nerds is perhaps too pejorative a term. Most of us were in our 20s or 30s,
recent graduates from engineering schools. We were just like any other
bunch of horny guys who wanted desperately to drink beer with our friends
on weekends, drive fast cars, and get laid. The only difference was that most
of us carried slide rules and wore pocket protectors in our shirts.

After working all day on methods of killing Cold War enemies, we chilled
out on cold beer and hot girls. The decade from 1950 to 1960 was a sexual

paradise for young unmarrieds. Free and open sex was the way of the 50's.
Birth control pills removed the fear of unwanted pregnancy. AIDS had yet to
emerge as a sexually transmitted disease. The Haight-Asbury "Summer of
Love" was in flower, and women were asserting their rights to enjoy casual
sex. There were plenty of women, hot, nubile girls anxious to use their
college degrees on the job and their bodies in bed. It's hard to believe that we
were the guys who designed and engineered the high tech weaponry that
formed the bulwark of America's defenses during the Cold War.
After the successful moon landing in 1969, a dozen trips were made and
then manned voyages into space largely stopped. We beat the Russians,
secured our political claim of technological superiority and returned a couple
of hundred pounds of moon rocks. But the public proved more interested in
weather prediction, TV satellites, and cheap GPS navigation for cars. And
that's the direction most aerospace research headed. There were few manned
spacecraft made after the 60s. The Space Shuttle was one of them. But the
craft was never the success that its supporters claimed and was ultimately

About a month after the UN decided that humanity must leave the planet to
survive I received a personal call from NASA Assistant Director Roger
Barton asking if I would consult on the program. Rog Barton was a young
engineer assigned to my group during the early days of the Mercury
program. When I first met Rog he was slim and fairly athletic. He had been a
fighter pilot and later an engineering test pilot. In addition to his technical
skills he had the talent for finding the best restaurants in town. Many of our
discussions took place over very fattening five course meals. I particularly
remember the sauerbraten at the Old German in Ann Arbor. We sketched
the plans for the Gemini spacecraft on a napkin at that meal.

The sedentary life of an engineer agreed with him and he added a few
pounds every year. By now, forty five or so years later he was almost as
wide as he was tall. We had casually kept in touch over the years, mostly
over drinks and snacks at scientific conventions. After the last lunar mission
Roger stayed with NASA while I opted for academia. NASA is like most
governmental agencies where the top position, that of Director, is filled by a
politically reliable acolyte but the supporting position, the Assistant Director,
is a real expert who will stay despite many administrative changes. Roger
was one of those.

Soon after I started teaching my interests shifted from rocket design to the
influence of technology on modern life. How, for example, had the steel
plow changed civilization. One of my favorite questions on a final exam was
to ask the students what might have happened if the computer had been
invented before the steam engine. But my name remained on the roster of
space scientists and, on occasion I served on a National Science panel.
So when Roger asked me to consult on the NASA program, I reminded him
that I was well over 80 years old, approaching 90. Perhaps some younger
people would be more suitable.

"That's just the problem," he said. "Most of today's engineers have spent
their careers working on small, efficient boosters capable of lifting a few
thousand pounds into orbit. Payloads have been miniaturized. Tiny
microcomputers you can hold in your hand are many times more powerful
than the ones we used on the Apollo program. Your smart phone has more
computing power than all of our Apollo gear put together.

In our day we would have needed a room full of equipment to do the same
job. These guys know what they know and are very good at what they do but
the generation ships we intend to use to voyage to other star systems are
orders of magnitude larger than anything they have ever worked on. They
are the size of a small city not the size of an SUV."

"Modern engineers don't know much about large rockets. Some, in fact think
the Saturn 5 was a myth. So much knowledge has been lost. Sure we have
the old blueprints of the big rockets but no one remembers how things were
put together. No one knows the adjustments that needed to be made. Many
of our old computer tapes can't be read by modern equipment. The blueprints
of the old boosters can't be used by modern engineers because so much prior
knowledge is assumed."

"What we need is a few good people who have the experience to coordinate
the efforts of hundreds of contractors and make all parts of the spaceship
play well together. We need the memories of old timers who actually worked
with these things. NASA checked all our old personnel records. We asked
the Russians to do the same. There are very few of you old guys left, maybe
a dozen who are not senile. We need you. Earth needs you. Will you help

So I volunteered. Or rather I was drafted into the Earth escape program. In
due time I was asked to attend a large organizational meeting at the
headquarters of the National Science Foundation in Washington. When I got
there I was amazed at the youth of most of the attendees. They could have
been recruited from the junior class of any of the surrounding colleges. I
recognized some of the older ones as former students of mine from college
classes I taught years ago. I even saw a couple of female colleagues that I
had brief affairs with a half century back. Frankly they had not aged well. I
hope I don't look as wrinkled in their eyes as they do in mine.

In the meetings there were a scattering of my peers, a few faces I had seen
on TV astronomy shows and a lot of people whose name tags had fancy
titles. In short, it was a collection of the top researchers in space science.
What was I doing here, I wondered. I had not been involved in such research
for a number of decades.

We had a few introductory lectures detailing the scope of the problem, an

assessment of the evidence supporting the inevitability of the Sun going
nova, and a survey of the escape methods proposed. I was asked to make a
few suggestions about the generation ship approach and I wrote a few
reports that I filed with NASA. My ideas certainly werent technical. Any
farm boy could have done as well.

Thinking about the Orion drive propelled starships is where I earned my

keep. Well hardly, since I wasn't being paid anything. When I was a boy I
used to sit by the banks of the Mississippi and watch the push boats muscle
large strings of barges up the river. As soon as the barges were delivered to
their destination, the push boat would release it's load and head down stream
for the next delivery. Why couldn't we do the same for spacecraft?

So I proposed that instead of building a highly expensive Orion drive for

each generation space ship, why not build just a few and use them as push
boats to launch numerous spacecraft to their destinations. It worked for
barges, why not for spacecraft? The push boat would accelerate the
spaceship toward its target at maximum speed. When the spaceship reached
its desired velocity and was headed in the right direction the module
containing the Orion drive would be detached. It would make a U turn, head
back to Earth, and pick up another spaceship to send to another destination.
Each round trip might take a month or two.

Each Orion propulsion module was expected to make a dozen or more round
trips. On the last trip the crew would leave their very heavily shielded
control pod and transfer to the boosted spaceship. There would be no
shortage of fissile material for the mini atomic bombs. All the nuclear
nations agreed to strip their store of atomic weapons for the project. There
would certainly be no use for these weapons after the Sun went nova.

Another one of my farm boy ideas was about the composition of the starship
crew. Any rancher knows that to get a bunch of cattle to the market you
dont have to start out with a breeding herd equally composed of cows and
bulls. A single bull can impregnate many cows. If the herd were composed
of mostly cows and just a couple of bulls, a large number of calves would be
born for market at far less cost for feed and supplies.

Following this logic, even the basic generation space ship should have a
crew composed primarily of women with only sufficient male crew
members to provide genetic diversity. Any farmer could have had the idea
but apparently not the politicians. Naturally many nations had a difficult
time accepting a female dominated ship. Most thought that the space craft
should be run by males, replicating, as much as possible, the social structure
of the originating society.

Following the introductory meetings we volunteers were assigned to work

groups suited to our areas of expertise. All except me. My name was absent
from the assignment list.

I called Rog Barton to ask if the omission was intentional. I sort of hoped it
was. I could get back to the serious business of watching summer baseball
games on TV and leave the task of saving Earthlings to people more
qualified than me. Unfortunately he asked me to attend a private meeting
with some other NASA scientists.

My late wife had been a Professor of Neurophysiology of some renown. I

knew very little about the inner workings of the brain but I was pretty good
at mathematics and I materially contributed to the analytic parts of her
research. Out of love, and a bit of gratitude, she appended my name to her
papers as co-author. I was specifically asked to join the group because it was
assumed that I knew something about both rocket science and
neurophysiology - a rare combination indeed.

This misguided assumption of my broad knowledge was considered an asset.
I was reminded of the old joke about the difference between a scientist and a
philosopher. You know how it goes. The scientist knows more and more
about less and less until he knows everything about nothing, while a
philosopher knows less and less about more and more until he is knows
nothing about everything. I fell into the latter category.

It appeared that there were several more options for the survival of the
human race that were not being publicly disclosed because they were both
radical and irreligious.

Moving a human being through long distances of space is very expensive.

Moving just his mentality is a lot cheaper. The average human brain has
about 86 billion cells. Most are used are used for handing basic body
maintenance functions, organizing perceptions, coordinating muscle
movements and processing incoming auditory and visual information. A
substantial number serve as the repository for memories and learning and
mediate our self awareness and personality. Neurons are the computing
elements of the mind. They are connected by billions of glial cells which
serve as the internal wiring of the brain. In essence the unique features of a
given human mind consists of the information handled by only 200,000,000
neurons. About $50 worth of hardware at today's prices. The remainder of
the mind is common to everybody.

In theory, if the individualistic contents of a human brain could be

downloaded to a computer, the entire population of a major city, say New
York, could be contained in a device less costly than a modern fighter plane.
It could be made even cheaper by using a variety of information
compression techniques.

Research during the previous decade had made it possible to identify exactly
which groups of the brain's neurons were firing at any given time. A clever
scientist had the insight to see that if modern cryptoanalytic techniques were
applied to this information, the software, or better, the actual
interconnections of the neurons could be decoded. After all, if the NSA
could collect and analyze every bit of telecommunications in the country to
draw a picture of terrorist activity, the same computers could be used to
develop a model of a specific brain.

The second part of this option was almost purely biological. Human DNA
had been thoroughly mapped. Medical research had identified those areas
which could cause genetically mediated diseases. DNA sequences which
caused cancer, diabetes, heart disease, alzheimer's disease, feeble
mindedness, and other degenerative diseases could be systematically
removed or altered using techniques like crispr. Organs and structures that
humans no longer needed, like the appendix, could be eliminated. technique.
The revised DNA was inserted into stem cell nuclei to clone modified
humans. Just like Dolly, the sheep.

It was all very simple in theory but completed in practice. Over 80 attempts
were made to clone Dolly before one succeeded. With the improvements in
technology our success ratio with human DNA was about 50%. After fetal
tissue was formed it was divided several times and each cluster of cells
allowed to grow into a fully developed baby. The babies were raised in an
incubator which supplied everything needed for maturation. One year of
incubator time was equivalent to ten years of real time. After two years of
maturation, the babies were born. Each was now the physiological
equivalent of a 20 year old human. Everything worked but because they had
been matured in isolation in an incubator their brains had no content or
memories. The minds were tabula rasas on which anything could be

After a lot of discussion we called them androids primarily because it was

easier to say than genetically modified humans. But that was probably the
wrong term to use. Androids call up the image of pseudo mechanical beings
like Data in the old Startrek TV series. But our androids were not the
artificially created people frequently used in science fiction. Rather they
were normal people whose DNA had been cleaned up. These would be
humans designed to order, like GMO processed food. The term GMO had
gained a bad reputation amongst the general populace. Particularly
foodies. Communities even passed laws banning GMO products. In reality
if we didnt have GMO foodstuffs it would be difficult to feed the 9 billion
people on Earth.

Just a few models of androids, some male, some female, would do. They
would be sexual, of course, since biological reproduction would be the most
convenient way to grow the population. When the androids had babies they
would be normal children, albeit with slightly revised DNA. They would
grow up, attend school, and be regular kids. They would simply be real

persons genetically modified for the rigors of a trip through space. The
major difference is that their parents would be matured in an incubator. The
portion of the androids brain that housed memory, experience, and
personality would be left blank.

The final step in this option would be to download the knowledge and
personality of the saved brain models into the empty receptive brains of the
androids. The androids would have no childhood or teen aged experiences
other than those downloaded. Their education and mental skills would be the
same as those of the person scanned. This would be a simpler process than
raising children to maturity and training them in the skills necessary to
survive. It was a short cut way of creating a corps of individuals to colonize
the new planets. The androids were real people. Remember, human DNA
was an essential part of the android genome. Their children would be
indistinguishable from normal children. We were confident that humankind
would be saved.

Experts in neurology, cryptography, computer sciences and biological

sciences assured our group that, given enough resources, they could do what
they promised in a few years. It was up to us to design vehicles which could
transport the recreated humans to new worlds.

For our group, nothing was off limits. We could use any method or
technique, regardless of religious, ethical, or moral objections. And of
course, we had an unlimited budget. After the Sun went nova, nothing would
matter anyway.

The Kepler and the Webb space telescopes had identified thousands of
exoplanets including a few dozen habitable ones reachable from Earth.
Several nearby star systems had potentially habitable planets with liquid
water. One planet chosen as a possible destination was the one orbiting
Proxima Centauri, our closest stellar neighbor.

Our Sun is a G2-type star. Its fairly well behaved and has been so for 4.6
billion years. However, K-type dwarfs, which are smaller than the Sun burn
their fuel more slowly. They have lives theoretically longer than the age of
the universe. Heller and Armstrong argue that the longer a planet exists, the
more habitable it becomes. So an older planet revolving around an older sun
may be a good home for life. Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf K1V-type star
that fits the bill. It has an estimated age of between 4.85 and 8.9 billion years

and will probably live twice that long. It is known to have an Earth-like
planet called, unimaginatively, Proxima Centauri b. There were other nearby
star systems closer than 100 light years distant that had potentially habitable
planets but getting there would stretch even the theoretical limits of feasible
transportation systems.

Proxima Centauri b orbits about 7 million miles from its sun, with an 11.2
day year. It is gravity locked to Proxima Centauri just like the Moon is to
Earth. One side always faces the star, the other is perpetually dark.
Since the star Proxima Centauri is much less intense than our sun,
temperatures, at least in the planets terminator band, the strip separating the
light from the dark sides, are tolerable. The light of Proxima Centauri is
considerably redder than that of Earths sun, perpetual sunset, but it was
hoped that any residents would adapt. The average temperature of the
Proxima b terminator strip is estimated to be within the range where water
could exist as liquid on its surface.

The planet itself is slightly larger than Earth, about 1.3 times Earths
diameter but it has a surface gravity less than that of our home planet.
Astronomers tell us that it most likely has a smaller iron core. It has a
rotational period of 11.2 days. Slow, but sufficient to give it a bit of a
magnetic field to help repel some radiation.

Proxima Centauri b has some oxygen in its atmosphere. Planets with oxygen
in their atmospheres are rare in our galaxy. Obviously some sort of primitive
vegetation had developed a process like photosynthesis that released oxygen
as a by product. Telescopic observation of this planet detected traces of
vegetation but no evidence of animal life. Conditions might be strange but
no serious sources of toxicity were apparent.

For all of the options mentioned, transportation to the stars is the major
problem. The real problem is getting there. assume that most of the readers
of this article will not be space scientists so I'm going to talk about each
option in turn. I almost used the term "rocket scientist" but I have been
informed by my grandchildren that calling someone a rocket scientist is a
mild form of insult implying that the person is a fuzzy minded goofball. It
wasn't so in my day but then my day was half a century ago.

A starship's population at take off, even a generation ship, would be a
fraction of that needed to colonize the destination planet. The planners
expected that births during the final years of the voyage would increase the
population to the ship's capacity, and provide enough people to colonize a
new world. Extra supplies would be taken to support a start up colony until it
is self sufficient. To make things last, everything would be recycled. Water
would be extracted from refuse and condensed from the air, then purified
and reused. Waste products would be reconverted into their basic
components and used as raw materials or as fertilizer. If any crew members
died their bodies would be recycled too. Nothing would be wasted.

Open areas on the starships were designated as farm land. Soybeans would
be planted in parks and chickens roamed in the agricultural sectors.
Agronomists told us that chickens yielded more meat per kilo of feed than
any other domestic animal. They also laid eggs, a most convenient
prepackaged foodstuff. It was assumed that enough food could be grown in
hydroponic gardens to be be sufficient. for a 300+ year voyage to the nearest
inhabitable planet. In addition to augmenting the food supply, plants would
provide a breathable atmosphere.

The Orion drive was not the starships only propulsion method. A generation
ship also had an ion drive designed to enable it to alter its speed and
direction as it neared its destination.

The ion drive was another one of those techniques that was developed
decades ago. Basically an ion drive accelerates a stream of particles by an
electron gun and directs them out the rear of the spacecraft. It works just a
large cathode ray tube, the kind used on early televisions, but without the
glass envelope. In contrast to the Orion drive it is quite efficient. It has
minimal fuel consumption but also very low thrust. Low radiation permits it
to operate continuously. Ion drives dont have enough thrust to be a main
propulsion unit but, if used long enough, they could propel the craft to a high
velocity. But not quickly. I was told that a full sized ion drive would take a
couple of days to accelerate a standard two ton automobile to highway

The ion drive permitted slight adjustment in the ships flight path. Without
some means of correcting the ships path the aiming requirements would be
almost insurmountable. It would be like shooting a pool ball on a table the
size of the continental United States from Los Angeles to a pocket in New

York. In addition to making slight course adjustments, halfway through the
voyage the ship would be turned around and the ion drive used to slow it
down or the ship would speed right past its destination planet.

The electrical power both for the ion drive and for all the other ship's
systems would be supplied by a bank of four thorium fueled nuclear
reactors. This was a case where the designers did themselves proud. There
should be plenty of electric power. Each reactor was more than sufficient to
supply the needs of the entire starship and used sequentially they should last
much more than long enough.

Keeping the ship's society intact was a problem of a different order.

Comparative isolation from Earth meant that some social decisions could be
made in a rational manner rather than in accordance with cultural
determinism. English was selected for the ship's language, not because of it's
linguistic superiority but because most of the ships personnel spoke it as
either a first or second language. The majority of the technical books in the
ship's large computer library were written in English as well. It was simply
an expedient choice. The colonists could chose whatever language they
wanted after arrival at the destination.

Measures of time would be maintained as days, weeks, and year although

some would be slightly modified to remove historical irregularities. Seconds,
minutes, and hours were reckoned as before. People were used to them. The
day was kept at 24 hours because it could be divided up easily into fractional
periods for shift work. Also our physiologists told us that humans were
adapted to a circadian rhythm of 24 to 25 hours.

The year was kept at 365 days with 12 months of exactly 30 days each,
grouped in three 4 month quarters of 90 days. At the end of each quarter was
a one day holiday, with an extra day added at the end of the year to celebrate
the new year. At one fell swoop all the irregularities of the conventional
calendar were eliminated. Goodbye Julius, Augustus, Pope Gregory, etc. The
extra fraction of a day that required leap years on Earth to correct was
simply ignored. One of the planners must have been a calendar rationalist.
Modifications would be made after arrival to suit the solar period of the new
planet. When the ship arrived at its destination the length of the year would
be adjusted to suit.

The design of a generation spaceship could be either be based on the
philosophy that it should be constructed with sufficient reliability to function
properly until the end of the mission or that it should be constructed to be
easily and continually maintained by an onboard crew. Without advance
knowledge of how long the journey would take or the hazards to be
encountered, the designers chose the second approach. The side benefit was
that continual maintenance provided a social function for a trip of
indeterminate length. People would have something important to do and a
high motivation to do it.

Ive spent a lot of time describing the generation ships because most of the
planning effort went into their design. They were based on tried and true
techniques. The problem was little different from that faced by New World
colonizers of 400 to 1000 years ago. Some of those colonies were successful
but many more were failures. The secret lay in avoiding mistakes.

Another option, similar to the first, depended on finding a way to put the
colonizers in suspended animation for a number of years. According to
NASA studies, keeping astronauts unconscious almost halves the supplies
needed for any given trip. When a crew is placed in an inactive state, many
of the ships subsystems can be removed and the space and equipment
needed for humans reduced significantly. The negative psychological and
social aspects of prolonged space travel are mitigated too.

I know that suspended animation is a favorite trick in sci-fi films but the way
it is done is glossed over. The spaceship crew simply goes to sleep and
wakes up in some far away galaxy. In nature some animals manage to
hibernate over the winter by lowering their vital functions to the absolute
minimum. A few cold blooded species can be frozen in the ice for extended
periods. So far the available techniques that have been used on humans work
for only a few hours, usually during surgery when it is necessary to stop the
blood flow. Therapeutic hypothermia reduces body temperature by about 10
degrees through methods ranging from ice packs and cooling blankets to
catheters injecting ice cold fluid into body cavities.

Researchers believed they could use therapeutic hypothermia to put human

beings into torpor, the sleep like state that bears enter to endure long cold
winters. Once in torpor, the subjects could be transported through space.
Currently, 14 days is the longest a human being has been held in torpor at a
single stretch. A crash program for putting people in suspended animation

was started and I was told that, with proper monitoring, it was possible to
keep people asleep tor several years. The practical limit was two years.
Longer than that and some vital functions would deteriorate.

A robot caretaker would monitor the unconscious travelers, making sure the
basic needs of their bodies were met. In addition to pumping in water and
nutrients, it would deliver sedatives to keep the bodies from shivering and
also administer mild electric shocks to ward off muscle atrophy.
I'm not a medical person so I was pretty much out of the loop on that one.

There is a revered engineering axiom that complex devices last longest with
mild use. Use them too much and they wear out. Use them too little and they
rust out. My cousin, a gun collector, had a John Browning designed 22 rifle
which he inherited from his father. Browning claimed that it was his favorite
design. Every year my cousin took it to the shooting range and fired off half
a box of 22 cartridges, then he oiled and cleaned it and put it back in his gun
cabinet. It was nearly 200 years old but looked and functioned like new. I
guess thats the way it is with people too.

The space ships intended to transport human settlers in suspended animation

would be like those of the generation ships except that they would be smaller
and possibly faster. Much of the machinery aboard would be devoted to
maintaining the suspended animation of the passengers with a small living
area reserved for the needs of the flight crew.

I was mostly involved with the android project. I would like to remind my
readers that these were not the robots of science fiction but rather genetically
modified human beings with a fully functional brain but no learning or
memory other than those uploaded from the persons scanned.

Feminists made the argument that it should make no difference if the

scanned mind was placed in a male or female body. But the planners decided
that they had enough problems without adding another. The mind would be
loaded into a genetically compatible android. Males to males, females to

No one had yet resolved the philosophical problem of whether an android

human with all of a persons memories and experiences would really be that
person or merely a good facsimile. In my case the point would be moot.

Now that I was in my late 80s I would welcome the chance to be in a young
vital body even if it was artificial.

The idea was conceptually simple. A space craft with a small maintenance
crew would be sent off to an earth like planetary destination. It would
contain a hundred or so passengers in suspended animation. A generation
before reaching its goal they would be awakened, programmed with strong
family values and an intense libido, and instructed to reproduce like bunnies
to build the population to the necessary levels. Child care and educational
routines would be part of the conditioning. The ship would be transformed
into one huge nursery school, then a secondary school and college. The
passengers would be loaded with all the memories and skills necessary for a
new society. Would they be me or you? Who knows? They would feel that
only a short time had elapsed between takeoff and landing although many
decades might have passed.

My committee work was complete. I would be free to enjoy my remaining

days, imposing on my children, allegedly to visit my grandchildren. In a
sense I regretted not going on one of the starships but I realized that I would
just be taking the place of a younger person.

I had several more meetings with Roger Barton over the next year. The
meetings were a convenient facade for dining on unhealthy food and
drinking too much. Our meetings were in the finest Washington restaurants
with NASA picking up the tab. Roger knew all of the maitre des and they
all knew him. I confided in him my disappointment at not going on the
voyage. I never expected to settle a new planet but I simply wanted to see
how things worked out. A search for closure is the engineer's curse.

About a month after my last dinner with Roger I got a a phone call saying
that a place on an android starship had opened up. One of the candidates
who was scheduled to have his brain scanned had been killed in a plane
crash. Would I be interested in having my intellect go along in in his stead?
Sure I would.

I made my appointment at the Bethesda hospital clinic to be scanned. After

what seemed an interminable wait while my credentials were evaluated, I
was ushered into a small room with a comfortable easy chair. A young
technician clamped a helmet on my head. The helmet looked like a football
helmet on steroids. It had a lot of wires coming out of it, all connected to a

wall mounted computer. He flipped a switch. I felt a little buzzing as my
brain was fully downloaded and stored in the computers memory. In an
hour it was all over. The technician showed me the handful of tiny thumb
drives on which my engrams were loaded. It is strange to think that a
lifetime of work could be contained in such a small volume. I had
envisioned an oxcart full of my memories.

I was told that eventually my memories and knowledge would be loaded into
the blank mind of an android which, to all intents and purposes, would be
me. Of course, I, as an old man, would continue to live out my remaining
days on Earth but my android alter ego would be on a trip to the stars.

There was a another option for a human exodus that I havent talked about.
It was proposed by people who were not included in the governmental
program. Scientists involved in artificial intelligence had predicted for years
that computers would eventually become self aware. Not human, just self

Robotics engineers were adept at making special purpose robots for a variety
of tasks. It took just a moment of imagination to suggest that the robots be
fitted with self aware computers carrying humanities's memories. If, as has
been suggested, the next step in evolution is development of robotic analogs
of man, why not do it now? Robots don't need air or much space. Just a little
electricity and oil. Sending robots to the stars would almost be trivial. The
robot ships could contain records of all knowledge, the digitized contents of
all earth's libraries, music, and films. Robot voyagers could live on planets
that were too hot, or too cold, or had unsuitable atmospheres for human life.

There is no reason except human ego to make robots resemble people. It was
hard to convince the clerics and politicians though. Churchmen felt that
since people were created in God's image, our robot emissaries to the stars
should resemble department store clothes dummies but look like saints and
missionaries. Politicians wanted representatives to match the ethnic makeup
of their districts. Few agreed on the robot option. You can see why.

A few universities and agencies went ahead with the robotics project as a last
resort. Many scientists realized that they would not be among the few
selected for the exodus but wanted to see their work live after them. What
was the fun in making an automatic carpet sweeper when you could spend
your time making an interstellar robot that would fly your spaceship. They

compromised by stating that frozen embryos of real humans would be
included to be thawed and nurtured if a suitable planet was found. Frankly I
dont know how well this effort succeeded. I was not involved in it at all.

OK, so that's it. There were four options discussed for coping with the
expansion of the sun. The first was to do nothing. Just wait until the end. A
modification of this passive approach was to collect all human knowledge
and send it off into space in hopes that some advances civilization could
make use of it. Te second option was to send settlers to habitable planets in
various sized generation ships. A third option was to send off ships with the
crew in suspended animation. Finally the last option was to create intelligent
robots to populate the universe.

The one that attracted the most attention was, of course, the generation ship.
It involved little advance technology, just the ability to build a large craft and
put it in orbit. Essentially it was a cruise ship to space. People would just
troop aboard like the animals on Noah's ark and settle down for a long, long
journey. Few really appreciated how long it would take.

Even with a massive generation ship construction effort the reality was that
only about 1% of the world's population could emigrate to new worlds. Most
of the people would be left behind even if their computer stored
consciousness soared into space. Governments, wisely fearing world unrest
and descent into chaos, kept this unpleasant truth from the general public by
misdirection, subterfuge, and all the tools that politicians have used for
centuries to fool the general public. Launch dates and places were kept
secret. Dummy spaceships were built in obvious places to keep protesters
occupied. Hundreds of clinics were established to record brain contents
assuring the public that after the catastrophe they would simply awaken on a
new world with a new body. It was all a scam. Billions of people simply
couldnt be transported to a new world. The recording of neurological
information was real but only a tiny fraction of the minds recorded would
ever be used, and those only if a specific skill was needed. Finally, perhaps
half of the Earths population, those living in third world countries, were
unaware of the suns imminent explosion. Life would go on as normal for
them until the end.

As for me, I returned to my Hudson Valley woodland home and watched
baseball games along with a few of my retired colleagues. We would gather
on my porch, drink beer and argue about the game that merged Abner
Doubleday and Issac Newton, each of us rooting for our favorite team.
During the off season I visited my children and grandchildren, and waited
for the sun to explode. The summers got hotter and hotter but after I was
gone, who cared? Anyway the cataclysm would not occur for a few more
years. As the French say Apres moi, le deluge.

When the time came for the voyage I was asked to pack a cigar box sized
container of personal possessions to remind me of life on Earth. Most of the
travelers stuffed theirs with photos of friends and family. A few even packed
their cell phones disregarding the fact that there would be no one to call once
the ship left orbit. I packed an iPad and a few memory chips loaded with
digital pictures of my family and copies of all my technical papers plus the
notes for the papers and books that I planned to write. I also included the
ancient 12 blade Swiss Army knife that my wife had given me just after we
were married. Then the box and the inert android body that I would
eventually inhabit were transported to the starship circling in orbit.

Staffing a starship to establish a human civilization on a new planet was a

truly formidable undertaking. In our world, at least in the developed
countries, fewer than ten percent of the people provide all the goods and
services used by the rest of us. That includes food, transportation, electricity,
clothing, artifacts, - everything. Most of us would starve to death if that ten
percent disappeared. But on a new planet everything would have to start
from scratch. We would be like the early settlers out west.

All our waste would have to be recycled too. If we re going to make journrys
that last hundreds of years our waste food, garbage, exhaled air, urine and
feces will have to be recycled into useable forms. No garbage heaps or
forzen doggie bags in space. We would have to turn the trash into drinkable
water, breathable air, vitamins, foodstuffs and raw materials for other uses. A
decent sanitation system would be easy to arrange. All modern cities have
them. But real recycling of all waste products is still in its infancy. An
engineered yeast is robably the best answer. One that is genetically modified
to convert garbage into needed forms. Fortunately the way the living
quarters were arranged toilets and sinks would drain into a common sewer
and from there go to a recycling facility. We just needed a few good

When I was a kid the bookstores were full of how to so it books giving
instruction for how to make almost everything from soap to gunpowder. My
father even had one which I read almost religiously. Most technically
inclined high school students knew how telephones worked. Real
telephones. Not two cans connected by a taut cord. They could probably
even build a basic telephone from the pictures and diagrams in the books.

I even recall that the formula for making soap involved boiling cooking fat
in lye and skimming off the solids on top. The lye itself was made by
trickling water through wood ashes. I dont recall how the gunpowder was
made but the formula was probably pretty simple. After all, Thomas Edison,
as a schoolboy, made a bottle of nitroglycerine. Or so the movie says. But
now most of those lost arts will have to be rediscovered. Im not too sure
that many of the passengers on our ship will know how to make their own
soap. Ill try to remember what I can.

So how did I write this personal history?

If you are reading it in hard copy it is probably from a series of text files that
were sent back to Earth via a tight beam laser communications link. Contact
with the soon to be doomed Earth was maintained by a chain of
communications satellites deposited by each starship every lightyear or so.
The satellites were engineered for a long life, perhaps 1000 years or more.
They consisted of of a pair of receivers coupled to laser transmitters. The
whole thing was powered by the heat from a small atomic pile. Reasonably
reliable communications could be maintained with Earth over very long
distances. Because of the transit time everything sent back to Earth would be
a couple of years out of date but most of the material dealt with long term
problems and a few years wouldnt matter. The link was not much good for
horse racing results through.

I remember distinctly being awakened by a very attractive young woman in

a medical robe.

Its time to get up Professor London. Your duty shift starts tomorrow. Let
me get this IV tube out of your arm first. I suspect that you have to go to the
bathroom. Its just through that door. When you finish Ill meet you in the
cafeteria at the end of this corridor.

Fifteen minutes later I was seated in the cafeteria eating a bowl of fairly
tasty vegetable stew when the young doctor joined me. She had changed
from her medical garb into a light blue coverall. There were about a dozen
other people in the cafeteria. All looked strangely alike.

This isnt the formal orientation lecture, she said, that will come
tomorrow. But I figure I should let you know whats going on. You are a
crew member on the Exodus 7, a starship bound for Proxima Centauri b.
Your body is new but your mind is the same as it was when you were

I looked at myself. There had been no mirror in the toilet. I had strong arms,
no belly fat, and my back didnt hurt.

Whats happened to me?

To put it bluntly, you are an android. In fact everyone you see is an

android. Your mind has been downloaded into your blank brain and to all
intents and purposes you are the same person you used to be. Except your
body is new. You have an apparent age between 20 and 30 in human terms
and, as far as we can tell, no genetic defects. Barring accident, you have a
life expectancy of about 200 earth years.

Now I know thats not enough to reach Proxima Centauri b but you
probably will be one of the people who will set foot on the planet. The trip is
expected to take a bit more than 300 years but you will be in suspended
animation for half the time. Your present tour of duty is 2 years. When your
tour ends you will be put into hibernation for another 2 years then awakened
for another tour of duty.

Are you an android too? I asked. You dont look like one.

Of course, she said. We all are. There are 160 of us as crew but only half
are awake at a time. We work overlapping shifts. Im partway through

She went on, Dont let the term android confuse you. We are real people.
Our genetic code has been re-engineered to eliminate the superfluous legacy
of our ancestry. We all have the same blood type and the same skin color and
hair texture. All of us are lactose tolerant. None of us has an appendix. Our

eyes are well corrected and their sensitivity to red light has been increased.
Most genetic diseases have been eliminated. We all have the same genetic
mutation in our DNA as do inhabitants of Himalayan villages that lets us
tolerate low oxygen levels. Considering the nature of our destination, a
protein derived from tardigrades has been added to our genome to increase
our resistance to x-ray and gamma radiation. In all other respects we are
normal humans.

One geneticist said that our bodies have experienced half a million years of
managed evolution from homo sapiens. Remember Dolly the sheep? We
were cloned just like her but matured in an incubator. All but our
consciousness and memories. They are those that you had when you were
scanned. Of course in time we will accumulate enough random mutations to
make us as distinct from each other as most humans are today.

It may be indiscrete of me to mention it but we are quite honored to have

you on board. Many of your ideas were incorporated into the design of our
starship. We used the pusher boat technique to get us our initial velocity.
We also have a sex ratio much like the one that you suggested.

It was nothing. I replied. Any farm boy would have had the same idea.

She continued. Look around, most of the people you see are female. In fact
of the 160 crew members 144 are women. All told there are just 16 males in
the crew. We were assured that sixteen men would provide enough genetic
diversity. Our captain, Millicent Scotia, and most of the bridge crew are
female. Captain Scotia is a retired Navy cruiser captain who was more or
less drafted to command this vessel. Before we reach Proxima Centauri you
men will be required to service all of us. We intend to have a lot of babies
who will grow up to be the first inhabitants of the new planet.

The babies will be normal human children. We have the reproductive

organs of normal humans. So all of our offspring will be humans too. They
will share our DNA but they will be normal children. We simply dont have
the incubator facilities that they had on Earth so the children will have a
traditional childhood.

My companion, Riva, for that was the name emblazoned in the ID tag
affixed to her coverall, seemed quite unemotional when she talked about
males servicing females. I mean, we were talking about sex werent we? I

had no idea of what sex between androids meant but based on a quick
inspection of my equipment when I used the toilet, I assumed that it was the
traditional thing.

Obviously I didnt appear to be convinced. In my previous experience sex

was a serious act. A bargaining chip that women held over men to convince
them to enter long term relationships. Who knew it would be different
aboard a starship. Riva pressed on. Given the ratio between males and
females, we cant make too much of any given pairing. It is likely that each
woman will have sex a couple of dozen times before she achieves her quota
of children. You men will be kept quite busy.

I can see that you still have your doubts. Would you like to have sex with
me? We have plenty of time. My next work tour doesnt start for a couple of
hours and you dont meet with the captain for your formal orientation until

I took a rain check on that offer. Perhaps sometime later. Im still a little

Riva didnt seem at all disturbed by my rejection. She showed me my

quarters. A nice room, by the way, and told me when meals were offered in
the nearby cafeteria. Then she vanished.

Frankly the room was better than I expected. I had envisioned it to be fitted
with pipe berths like on a submarine. But the living space was about the
same size as the bedroom in my old home. It was paneled in wood. At least
the sound proofed panels were painted to look like wood. The walls were
decorated with several brightly colored pictures. The room contained a
comfortable bed, a desk and armchair, and a private bathroom. On one side
was a cabinet which offered a tiny kitchen sink, a small refrigerator and a
microwave oven. Most of the furniture was either inflatable or collapsible
like the things you would take to the beach on a hot day. I guess it was to
keep it light but comfortable. The only hard surfaces were the built in
structures and the desk. On the desk I recognized a computer with a screen,
keyboard, and a couple of strange accessories.

Each crew member had more than ample quarters. The current population of
the ship was small but as the population grew the rooms would have to
accommodate several people.

The computer binged and the screen showed that I had an appointment with
Captain Scotia at 10:00 a.m. he next day. Nothing to do until then. Under the
bed I found a drawer with clothes tailored to my new body dimensions and a
nightshirt for sleeping. Next to it was a locked drawer which I assumed
belonged to the person or persons who occupied my room when I was in
hibernation. The computer screen flashed what appeared to be a newsletter
describing happenings aboard the Exodus 7. It also offered a directory of
items contained in the large ships library. I figured that I might as well use
my time productively so I called up the blueprints and schematics of the
Exodus 7 to gain some familiarity with my new home.

The Exodus 7 was a small test version of one of the much larger generation
starships. It too had been assembled in low orbit. Previous ships in the
Exodus series had been used to test concepts intended for the larger
generation ships. The Exodus 7, fully space capable, was simply the first to
be launched to a potentially habitable planet. The fact that we were heading
to the closest exoplanet was an accident. Originally it was intended to send
one of the larger generation ships on the trip but it would not be ready in
time. Staffing the Exodus 7 with an android crew was the expedient thing
to do. Normally androids would be reserved for much longer voyages.

The ship retained the general shape of the wheel on an axle form of a
generation starship but was only about a fifth of the size of the larger vessel.
As an ex-engineer Im used to drawings and blueprints. Using only words to
describe the Exodus 7 is sort of like telling what a spiral staircase looks like
without using your hands. Ill do my best but I must remember that this is a
text message.

Imagine, if you will, a slowly spinning wheel on an axle floating through

space. The axle is a closed metal tube about 150 meters in diameter and
about 800 meters long. The wheel, a ring about 200 meters thick, is affixed
to the forward end of the axle by six thick spokes. It is about 1000 meters in
diameter and 400 meters from front to back. Both the front layer and the
back layers of the ring contain supplies and life support equipment. The 300
meter wide central potion of the outer rim serves as the living area for the
passengers. A rotation speed of about once every ten seconds is enough to
give the outer rim about eighty percent of Earths gravity.

Down the center of the habitable ring, running all the way around the rim, is
Main Street, a 20 meter wide cleared section that serves as a passageway
for all manner of people and things. Extending off Main Street to the
forward side are short avenues, about 200 meters long. Mews according to
the Brits. Each has several dozen rooms or apartments which are our
quarters. At the end of each corridor is a single large space, usually one with
a transparent window that is used as a conference room or common area.

The pushboat system of initial propulsion led to some problems with

layout. The rotation of the wheel meant that gravity was directed outward,
radially. Because the forward acceleration provided by pushboat with its
Orin Drive is similar to Earths gravity, the resultant force vector requires
people to walk down Main Street at a 45 degree angle. For living quarters
and fixed facilities this diagonal gravity is accommodated by hinging the
furniture but it would be hard to walk on a tilt for the several months
required for the pushboat to get us to our interstellar speed.

To solve this dilemma the aft 10 meters of the walkway on Main Street
sloped upward at a 45 degree angle enabling people to walk around the
wheels periphery in a normal manner. We learned to accommodate, after a
fashion, to our tilted surroundings. Fortunately the pushboat portion of our
acceleration didn't last too long. When cruising speed was achieved the
slanted sections of the walkway were flipped over with a block and tackle
arrangement over to form flat terraces for sitting and farming. No hydraulics,
just rope and pully. The appliances, beds, and desks were firmly fastened in
their new position for the rest of the voyage.

The total living space was a fraction of that on a generation ship but the
number of passengers was also far less. The population density is about one
person per acre. Thats about a quarter of the average population density of
the United States, about the same as a rural community. The weather is
benign. Ive heard it described as similar to a Caribbean island. There is
plenty of elbow room for everyone. Since the Exodus 7 is smaller and lighter
than the proposed generation ships but had the same ion drive, it was
marginally faster too.

The Exodus 7 had been assembled in orbit so there was no need for
conventional aerodynamics. It was never intended to fly through an
atmosphere. Supplies were sent up in marine type shipping containers, about
12 meters long and 2.5 meters wide, and were simply fastened to the back

and sides of the ship. The containers would be emptied as needed. Shipping
containers were used because they were readily available and could be easily
transported by boat or truck to the launch sites. The Exodus 7 looked
nothing at all like the sleek spacecraft shown in magazines. In reality it
resembled a rotating cylindrical porcupine with all sorts of things fastened to
its surface.

The bridge was a large compartment in the rotating ring. It was equipped
with the navigational and control equipment necessary to guide the vessel.
As an engineer I realized that it was far simpler to use computers to
compensate for the rotation than to provide seals for moving parts that
would have to last for 300 years.

Study of the mission profiles revealed that the faster ships like the Exodus 7
were expected to make planetfall several decades before the generation
ships. If conditions were suitable, a message would be sent to the following
spaceships advising them that things were OK. If the conditions were
marginal, the androids, with their enhanced physical capability would
probably survive but the generation ships would be warned away. If
unsuitable conditions existed, a secondary destination would be sought.

My meeting with the Captain the next day was a mere formality. After a
leisurely cafeteria breakfast of coffee, eggs and obviously synthetic bacon, I
made my way to Captain Scotias office. I only had to ask a few people
where it was. It turned out to be on the other side of the ring and consisted of
a living area similar to mine and an attached formal office. The office had a
real desk and a couple of chairs. Filing cabinets and a couple of TV screens
giving views of the ship adorned the walls.

Captain Scotia welcomed me aboard. Even though she resembled the other
female crew members, she had a big, impressive persona. Almost too big for
the body containing it. I could easily picture her on the bridge of a battle
cruiser barking commands to the crew. She praised my contributions to the
spaceship program. I was a bit surprised but apparently she had read my file
before our meeting.

She told me that because I had been involved in the space program longer
than anyone else aboard my assignment would be different from that of the
other crew members. I was to be both the voyage historian and a senior
advisor. I frankly suspected that she felt a bit lonely and needed someone she

could talk to. I had been aboard for almost a year but she must have had
other things to do than attend to hibernating crew members. Because of my
university experience and my 10 years as a member of a local school board,
I would be expected to head up the ships educational efforts.

Captain Scotia expected to talk to me weekly and suggested that I keep a

journal of everything that occurred. It would be, she said, a living history.
Most of the other crew members, while technically adept, did not have much
real world experience. They were scanned when they were quite young.
They had been selected because of the skills they would bring for settlement
of a new colony.

Daily life on board the Exodus 7 was largely a matter of performing those
tasks necessary to keep the ship functioning and to support a civilized
society. Most tasks were involved with food production, maintenance,
education and research. Basic research was similar to that conducted in
Earth's universities. No one was making soap though.

The ship interior was configured to resemble a small town environment.

Grass and flowers grew in most of the common areas. Chickens were
allowed to roam the streets. Even the signs marking various corridors
resembled the street signs that one would find in most communities. It was
obvious that the designers had taken great pains to disguise the fact that we
would be spending most of our life in an aluminum tube.

The majority of the ship's systems were run by capable computers. They
could handle just about any routine function, leaving only exceptional
situations to be addressed by crew members. The computers were just about
as intelligent as a human being, lacking only self awareness to be considered
sentient. At the rate that they were evolving it is likely that by the time we
reached our destination they would be running the ship.

We had no provision for making large structures but our well equipped
workshops and laboratories could construct replacement parts for just about
everything on board. Manufacturing technology was at the point that
computer controlled devices, three dimension printers and the like, given
adequate instructions, could make just about any artifact needed from
hairpins to semiconductor circuits. They could even repair and replicate
themselves. Computer scientists and programmers were still needed to
provide the instructions but much fabrication was done automatically.

Each of us trained on a secondary function. In case there was a catastrophe
we might have to do each others jobs. In my case, considering my
background, I doubled as a systems engineer. You can interpret that as
general repairman since most of my duties involved fixing whatever went
wrong. Despite its technical sophistication, many of the Exodus 7s
components could be found in a well stocked hardware store. We kept a
supply of these things on hand and half my repair time was simply spent in
replacing failed items. Even very complex things have simple parts.
My fellow passengers thought that I was very clever but I was doing just
what any handyman would do. It was tough to convince many of them since
their hands on expertise was usually limited to hitting the ON button on
the TV controller. The apartment super was expected to do the rest.

One unusual task was to don a spacesuit and take a weekly stroll over
Exodus 7s exterior repairing tiny punctures made by micrometeorites that
the radar and laser had missed. My repairs usually consisted of applying a
swatch of adhesive backed aluminum tape to the hole. The adhesive
hardened and the reinforced aluminum tape was as strong as the underlying

Both automation and the communal nature of shipboard life freed up a lot of
time. Food preparation was done in a large single kitchen, just like on a
luxury cruise liner. The ship's designers wisely decided that it would be
much more efficient to prepare 100 meals at one time in a single location
than one meal at a time in 100 locations. Much of our food was prepared by
machine. The ships kitchen was stocked with blenders, automatic bread
ovens, and even egg slicers. All the equipment was designed to reduce
human involvement to a minimum. We would usually eat in small buffet
restaurants scattered throughout the ship. They were imaginatively decorated
and provided the illusion of dining variety even though all choices were
from the same menu.

The standardization of our cuisine was not universally accepted. Crew

members of Asian and South American heritage objected to the blandness of
the menu. Fortunately an ingenious dietitian solved the problem by
providing packets of regional and ethnic spices which could be added to any
dish. Even I developed a taste for chili flavored popcorn.

Varying work schedules required that most living quarters had rudimentary
kitchen facilities to prepare the occasional snack. The food preparation

appliances were usually restricted to a microwave oven and the tiny
refrigerator. Dishes and eating utensils were made of a plastic which was
recycled. There was little washing up. Water was a more precious resource
than electrical power.

I ate most of my meals in the small restaurant close to my living quarters. I

was usually joined by Riva Cohen, the woman who was my first
acquaintance on board. At first it was by chance. Our cabins were simply
close together and our duty tours overlapped. But after a while we developed
a liking for each other and ate together by choice.

Although she looked young, Rivas mental age nearly equaled my own. That
was fortunate. Most of the crew had been scanned when they were quite
young and we had few memories in common. Riva had been involved in the
human exodus project since its start. She was a pediatric physician who had
opted to be scanned when she retired. Like most Israeli doctors she had
served a term with the army. She took up pediatric medicine upon her
discharge. I dont know what she was like beforehand but in her new body
In appearance she was a compact bundle of supercharged energy, extremely
attractive. In fact she would be positively beautiful if you could get her to sit
still for a minute.

I just noticed that I referred to Riva as Dr. Cohen. Only we old farts used last
names, primarily because we had responded to them all our lives. Most of
the crew just called people by the first names embroidered on their coveralls.
I suspect the in time last names would be forgotten although when the
population grew some form of designation to identify each individual would
be needed. Probably the Welsh approach of simply adding a number to the
name like William 12.

Rica and I discussed our previous life over meals. She spoke perfect English
with only the slightest trace of an accent, but it wasnt an Israeli accent. Her
parents were ardent Zionists from Milwaukee who emigrated to Palestine in
the early 1930s. Riva, herself, had attended medical school in Scotland. No
doubt that accounted for both her her mastery of English and her faint
accent.. She had two children, a grown daughter, who was now married and
lived in Tel Aviv and a son, now a college professor. I talked about my late
wife, my children and my grandchildren. Just two old folks, albeit in young
bodies, reminiscing about the past.

Riva was a movie buff. Off duty she spent a lot of her time watching older
films in her quarters. She was especially fond of musicals but confessed that
she also watched historical dramas like Gone With the Wind and
Gettysburg. She could hardly believe that such events took place in the
United States a bit more than two centuries ago. How could Scarlet be so
stupid? To her the USA seemed like such a bland and peaceful country. I told
her that sometimes still water runs deep. I admitted that I liked old films

I neglected to mention that passengers aboard the starship were not exactly
identical. In an attempt to provide a greater measure of genetic diversity the
geneticists used several basic groups of humanity as the starting point. Six
groups were used to construct the DNA shared by the crew. The geneticists
merged the characteristics of North Americans, South Americans,
Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Indians. We all had the same skin color, a
light beige shade, sort of that like a southern European. At one stroke the
geneticists solved the racial problem. All of us looked alike. We were truly a
amalgam of all humanity.

Our clothing was simple, usually just a one piece coverall. I dont know
what everyone had on underneath. In my case it was just a T shirt and shorts.
Clothing was used until it got worn or dirty, then recycled and new clothes
almost instantly produced by special purpose machines. Everybody's
physical measurements were kept in a data file so garments were custom
tailored for each person. The designers had calculated that it was more
efficient to provide new clothing when needed than to launder and dry the
dirty stuff. We put our dirty laundry in a bin at the end of the day and
received a packet of fresh clothes the next morning.

Riva and I had come of age during the Flower Power generation. Still we
were pretty conventional so both of us had a difficult time accepting the
sexual mores of Exodus 7. I guessed that she was still loyal to the memory
of her late husband just as I was loyal to the memory of my late wife. We
both realized that a revised relationship between the sexes would be
necessary for the population growth envisioned. In one of our lunches, she
confessed to me that she had taken a few lovers after her husbands death but
nothing really permanent. She had been celibate for several decades before
being scanned. My rejection of her in our initial meeting sort of took her

aback. She told me that her offer to have sex with me was, in part, a test of
her new openness.
I asked her what the other part was. She replied:

I guess I was getting pretty horny after all those years of abstinence. I
missed the physical aspects of a sexual embrace. Besides, you appealed to
me. It seemed like a good chance to try out that part of my new body without
any complications. Its not as if it was really me. It would be like I was
pulling the strings of a marionette. Shall we give it a try now that we know
each other a little better? My new body seems up to it.

My body seemed up to it too. We decided that our first tryst would be in my

cabin. Fortunately I had cleaned it up only that morning. Riva was sharing
her quarters with two other women, both were off duty and a couple of
fornicating elders might seem embarrassing. That shows how little I knew
about attitudes aboard ship.

Riva insisted that we stop at her clinic first for a drink. Alcohol was one of
those things that was forbidden on Exodus 7 so naturally there was a thriving
bootlegging industry. Most of the booze was made by fermenting fruit
behind closet doors and was pretty awful. She was much more resourceful.
As a physician she had access to a supply of 99% pure medical alcohol, and,
with a small cache of herbs managed to mix up a respectable gin substitute.
She added some fruit juice, produced a bit of ice from a freezer, and
prepared mixed drinks worthy of a fine bar. At least so she said. My tastes
ran more to beer but the drinks were delicious. We had several, then we
adjourned to my cabin.

It was unlike any seduction I had ever experienced. After I shut the door she
simply took off her coveralls. I was astonished. I dont know what I
expected to see. Perhaps a simple unclothed generic looking young woman.
Instead she looked like a Playboy centerfold. She was the embodiment of a
teen fantasy, beautiful face, tight torso, big breasts, firm butt and Broadway
showgirl legs.

Do you like what I look like? she asked. Im told that it was a final joke
of the genetic engineers. They made all of us women resemble Playboy
Bunnies. I guess they figured that they would have to keep the male libido
high to father all our children.

I undressed too. But I was no stud. The genetic engineers simply made the
males look like well built healthy men. I suppose it wasnt fair to the women
but I suspect that most of the genetic engineers were men. They were the
ones who read Playboy.

Of course we werent in love. But as Tina Turner sang long ago Whats
love got to do with it? Love is friendship that has caught fire. It helps make
sex a more enjoyable experience but it isn't really required. We lowered the

Riva seemed to know what she was doing. In the dark, she slid down beside
me, and nuzzled my neck. She fondled my rapidly growing erection. I was a
bit nervous but she knew how to get me excited. That was the main thing she
cared about. She let me caress her firm breasts for a few moments then
pulled me over on top of her. She gently guided my penis to her vulva, then
eased the tip into her vagina.

I hadnt had sex for many years but apparently I performed adequately. It
certainly felt good. She was wet, warm, and soft. And very tight. I started
moving my hips back and forth driving into her. I didn't think. It was all
instinctive. I heard her softly moan with delight. She probably expected me
to ejaculate quickly, but I was solid. We moved together for minutes, my
hands around her tight ass.

Riva was clearly pleased at my stamina. She obviously enjoyed what I was
doing to her. She wrapped her legs around my back, pulling me tighter even
as I pumped her. Her full calves pummeled my back with each stroke. We
developed a perfect rhythm. A sexual synchronization. Her hips moved to
meet mine and every motion drove me deeper into her body. She clutched
me tightly. Her body started squirming beneath mine. I could feel a deep
vibration in her torso.

"Oh, baby!" she whispered, "I love it - - - Make me cum - - - I want a

climax. Oh, my God, I'm starting! - - - Fuck me, fuck me - - - Yes, YES! "

She shuddered through one orgasm, then another, as waves of pleasure

washed through her body. Her strong legs clutched me tightly as her vaginal
muscles contracted around my penis. She actually bit my shoulder,
surprising me.

I was thankful for the soundproofing of my cabin otherwise her shouts might
have shaken the entire spaceship.

"Oh, sorry--!" she said.

"That's all right," I said, finally pushing in deep. I climaxed, a really great
one that seemed to last and last. I held her body tightly, all the while
ejaculating my sperm into her. I kept on pushing until I was sure that I had
squeezed out every last drop. Even I was surprised at how hard I came.

I held her tightly in my arms, and nibbled on her neck. She held me close
and whispered "That was very nice."

It was quite an introduction into the pleasures of android intercourse. We

were both determined to repeat our sexual activity whenever we got the

Lest you believe that this memo is becoming a love story, nothing could be
further from the truth. We enjoyed each others company and had much in
common. not the least of it was being able to discuss events that had
happened in our youth. But we both carried too much baggage from our past
lives. Neither of us could deny our previous experiences and we were far too
mentally old to start over. We simply became best friends. Friends with
privileges you might say, using the jargon of my granddaughters college

In a couple of months Captain Scotia surprised us all by announcing a party.

She saiid that a Rite of Passage Celebration was a traditional thing when
ships crossed a significant marker like the Equator or the International Date
line. The sensors showed us that we had just passed the heliopause, the limit
of our suns influence. We we're truly in interstellar space. It had taken
NASAs Voyager satellites 30 years to reach the same point but we were
going much faster.

Anyone who could play an instrument was recruited to play in our pickup
band. Riva surprised me by her skill on the piano. Her parents insisted that
she take piano lessens when she was a girl. She could even read music after
a fashion. It as a talent that I never dreamed that she possessed. I could play
the harmonica but in the 21st. century the harmonica wasnt thought of as a

real instrument. I guess they never listened to the National Barn Dance or
had records of the Harmonicats.

We danced, if you could consider my shuffling around the floor dancing.

The passengers, mostly women, danced together. Then we had a feast. The
kitchen had been alerted about the party ahead of time and had spent the last
few days confecting specialties. It was a meal we would long remember.

The planners felt that maintenance of some sort of sexual relationship

between men and women would be essential for family life after arrival.
Women didn't need to have intercourse to have children. They could have
had babies by artificial insemination. But the planners thought that total
abstinence from heterosexual intercourse would warp society. So they
established a rationale for baby making as sort of a lottery. They didn't want
to eliminate sex between men and women but wanted to give it a reasonable
justification. Everyone got a chance to do it once in a while.

On Exodus 7 women and men were allowed to get physical fulfillment as

they pleased. Sex was looked on as entertainment. It tended to release
tensions that otherwise might cause social unrest. Institutionalized sexual
freedom was not unusual in human history. After great wars that decimated
the male population, social acceptance of polygamy, harems, and concubines
increased. It was that way for the Exodus 7.

The disparity in male to female numbers put strains on a social system

formerly based on equal proportions of the sexes. Passive birth control was
used to control the population. Women had an implant which prevented
pregnancy. A simple injection would restore fertility for a few months so
they could have a child when they wanted. Nothing was left to chance.

Heterosexual intercourse was comparatively rare given the small number of

males aboard. The largely female crew got most of its satisfaction by
relationships with other women. Some women opted to group into female
only households similar to the nunneries or convents of the middle ages.
Some gave up on the concept of heterosexual satisfaction entirely and, as in
other times, devoted themselves to other means of gratification. Art, music,
dance, poetry, and education all served as a substitute for having physical

Prostitution in the usual sense did not flourish on board the Exodus 7. The
term prostitution was considered definitely anti-feminist. For centuries
women had resisted having their bodies considered "objects of desire" to be
sold to the highest bidder. Accepting the practice that one could buy sexual
satisfaction, even in the confines of the Exodus 7 was considered intolerable.
Besides, in the cash free society of the spaceship, there was no way to pay
for the service. After the novelty of unlimited access to sexual partners had
worn off, most men settled on a few compatible women.

The sexual drive of the ship's inhabitants was the result of the conjoint effect
of several factors. Both men and women were undeniably attractive and in
the age range where their fertility and sexual desires were the highest. The
crew had been genetically configured to have a high libido. A new planet
would requite a high birth rate to provide a population mass sufficient to
ensure survival. Finally, there were few other sources of physical pleasure
available. The restrictions on the food supply made gourmet eating, the
traditional alternative to sex, impracticable.

The society that developed was a compromise between individual liberty

and shipboard discipline. The right of private property was limited to
personal possessions but private privileges were many. The motivation for
achievement lay chiefly in the winning of leadership positions and
prerogatives, and, of course, in the recognition of a job well done. There was
only a very limited degree of owning anything that could be classified as
wealth. Resources of every description belonged to the community at large
as a matter of public interest. It would have gladdened a Socialist's heart.

That's not to say that free enterprise was totally abolished. Everyone
received the same allowance of clothing, for example, but all were free to
decorate their garb in whatever imaginative fashion they chose. A cottage
industry of garment alteration arose to provide fashionable wear. The same
with just about every standard item aboard. Payment was by trading job
shifts or leisure time credits since Exodus 7 had a currency free society.

Selection for jobs and for eventual careers aboard ship was a function of
choice and availability. Jobs were posted and anyone could submit an
application. If there were more applicants than positions, a competitive exam
was used for the final selection. Most of us learned, or tried to learn, another
skill. I suspect that it was more out of an escape from boredom than

Our colony was hardly religious. The crew had been selected for their skills
not their religious beliefs. Most of the them felt that even if God did exist,
his influence would not extend beyond the reaches of the solar system. There
were hundreds of million stars in our own galaxy and hundreds of millions
of other galaxies. It was too much to ask of a single God to attend to the fall
of a sparrow in each of them. Besides, since many of the crew had their own
beliefs it was better to have an irreligious society than to accommodate one
in which half the crew thought the other half were infidels.

Our small population encouraged us to go back to the apprenticeship system

of learning trades and professions. A student who wanted to learn
mechanical engineering studied with an experienced mechanical engineer
learning all the tricks of the trade. It was more formal than that, of course.
There was a lot of textbook type learning from video and computer sources
but the hands on practice was done under the supervision of a master just as
it was in the middle ages.

I even had several apprentices who wanted to learn the intricacies of

spaceship design. Im wasnt sure I could teach them anything. Spaceships
had changed so much from the days when I was active. Since there was little
possibility that the students would ever get to actually design a spaceship,
most of my time was spent in showing the students how to fix things. At
least they learned something which could be put to use.

Medicine aboard ship was significantly different from that practiced on

Earth before we departed. Most infectious diseases on board had been
exterminated. Chronic illnesses were well controlled by drugs and therapy.
Biological engineers had eliminated as many genetic problems and structural
disorders as they could by new techniques of modifying DNA. In general,
we were a pretty healthy bunch. Since there were no children aboard Riva
found that she had very little to do except tend to minor injuries.

Surgical procedures were handled by automatic remotes with probes that

penetrated into the body through tiny incisions. Once in the patient's body,
the working head expanded into an array of surgical tools. The surgeon
could watch and direct the probe on a video screen. Riva told me that this
type of surgery was already quite advanced when the Exodus 7 left Earth.
That was fortunate. Training a competent surgeon to perform operations
manually would take years. Few people on board ever got sick enough to

require operations so there would be limited opportunity for a surgeon to
gain hands on experience.

I had only a few opportunities to observe emergency surgery. In the most

dramatic, a technician working with me outside the ship had the misfortune
to have her leg punctured by a meteorite. Meteors were rare in interstellar
space. At our combined speeds, even a minuscule meteor would punch
through the hull of the ship like a bullet, damaging everything in its path.
The meteorite that hit the technician was not detected by the large radar
coupled with the military laser that destroyed any small solid particles in our
path. It must have come in at an oblique angle and was missed by the
forward looking radar.

The meteorite punctured a neat hole in the technicians space suit, passed
through her thigh, and came out the other side of the suit. The self sealing
inner lining of the suit prevented the loss of air and minimized bleeding.
Rivas medical clinic was close to the emergency entrance and I assisted the
wounded crewman there. She immediately opened the suit, cut away the
inner garment and inspected the wound.

"It's just like a bullet hole," she said. "I haven't seen anything like this since I
was in the army."

She knew exactly what to do. She trimmed the damaged tissue, stanched the
bleeding and cauterized a few seeping blood vessels, then applied a healing
antiseptic and sutured the wound. Her quick action implied a lot of past
experience with similar injuries. I was very impressed.

We ate well during the journey. We had enough farm area for several times
the current crew compliment since we anticipated a major population
increase before planetfall. Our diet was largely based on fruits, vegetables,
and whole grains, foods that took the least energy to produce. Open areas
had been turned into high tech farms with hydroponic containers and
controlled lighting. The growing season was continuous. Poultry, eggs, and
soy were the primary source of protein. We grew algae in large tanks. The
algae, when compressed and flavored, provided a good substitute for meat
products. Algae also served as a source of oxygen to refresh the air. Cooks
learned to prepare these staples in imaginative ways. With this "health food"
diet and the mandatory exercise program illnesses related to obesity
disappeared almost entirely.

Because of our diet and life style, people retained their vital functions well
into old age. All appreciated the lower gravity aboard ship. Body parts didn't
sag as much when they aged. But ultimately everyone's biological clocks ran
down and they would fade peacefully. Considering the comparative youth of
the crew, that wouldnt happen for years.

The ships gravity would have to be adjusted to match that of the new planet
when we were within a generation of our destination so that the eventual
settlers would be used to it. We planned to slowly change the rotational
speed of the living area a percent or so each year when we were near
Proxima Centauri b.

Our unmanned probes had returned the information that our destination was
marginally suitable for human life. Temperatures and gravity were similar to
those on old Earth, at least in the terminator area. Some plant life existed on
the planet. It had areas of primitive foliage but there were no land animals.
There was a partial oxygen atmosphere and some expanses of liquid water.
Probes from our own ship confirmed the results. We had a good
photographic map of several regions suitable for settlement. Our task on the
starship was to preserve the best aspects of human civilization and deliver a
population of competent pioneers to start a new world.

Riva and I dined together whenever our schedules permitted. We just got
along well, talked about this and that, and reminisced about various events.
Of course we slept together whenever the opportunity presented itself. It was
almost like a real marriage - but not quite. We had no worries about children.
We didnt have to plan for their education or future. Our housing was taken
care of.

But all good things end. Riva told me that she was nearing the end of her
duty cycle and she was scheduled for hibernation. I know that when she
awakened me she told me that she was part way through her tour but I didnt
appreciate the consequences. Now I do. Its like a death in the family.
We had a gala dinner. A few of her drinks. OK, more than a few. And a long
evening together. The next morning we kissed goodby. I was alone again.

As I said, the crew members were not technicians but had been selected for
the ability to make a new planet work. They were agronomists, animal

husbandry specialists, builders, etc. But few knew the ins and outs of
spaceship design and construction.

I was called on time and again to repair this, fix that, or even give a little
advice on how to use the ships resources most efficiently. To be honest Im
pretty sure there were other people aboard who could do what I did. The
work schedule was designed to keep everyone busy. Sort of like the
swabbies holystoning the decks on ocean going vessels of the 18th century.
Still it kept our spaceship in tip top shape and it kept me occupied.
Otherwise I might have gone a bit stir crazy. It is tough to live your life in
such a restricted environment without a concrete objective. I began to
sympathize with medieval monks and prisoners in solitary confinement.

Still, a real problem was finding things to do with my leisure time. This was
the one thing the planners forgot. They, themselves, were fully immersed in
the details of configuring a ship to last a two to three hundred year voyage.
Boredom was the last thing on there minds. The science fiction writers had it
right. Simply ignore the travel time by inventing a faster than light drive,
putting the crew in suspended animation, or teleporting them from one place
to another. Then they got on with the story without all the inconvenient

Sure we had a sound ship and plenty to eat but we had little to do to occupy
our spare time. And we had plenty of that. It wasnt so hard for me. I had
books to write and papers to finish. Some of the crew, the kitchen staff, the
medical personnel, and the control room crew kept occupied with their
ongoing tasks. But most of the rest of the crew simply endured the
monotony until we reached our destination
The crew devoted much its leisure time to the arts and whatever athletic and
cultural amusements could be performed in the confines of the ship. We had
dramatic plays, concerts and dances. There was even an acting troupe that
put on an annual cycle of Shakespeare's plays. In a reversal of Globe theater
tradition, all of the male roles were played by women.

A few brave souls even learned how to fly. Not really fly like birds but flit
around in near zero gravity conditions. Two of the six spokes that fastened
the passanger ring to the central core were fitted with freight elevatoras to
transfer heavy supplies from the core to the ring. As you climbed toward the
core the centfugal force of gravity declined, reaching zero in the core itself.

There was a large almost vacent chamber where the radial spokes joined the
core. The chamber had maintenance passageways which led to the atomic
reactors and the ion drive but was largely empty. It served as the staging area
for organizing and transferring supplies to the living area.

I dont know who discovered that you could fly in the central chamber.
Because of the almost zero gravity you could leap several dozen meters with
very little effort. By using your imagination and flapping your arms it was
almost like flying. I tried it a few times but flying, even if it was just
jumping, made me sick. I recall that in the early days of the manned space
ldprogram they used to call a transport plane which dove towards Earth,
offering periods of weightlessness, the Vomit Comet because many of the
passengers lost their lunch on the flights. But some could tolerate the
weightlesness without regurgitation. Those were our flyers. Personally I
needed a fixed structure to hang on to in zero gravity conditions.

One of the flyers was our first fatality of the trip. She had the misfortune to
hit her head on a sharp edge as she jumped and died instantly of a major
concussion. We lowered her body to the ground level but despite our
medical technology she couldnt be revived. Rather than put the body into
the recycling apparatus to recover its fluids and minerals, Captain Scotia
decided that it would be better for morale if she was given a proper burial
according to military protocol. The woman had come from the UK. The
captain decided that she should be wrapped in a sailcloth shroud and slipped
out of an airlock while fifes and bagpipes played a funeral dirge. It was a
tradition of the British navy. Finding bagpipers amongst the crew was the
real problem. We finally ended up using a recording as the body was eased
out of an airlock.

Captain Scotia was tempted to forbid flying but the sport proved so popular
that she had to relent. She compromised by insisting that all flyers wear
helmets. Flying became our version of solo rock climbing.

I kept my new body in good shape by daily exercise at our shipboard gym.
Every morning I ran a couple of times around the periphery of the ring. That,
in itself, was an odd experience. Because of the curvature of the living area
it looked as if I was always running uphill but because of the centrifugal
force gravity the physical sensation was always like running on level
ground. Anyway it was nearly a 4 mile run and doing it every morning kept
me in good condition.

I learned to play a passible jazz piano on an electronic keyboard that I
smuggled to my cabin and even learned to read music. I had to keep up with
Riva. If you ignored the mistakes I could play a reasonable Scott Joplin rag.
I saw every movie that I wanted to see from our library, played a fairly good
game of poker with other crew members for matchstick stakes, and even
completed the books and papers books that I had started.

The poker games were interesting. Most of the players were female and it
took me a long time to get over my habit of being nice to women players.
But they proved more bloodthirsty than any group of men I ever played
with. They chortled with glee as the swept the table free of matchsticks as
they displayed a winning hand. I dont even know where they got the
matchsticks. There was no smoking on board Exodus 7 so someone must
have brought a box of matches in their keepsake box.

But eventually the matchsticks got too tattered to use so we had a 3D printer
cobble up a batch of real poker chips. Captain Scotia turned a blind eye on
this indulgence. When she sat in on the game she became a tiger. I dont
know what they teach at Annapolis but it cant be only seamanship.

Actually we liked Captain Scotia to play poker with us. It gave crew
members a chance to interact with her in a social setting. But she was far too
good a player to be in our games. During one of our weekly sessions I asked
her how where she learned to play the game. She was much better than most
of the sailors and soldiers I had played with in Korea. She stalled a while
then confessed that while waiting for her appointment to the Naval Academy
she had attended the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. To earn her room
and board she moonlighted as a waitress in one of the casinos. She said the
she was a terrible waitress but a good observer. She had a chance to study
the real poker pros in action. These were the guys who bet one million
dollars on a single hand. In the words of Kenny Rogers old song, Captain
Scotia learned from the real masters when to hold em and when to fold
em. When to walk away and when to run.

Unfortunately Riva treated poker as just a game, not as a metaphor for life.
Too bad. I would have liked to play with her.

Our communications link let me send my articles and books back to Earth. I
knew that the material would be a couple of years in transit. We also
received out of date news and old technical journals. I kept a file of those.

The laser link served as our sluggard interstellar internet. The material that I
had sent back to Earth was published and attracted a bit of a following. Few
realized that the real author was on a spaceship traveling to Proxima
Centauri and not a retired professor. I learned from reading old news reports
that my Earthbound self lived on for another few years, died peacefully, and
was buried alongside my late wife.

I still ate my meals in the cafe near my quarters. I hated to eat alone and
invited some other solitary diners to join me. Soon we had a small group of
5 or 6 regulars that dined together. Considering the makeup of the crew,
most were attractive women. I had even played poker with some of them.
Contrary to their behavior at the poker table, they proved to be amiable
dinner companions. It would have been the fantasy of my life when I was a
teen to regularly eat dinner with four or five beautiful women but now I
found it difficult to hold up my end of the conversation. They talked of
fashion, music, and children. Hardly the important male topics of cars,
sports, and careers. From time to time the ships loud speaker system played
a concert of classical music. Featured artists were the Beatles and the
Who. On the Exodus 7 these were regarded as classical musicians. The only
time I could contribute my two cents worth was when we got on the subject
of politics. Everyone had an opinion on that. I really missed Riva. At least
we shared common musical tastes.

I did build up a rapport with one of the ladies. Her name was Aisha. I had
never heard that name before so I asked her about it. She seemed happy to
tell me. It seems that a woman named Aisha had an important role in early
Islamic history, both during Muhammad's life and after his death. In Sunni
tradition, Aisha is thought to be scholarly and inquisitive. She contributed to
the spread of Muhammad's message and served the Muslim community for
44 years after his death.

On the Exodus 7 Aisha looked just like everyone else, attractive and beige
complexioned. In her previous life she had been an agronomist from South
Africa. Aisha said that she didnt mind her android appearance. In South
Africa she would not have been considered a beauty, even by African men.
She had just about despaired of finding a husband. Her previous persona had
been fat, had uneven teeth, and a bad complexion. In fact, to gain attention,
she confessed that she had been somewhat promiscuous. She suspected that
one of her lovers had given her AIDS. She jumped at the opportunity to have
her mind recorded. It would give her a second chance to live her life whle

her earthly body wasted away. The escape project needed agronomists and
Aisha was more than willing to offer her services.

Because of my farm background we had somethings common to talk about.

She had been involved in getting corn to grow in the Transvaal. When I
mentioned that my grandfathers farm had 80 acres of corn, her eyes lit up.
We discussed, among other things, the types of fertilizer, yield per acre,
benefits of corn varieties and other stuff only of interest to a farmer.

Torpor at the end of my tour was uneventful. I was given a drink of sweet
tasting liquid, essentially a powerful laxative to empty my bowels and was
then connected to an IV tube. I lay down on the clinic cot and before I could
count to ten, I was fast asleep. Then I was transferred to a coffin like
container where all my needs would be attended to by the monitoring
computer. It measured my temperature, my nutritional needs, the oxygen
level in my blood and made the appropriate adjustments. I was a baby in the
womb again and it was my momma.

In the midst of a pleasant dream which I cant remember, I was shaken

awake. It was Riva attending to my needs. Just like the first time.

Wake up, Professor London. We need your advice.

This seemed to be a very formal tone from a woman with whom I had been
frequently intimate. But then I saw that she was not alone. The room seemed
to be crowded with a number of people from the management staff. I made
my ablutions, splashed a little water on my face, and prepared myself to
listen to their concerns.

One woman. whom I recognized as a senior bridge officer, stepped forward

and said, The radar has picked up a large unidentified object almost in our
flight path. It is at the extreme limit of the radar range and we cant make out
what it is. All we know is that it is very big. Because we are still
accelerating, we are slowly catching up to it.

It is something we hadnt expected. said another. Do we alter our course

to avoid it or do we pass it close enough to explore?

My answer reflected my university orientation. I opted for a close flyby to

gather enough information to relay back to Earth. It might be essential for

the next mission. Who knows? Besides we had accelerated Exodus 7 long
enough. It was time to shut down the ion drive and coast before slowing
down enough to go into orbit around Proxima Centauri b. Captain Scotia
agreed. We would pass the unidentified object close enough to visually
inspect it and take a few samples.

Every day I went to the bridge to view the new object on the radar display. It
gradually became bigger. After a while I could see that it had an irregular
shape, almost a fragment of an asteroid. When we finally came close to it, I
could see that our assumption was right. It was a big, tumbling hunk of rock
several dozen kilometers in size with glistening spots on its surface. Its
speed matched ours closely. We would even have time to visit it before we
drew away.

A few crew members and I donned space suits to become an exploration

team. It was not like the old Startrek TV series where the Captain, Science
Officer, and Doctor always made up the away team. I suppose that we were
the most expendable persons aboard. Our shuttle craft made the short flight,
about 15 minutes, to get to the asteroid. The pilot fired a harpoon into the
asteroids surface to serve as the anchor. The exploration team wandered
over the surface, stepping very carefully. Because of the asteroids low
gravity, a misstep might hurl the team member into space.

We chipped away a few interesting chunks of rock and confirmed that it was
an asteroid, perhaps even a hunk of proto-planet from our solar system that
had collided with some bigger rock and was launched on its journey. Its
high velocity was probably the result of having been flung into space by the
slingshot effect of the gravitational field of some large planet, maybe Jupiter.

Space must be littered with the remnants of planetary formation but this was
the first that we had found so far from the Solar system. Every rock sample
was cataloged and placed into a collection bag for later analysis. Captain
Scotia felt that it would give the crew something to do. The decks were
getting worn out from all that holystoning.

Our exploration team identified the glistening areas as frozen pools of water
ice. That was fortunate. The Exodus 7s water supply was getting low and a
few hundred tons of ice would replenish it. But getting the ice from the
tumbling asteroid to our ship was the problem. Fortunately I had the answer
for this one. Admittedly low tech, but it was an answer.

After my wife and I had moved to the Hudson Valley I learned that there was
a boatyard up river that manufactured fishing boats even in the dead of
winter. But the frozen river was a sheet of ice and the market was in New
York City, almost 100 miles down stream. The boats were too big to send by
truck or train. The yard solved the problem in an ingenious way. As the ice
broke up in the spring, large floes of ice would start their journey
downstream. The yard would position each boat behind an ice floe about the
size of a city block, throw a tow rope onto the ice, and freeze it to the surface
by buckets of water. The ice block would drift downstream, towing the
newly built boat and clear the way of all river debris. In a couple of weeks
the boats would reach their market. The crew would release the tow rope and
the boats would be sold. The boatyard claimed that they had been using this
strategy for almost a century and hadnt lost a boat.
We used the same technique to get the ice to the Exodus 7. The geologist
planted dynamite charges to blast a large chunk of ice away from the
asteroid. We froze a long towrope to the surface. Then a portable winch
slowly tugged the hunk of ice to our ship. In space the weight of the ice
chunk didnt matter. It was just the inertia. We compensated for the
additional drag on our speed by running the ion drive a bit longer. The
melted ice replenished our water supply. We even had enough water for an
occasional shower.

Riva and I celebrated with ice cold drinks. The next morning I confessed to
her that she was the only woman I had been intimate with on the Exodus 7.
We kept each other more than satisfied. Perhaps, I thought, we should make
it permanent. I know that marriage had fallen out of fashion on our starship.
With a 9 to 1 sex ratio, expecting fidelity would be impossible. But I
proposed anyway. And she turned me down.

Max she said, things are very good the way they are. Lets keep it that
way. I really like you but I suspect that it was the proposal of one old fogy to
another. When we start the reproductive phase of the mission Ill have to
have intercourse with almost every man aboard. And you will have to sleep
with dozens of women. I know that it will be just our android bodies but Im
not sure how a long a marriage would last under those circumstances, even if
one of my children was yours. You know that you are welcome in my arms
any time you want. When we land, if we feel the way we do now, we can
talk about it again.

So that was my attempt at a proper proposal. Well, I tried.

By now the Exodus 7 had been traveling through space for a number of
Earth years and the Sun was still there. It had not expanded. Every time I
went to the bridge I looked at it though our telescope. The Suns
temperatures had even fallen off slightly. Obviously the prediction of an
imminent solar explosion was far off. But how had so many scientists and
astronomers been wrong?

I want back to my cache of news reports and technical papers and found that
I was not the only one that harbored doubts. At first a trickle of studies
showed that the variation in solar temperatures, although rare, was possible.
Indeed it had happened several times in Earths history. But other studies
voiced more serious doubts.
After World War Three the economy of Earth slipped into recession. The UN
mandate banning armament production cost millions of jobs. War is a great
accelerator of economies. Large quantities of material are built and then
destroyed. Economists have documented that it was only the entrance of the
USA into WW2 that pulled it out of depression. The movers and shakers of
the worlds economies had decided that society needed a moral equivalent of
war to continue its slow spiral of growth. What better way to foster industry
than by building large expensive projects and shooting them off into space.
Whether they ever accomplished their mission was unimportant. It was the
building that counted. It was a distortion of Keynesian economic theory. But,
what the hell, it might work.

The idea of the Sun going nova met the criterion of a universal catastrophe
that all nations could get behind. I dont know quite how the idea was
hatched. Perhaps it was formed at a meeting of the Bilderburg group or some
like conference of high level movers and shakers. Scientists had been
predicting that the future of the human race is dependent of its becoming a
multiplanet species. Why not harness that concept as the moral equivalent of
war. Except that the planets of the solar system are too close. Earthlings
would be able to see success or failure.

Building very expensive spaceships and sending them off to the stars would
assure that humans in the future should become an interstellar species.
Factories would be kept busy. People would be employed. Scientific
discoveries made. Vast funds would be distributed to the worlds economies.
It would be like the early days of the space program. No one would know if
the project is successful but it is the attempt that counts. Yes, there may loss
of life. Still, the fatality rate would be a tiny fraction of the losses in a real

war. Losing a dozen spaceships with an estimated crew of 1000 persons each
is only half the losses of the the defense of Stalingrad. It was considered a
minor price to pay for a prosperous world.

World leaders concurred. Leading astronomers were coopted and their data
fudged to make it look as if the Sun were about to go nova. Stories were
planted in major news media and scientific publications. The UN took it
upon itself to push the interstellar escape program. The US Congress was
convinced. The aerospace community leaped in with both feet. And, most
important, all involved kept quiet about the deception. So the interstellar
program was launched.
Only now, over 60 years after the deception occurred did people recognize
that it was a gigantic scam. The world and most of the scientific community
had been deceived.

To say that the news of the deception was unsettling to the crew of Exodus 7
is an understatement. We were livid - but what could we do? We were
coasting toward an unknown future on Proxima Centauri b without a means
of return. The ion drive had insufficient power to get us back even with the
extended lifespan of the current crew members. Turning the ship around and
using the ion drive to return to Earth would take almost 1000 years. Our only
recourse was to continue on and try to make the best of it.

Captain Scotia was remarkable. A truly excellent leader. She discussed the
situation with the crew and laid out the options. We met in small groups and
talked about it as well. Eventually we all came to the same conclusion. We
had to go on. Fortunately the voyage planners knew nothing about the scam
and, so far, most of their decisions had been correct. The ship was sound. We
had ample supplies. Our society was reasonably stable.

Riva and I maintained our quasi married status for the remainder of her shift.
We didnt actually move in together but she spent more time in my quarters
than she did in her own. Every time we made love I mentally thanked the
genetic engineers who configured her body. They surely knew what would
turn men on. The women aboard might not have known how attractive they
were but the genetic engineers did. If they had been privy to the deception
they certainly sugarcoated the reproductive aspects of it.

Just before she entered torpor we had a long discussion about my proposal.
She confessed that she really wanted to marry me but was afraid that the
relaxed sexual attitudes required for population buildup might get in the
way. She said that she had seen something similar happen in Israel in the
aftermath of the second war with Iran. She suggested that while she was
hibernating I have sex with other women. If I still felt the same way about
her after she awoke we might reconsider the proposal.

I had an epiphany while I was talking about marriage. Obviously the genetic
engineers had figured out relationships like ours ahead of time. They
realized that the emotions of guilt, envy, jealousy and love all had major
somatic components buried in our genetic makeup. Evolution created those
emotions to foster pair bonding as an aid to species survival. Without them
families would rarely form and children would be pretty much left on their
own to live or die. In addition to endowing us with a heightened sex drive to
foster a population explosion prior to arrival, the genetic engineers had
removed many of the genes from our DNA responsible for the somatic
consequences of envy, jealousy, and guilt.

Riva must have known all about it but she never told me. I cherished my
relationship with her but I used my new insight to satisfy my lust with
several readily available women while she was in torpor. I even had a brief
affair with Aisha. Riva might have been doing the same thing when I was
asleep. It was something we never discussed. Its best not to talk about some

I spent the next few weeks carefully considering the various options of
successfully colonizing our new planetary home. Proxima Centauri b was
gravity locked. One side faced the sun continuously, the other side was dark.
Even though the sun was a red dwarf the temperatures on the side facing it
would be extremely hot. The dark side would be very cold. The tenuous
atmosphere modified the temperature extremes a but but the only livable
zone was the terminator, the band encircling the planet between the hot and
cold sides. Proxima Centauri b had a circumference slightly greater than
Earths, about 25,000 miles. The planet rocked slightly in orbit so the
terminator was about 200 miles wide, giving a total possible living area of 5
million square miles.

Naturally much of the land would be unsuitable for homesteading. There
were areas of water, mountains, and swamps. The terminator temperatures
ranged from near freezing next to the dark side and near boiling next to the
sunny side. I estimated that people could live on half the area, a region as big
as the continental United States. That was certainly enough land to colonize
for the population we expected to have. Assuming that the air was
breathable, the water was drinkable, and that our plants would grow, the
colony might have a chance of success.

Armed with my portfolio of information I set forth on my weekly discussion

with Captain Scotia. My conferences with Captain Scotia usually lasted a
couple of hours. One of the advantages of normal life on the Exodus 7 is that
we had plenty of time.

Our meeting started out in the usual way. We talked about the modifications
we would make to the life support systems to facilitate survival after
planetfall. Both of us knew that it was many years away but it never hurts to
start planning early.

The next day the Captain gave her long awaited talk. It was carried on the
large computer display in the common room, on all the desktop computer
screens and on all the hand held devices that most of us carried. It was
virtually impossible to miss.

She started by saying that the reproductive cycle was about to start. It may
seem early but the babies would have to reach the age of 20 before landing.
This was what Riva had told me the night before. The males on board would
be asked to impregnate the available women. After the babies were born the
woman would be allowed to rest and heal for three months before going
back into the reproductive pool. Captain Scotia included herself as well. She
went on to say that the ships population would be primarily female at first
but, with half the new births being male, after several generations a normal
sex ratio would be achieved.

The details of the program were spelled out. Women became fertile about 13
times a year. When a woman became fertile she would be assigned to a
specific man to be impregnated. The men on board would be asked to have
intercourse 117 times during the course of a year, about once every three
days. There was little discretion in the assignment. It was based on the
computers calculation of genetic diversity. After a woman became pregnant

she would be relieved of her duties for the last trimester until the baby was
born. Then she would be allowed a period to recover. If a woman became
pregnant just before entering torpor she would be kept awake until the baby
was born. The she would be put to sleep until the end of her hibernation
period. The babies would be cared for in a nursery or creche. Theoretically
no one should know who parented each child.

Since the reproductive phase of the voyage would be on us. I spent much of
my time setting up the educational process of the ship. Because of work
responsibilities and torpor the new babies would be cared for in large
nurseries rather than by their biological parents. After they became toddlers
they would attend a play school or kindergarten. The children were cared for
by specially trained workers in a supportive environment. Parents worked
during the day and half the time they would be in torpor. The children would
not hibrenate so then would devekop the normal way. Primary and
secondary school would follow a traditional model of classroom plus hands
on education.

We would start teaching math as early as kindergarten. By middle school

most of the students would be computer experts. Thats not much of a
stretch. Most kids know more about computers than their parents. Some of
the adults had been teachers in their former life and they would be recruited
for the effort.

The relatively small number of students suggested that college should be

built on the English, or rather the European, model with small classes and
personal guidance by an experienced person in the field to be mastered. The
detailed educational plan was presented it to the governing council who
approved it with slight modification. But it would be several years before it
could be put into force. We had to have the babies first.

But that was a long way off. By the time the students were ready to graduate
the Exodus 7 would have reached Proxima Centauri b. Then the real work of
colonizing the planet would begin. I suspect that the first task would be to
think of a better name to call our new home than Proxima Centauri b.

Riva had pulled strings to get her shift and mine to coincide. Other members
of the crew began to think of us as a pair. We would have two years at a
stretch together and we were determined to make the most of our time.

A couple of weeks before the end of our shifts she said to me, Max, we
have to talk about what comes next. Our reproductive phase is about to start.
Building the population is essential if we are to successfully colonize the
planet. Every woman will have to have at least two children. You and I will
have to have babies with other people. I dont know how you feel about it
but I dont want it to make a difference in our relationship. Our bodies may
be freely used by others but our minds are our own.

So soon? I answered. I thought that it would be near the end of the


You forget, the children will have to be about 20 years old before we get
there. They wont be aged in an incubator like us. Theyll have to grow and
mature the normal way. Captain Scotia will give a briefing to the crew in a
day or so.

She went on, Now I know that you have slept with other women while I
was in torpor. Did you enjoy it? Did you feel guilty afterward?
I blushed. How had she found out? Then I admitted that I had had a few
affairs which I enjoyed and that I didnt feel guilty afterwards. But I assured
her that I had been thoroughly faithful to her when we were both awake.
Riva told me in a very matter of fact way that when I was hibernating she
also had sex with a couple of the crew members, both male and female. At
first she did it to try out her new body but then said that she liked the
sensations that her augmented libido gave her. She also confessed that she
had been intimate on several occasions with Captain Scotia.

We both knew that our shift was ending and we didnt know how much
longer we could maintain our menage a duo life style. We were both aware
that with the reproduction phase starting there would be a considerable strain
on our relationship. I would be required to fornicate with many women the
first cycle, Riva with at least a dozen different men. Not that the experience
would be unpleasant. The younger members of the crew might enjoy it but
we were mentally old people whose views on fidelity were different.
As usual, Riva came up with a solution, or at least a partial solution, to the

I checked the records, she said, and I seem to be the only person on
Exodus 7 trained in pediatric medicine. In a few years we will have a lot of
young children aboard so they need me. Captain Scotia suggested that I have

one child in the first go around and then wait until the end to see if any more
are required. I think Ill take her up on that offer.

The idea was to get Riva pregnant before our torpor would start. In the
meantime we carried out our regular tasks. I met with Captain Scotia on a
weekly basis. The last time I visited her, I ran into Riva coming out of the
Captains quarters. She was breathing hard.

Before you say anything, I have to confess that Captain Scotia and I just
had sex with each other. She consented to my having only one child and
making love to her was how she wanted to be thanked. I love you but you
really should sleep with her. She needs a man, not a woman. Promise me that
you will - and then you can tell me all about it.

We kissed and she left. Attitudes are much different on Exodus 7 than they
were in the world I was raised in. I could see that the Captain was still
perspiring a bit. She must have had quite a passionate session before I came

Captain Scotia said, Riva is very sexy. We enjoyed each other but she is
very aggressive. I dont see how you can sleep with her every night and still
function. I think it is unfair that Riva has you all to herself.

How do you know I sleep with her every night?

When I was a cruiser captain I had 800 sailors under my command and I
knew each one by name. Now I only have 160 and half of them are in
hibernation. There is very little that happens aboard Exodus 7 that I dont
know about.

Riva and I entered torpor the next week, Riva a few days before me.
Proxima Centauri was still a speck on the view screen. We would have an
estimated 22 years of travel before we would reach it. My last thoughts as I
drifted off to sleep was wondering how many of the crew would have signed
up if they had known that the trip would take so long.

Two things had happened while I was in torpor. First several of the probes
that we had launched had returned with detailed information on Proxima
Centauri b. All of the astronomical facts were correct. The planet was 1.3
times larger than Earth but the density was a bit lower. The surface gravity

was almost exactly the same as Earths gravity. The planet was indeed tidally
locked to its sun just like the moon was to Earth. One side always faced the
star. It orbited about seven million miles from Proxima Centauri but since
the star was much dimmer than Earths sun the average temperature was
tolerable. The side of the planet facing the star had a temperature more than
hot enough to boil water while the back side was frozen in a perpetual ice
age. Water could stay liquid in the 200 mile wide terminator. There was a
thin atmosphere, about half the density of that of Earths, which moderated
the temperature extremes. The thin atmosphere was breathable. Sherpas on
Earth breathed less dense air and climbed Mt. Everest to boot. It might take
several months to become fully acclimated but we could do it. The surface
was rugged with valleys and hills which indicted some internal planetary
activity. There was evidence of lava tubes and large underground caves. The
caves, hills and valleys would provide some shielding from the solar wind
and radiation streaming from the star. In short, it would prove a habitable,
although difficult place to live.

The probes were still in pretty good condition. One of the agronomists
aboard suggested using them to partially terraform the planet. She suggested
sending them on a return trip loaded with the seeds of plants which could be
useful. We were obviously contaminating the planet but our objective was to
have a place to live, not a place to study. Despite my academic orientation, I
agreed with her. The probes were returned to the planet stuffed with fern
seeds, grasses, algae spores, and the seeds of softwood trees and rapidly
growing self pollenating fruit trees. The probes had instructions to deposit
the seeds in suitable areas on the terminator. The plants had 20 or more years
to grow. We didnt really anticipate finding a jungle when we arrived but we
hoped that some of the plants would thrive.

The second event was unexpected. Riva, who had awakened before me, took
me by the hand and led me to the nursery. A flaxen haired boy, about 13
months old, took a few awkward steps toward her and clutched her legs.

Max, she said, meet your son. Apparently you got me pregnant the last
night before I entered torpor. As soon as the medical technicians discovered
that I was pregnant, they woke me up and allowed me to give birth normally.
Fortunately the genetic engineers made giving birth to a baby pretty easy. It
was almost trivial compared to having my son and daughter. Then I was put
back to sleep for the remainder of my session. The baby has no formal name.
It was considered best if the biological parents remained anonymous but I

used my medical password to get the DNA records. We will name all the
children in a gala ceremony but he is definitely our son. How about that?
Centenarians becoming parents.

Now that our population growth period was starting, Riva and I had to
reconsider our living arrangements. All the men on board would be required
to sleep with two or three different women a week. Despite already having
had a baby, Riva would have intercourse with a different guy monthly. She
was still on birth control so she wouldnt get pregnant. She told me that she
didnt want to be perceived as different from the rest of the crew but I think
she liked the sex. Why should I have all the fun?

Three rooms had been set aside for copulation. They were secluded from the
main traffic routes aboard ship. All were decorated nicely and had lights that
could be dimmed to provide complete darkness if the couple so decided. A
nice soft bed was standard equipment. Rather than give them imaginative
names like Garden of Eden, Lovers Lane, or Paradise the rooms were
simply labelled A, B, and C. No soul, it was strictly business.

Women were scheduled for servicing by the ships medical computer.

When a woman was fertile she was asked to report to room A, B, or C, no
questions, no exceptions. We 16 men were simply scheduled in rotation
about two or three times a week. Again, no questions asked. I was certainly
not a virgin but most of my previous seductions had involved wining and
dining and a lot of romantic talk. Here we were ushered into a darkened
room, asked to disrobe and go about our business. Thanks to the enhanced
libido provided by the genetic engineers, we did.

Every partner was different. Some ladies, even while bucking and thrashing
in the throes of orgasm, tried, usually unsuccessfully, to keep their
composure and not show their obvious pleasure at being romanced. Some
simply enjoyed sex. Some had already had several babies. I really couldn't
tell much about the women from the configuration of their bodies. Both
genetic engineering and the mandatory physical fitness program on the ship
kept them in good condition.

Most women cooperated fully. They held me tight, kissed me, stroked me,
and wanted me to hold and squeeze their bodies. They usually had orgasms
and a few even told me when they were climaxing. I was being used, of
course, but for our mutual pleasure as well as conception. Prolonged

abstinence builds up a strong sex hunger. A few were so aggressive that I
was totally exhausted by the end of the session.

I cant say that making love to so many women was the hardest task I ever
had. Having intercourse with three different Playboy Bunnies a week was
hardly a chore. Im sure Riva didnt like the disparity in our romantic lives.
After every one of my visits to a copulation chamber she reminded me what
sex between lovers was really like by seducing me.

Even though Riva assured me that the lively toddler in the nursery was mine
and said the DNA evidence proved it, I still harbored masculine doubts. She
could have slept with several of the men aboard after I was in torpor. I guess
Im just a typical jealous man after all.

I had little time to worry. There were soon more babies than the birth
mothers on the ship could handle. Half of the babies were boys, the other
half, girls. While there were still more women than men aboard, the ratio
was now closer to equality. Nursery homes, essentially collective homes
staffed by full-time attendants, raised the babies through their first years.

I mentioned that all the newborns would be named in a gala ceremony. Up o

now they were simply called baby 1, baby 2, baby 3. etc. I suspect that the
Captain wanted to host other party and this was a good excuse. The
ceremony was held in one of our large common rooms. Paper slips with a
random selection of names were placed in a large bowl, pulled out one by
one, and assigned to the next baby in line. True to tradition boys names
were on blue slips, girls names on pink slips. The ceremony was punctuated
by drinks and goodies brought out from the galley. A good time was had by

It was refreshing to hear the laughter of children again. We had more or less
grown used to an adult society but now we had kids running around. Before
embarking we used to make jokes about children being rug rats but we
sorely missed them. Telling stories to a three year old is a wonderful
experience. It frees up the imagination.

A couple of other things. Two years before landing we gave up hibernation.

Not that it was a bad idea but we needed all hands for settlement of our new
home. All the equipment necessary for maintaining a person in torpor was
carefully stored. We also gradually changed the air pressure and the gravity

aboard the Exodus 7 to be more like that of our new home. This would give
us a couple years to accommodate to the Proxima Centauri b environment.
Mount Everest climbers had only a couple of weeks. We had two years to

Now the ship seemed much more crowded. In addition to an effective

doubling of the adult population we had scores of children ranging from
toddlers to teen agers running around. I was requested to give up my large
quarters and moved to a smaller room, which I called my office, closer to
the command room. It was altogether fitting. My new room seemed more
cozy. It was only a fraction of the size of my previous room but had room for
a bed, closet, kitchenette, chair, table and computer. Four people now lived
in my old quarters.

Incidentally by this time we had stopped referring to our destination as

Proxima Centauri b. By informal consent most of the crew were calling it
Terra Nova or new Earth. It was simply easier to say.

As head of Education it was my responsibility to establish pre-schools,

kindergartens, grade schools, secondary schools, and eventually colleges. I
had served for ten years on a local school board but I would be the first to
admit that I had little knowledge of the mechanics of running a nursery
school or a grade school. Fortunately I found a few crew members who had
been grade school and high school teachers who knew exactly what to do.
My management instructions were simply to say Do it. Post secondary
education was on the European model with seminars of half a dozen students
absorbing the wisdom of trained experts in their fields.

At one of our meetings we even contemplated starting a university. It was

great hubris on our part since we wouldnt have enough students for may
years. It would be the first extra terrestrial university, more that 1000 years
newer than Oxford, one of the first universities on Earth. We even coined a
slogan for the University of Terra Nova. It was Intellectus, Sapientia,
Scientia. Intelligence, wisdom, and science for those whose Latin is a bit
rusty. During our discussion one of the teachers of Italian heritage casually
dropped the word that the University of Bolognia was several decades older
than Oxford. It was embarrassing but we felt uneasy about comparing our
new hypothetical university to a college that sounded like a delicatessen

Given the regulated birth rate it was relatively easy to set up a classroom
schedule. After the first few years we would have about 25 new students
every semester. We could start with two kindergarten classes. The next year
we could add two first grade classes, and so on. Education was constant. We
werent tied to a farm economy where kids were expected to be free in the
summer to work in the fields. I recruited every crew member who had been a
teacher at some point in their lives and gave them a few lectures on
pedagogy. Actually many knew more than me. You dont have to pass an
academic certification exam to be a college teacher.

By cobbling together several rooms, books, and computers we managed to

set up a reasonably functional school system covering most facets of
education from kindergarten though junior college. We had no gym or
swimming pool but neither did the hypothetical little red schoolhouse that
was our model. Implementing a school system was easy because we
anticipated only a total enrollment of 500 spread over 20 years. I was proud
of the way it worked though most experienced educators would call it
primitive. I suppose it was but it served our needs.

The children who had been born in the first copulation period were now
almost 20. We called them pioneers. By the time we were ready to land we
should have a large group of pioneers trained in all the techniques
necessary for survival in unfamiliar terrain. We taught them everything we
knew. Of course what we didnt know was the problem.

At last we arrived at Proxima Centauri. It was indeed smaller and dimmer

than our Sun. Circling Proxima Centauri in a tight orbit was the planet
Proxima Centauri b, our new home. Riva and I sat together at one of the
view ports holding hands and wondered if the trip was worthwhile. Well, we
were here so we had to make the most of it. It would be a strange place to
live. Slightly bigger than Earth but with less gravity. A constant dim reddish
light like a permanent twilight. Plenty of rocks in the terminator zone. A
barely breathable atmosphere. But it would have to do. We couldnt go back

The Exodus 7 couldnt make a landing directly on the planet. The ships
structure was far too delicate to withstand Terra Novas gravity. It would be
kept in orbit and settlers would ferry themselves and supplies to the ground
by shuttle craft.

I suppose I should talk a bit about the shuttle craft themselves. Actually there
were three types. The first was essentially a sealed box with relatively low
powered thrusters. It was useful in outer space or in environments where
there was little gravity. We used these to investigate satellites and for in
flight observation of our ship. The range was about 100 kilometers.

The second type of shuttle was analogous to an ocean ships lighter. It was
designed for a one way trip in a high gravity environment. It was a sealed
conical container modeled after the Apollo capsule but much larger. The flat
lower surface of the shuttle had a heat resistant surface. A few thruster rocket
engines controlled attitude and a large parachute lowered it to the surface. It
was intended for ferrying people and supplies to a potentially habitable
planet. Since Proxima Centauri b had a gravity similar to that of Earth they
could only fly one way. There was no way they could carry enough fuel for a
return trip. One way only, like a WW2 landing craft. We had about 80 of
these affixed to the surface of Exodus 7. Thankfully there was no need for
streamlined aerodynamics in space.

The third type of shuttle craft was more of a suborbital airplane than a ships
lighter. We had four aboard that could actually make round trips to and from
the planet. They were loosely modeled after the Virgin Galactic aircraft that
flew into orbit from Earth in the early 21st century. These were essentially
high performance airplanes with a rocket propelled thrust module. The
airplane would fly as high as it could and the rocket was ignited to propel the
craft into orbit. On return it would glide down to the starting point using its
airplane wings. An onboard computer would fly the shuttle to and from its
destination. Each could hold about six people and, on the down trip, about
1000 kilos of supplies.

The star Proxima Centauri had the habit of shooting out plumes of x-rays,
gamma rays, and other noxious radiation from time to time. The radiation
level was many times greater than encountered on Earth. But we hoped the
radiation would be largely blocked by the planet. Not on the sun side, of
course. The dark side would be livable but the temperature would be
freezing cold. The extremes of the terminator were too hot or too cold to be
comfortable but the area near the center, shielded from much of the stars
radiation, would be pretty good. The essentials for establishing a colony
were water, food, shelter and some form of escape from radiation.

If we could not find suitable caverns to live in, any houses we constructed
had to provide both thermal insulation and a radiation blocking shield. One
of the crew members had been an architect whose practice was devoted to
small, off the grid houses. She suggested that water could be used. No, not
submerged houses but rather dwellings with a double wall on the side that
faced the sun. The cavity in the wall would be filled with water. Water is one
of the best radiation barriers. The exterior of the double wall would be
painted white to reflect the heat for those homes near the front of the
terminator and darker colors for those dwellings near the back of the
terminator. The water would be circulated through radiators to moderate the
temperature inside. It seemed like a good idea for passive climate control.
Whether it could handle a temperature range of nearly 100 degrees C was
yet to be seen but it was a start.

Prior to choosing a settlement site we sent down an exploratory team of

Pioneers to survey the livable portion of terminator. They were tasked
with identifying lakes, swamps, hills, and caves. Everything we could think
of. The Pioneers were young crew members who had come of age during the
20 year approach to the planet. Im sure that they were eager to be free of the
confines of the ship.

My young son was one of the group. I gave him my cherished multitool
Swiss Army knife before he left in case he ran into something that the
regular equipment couldnt handle. I had intended to give it to my son on
Earth before we left but it had slipped my mind. It was a symbolic gift from
my late wife but it meant something to me. The knife was one of the few
items included in the package of personal possessions that accompanied my
android body aboard the ship.

The Pioneers, all six of them, explored several sections of the terminator,
flitting from one to another in one of our flying shuttle craft. They reported
regularly, every time the Exodus 7 was overhead. We had pictures, maps,
temperature readings, and even estimates of soil suitability. Lewis and Clark
could have done no better.

We collected a sample of pictures and sent them back to Earth on our

interstellar internet. They would be the first closeup views of the planet. It
was good to know that the internet worked after two centuries. Our
communication was still conducted in English, not Chinese or Swahili.
Some things are still stable. We had little idea of who was in charge of Earth,

the various national governments, or the advnces in technology. Like the old
science fiction story Im sure that some of the crew even thought that on
arrival at Terra Nova we would be greeted by a brass band and people asking
What took you so long to get here?

We settled on a reasonably flat stretch of terrain on the cooler portion for our
first village. It was between a range of hills and a lake. The hills would
provide some shelter from solar plumes, the lake, water for drinking and
crops. To our surprise there was a constant wind which seemed to moderate
temperature extremes. Apparently the thin atmosphere was heated by the
sunlight on the hot side of the planet, rose and was replaced by colder air
from the cool side. The wind had the effect of moderating the climate of the
terminator zone. The average temperature of the chosen location was quite
tolerable, not too cold, not too hot. One of the Pioneers suggested that it was
probably too cold to run around naked but not cold enough to put on a

The area selected for our settlement, was reasonably flat with hills on the
sun side. It was perpetual bathed in the shadow of the hills. Thats the good
part. The geologists who picked the location told me that the hills would
provide good shielding against the solar radiation. Because the planet was
phase locked to its sun the dim illumination was constant. There was no
night, no morning, no seasons. The climate was, and always would be the

I looked up the literature on how people coped with life in places where the
sun never set in the summer. Like Alaska or above the Arctic Circle. The
answer seemed to be to keep a regular hourly schedule. In other words live
by the clock. Eat meals at the same time and go to bed at the same time
regardless of the position of the sun. It just took some personal discipline.
But I suppose it wasnt a real problem for those urbanites who were raised in
The City That Never Sleeps.

On a personal note, Riva and I kept our menage a duo together although, if
the truth must be told, we slept together less frequently. It was still just as
exciting but we had far more demands on our time now. She was the only
pediatrician for several hundred children and I was deeply involved in both
setting up the new colony and managing our increasingly complex
educational system. To complicate matters, Captain Scotia died soon after

The demise of crew members was expected for new settlements. Half the
Pilgrims died during the first winter on Plymouth Rock. We never thought
that one of the first casualties would be the Captain. But even Captain Cook
died before the end of his circumnavigation.

Death for androids was comparatively uneventful, at least compared to

normal humans. Most diseases had been eliminated by moification of the
genome so death was usually the result of the biological clock running
down. The person became increasingly fatigued and sept longer hours. It
was not uncommon for androids to sleep 12 hours a day near the end.
Eventually they did not wake up. Like the one horse shay everything was
simply worn out.

Riva checked the medical records and it turned out that Captain Scotia had
never hibernated during the voyage. She was too dedicated to her work.
Apparently she had stayed on duty the entire time. No wonder she knew
everything that went on on Exodus 7. She had actually lived more that her
expected life span. Her death was inconvenient. Like a good captain she had
seen the voyage to its successful end.

A few members of the bridge crew, Riva and I, held a quiet ceremony for
Captain Scotias funeral. She had been a friend and a competent captain
throughout the long voyage. Her aide produced a very well aged bottle of
single malt Scotch that Captain Scotia had hidden for just such an occasion.
We toasted her with small glasses of the golden ambrosia.

Captain Scotia was the first person to be actually buried on Terra Nova.
Rather than committing her body to the recycling apparatus we dug a real
grave and erected a small cairn of stones with a plaque engraved Millicent
Scotia - a Captain for the ages. We expected that new cemetery would have
more bodies but hopefully none in the near future.

By now there were now about 400 prospective settlers on Terra Nova, half
young children. Most were on the planet itself but some were still aboard the
Exodus 7. On one of our town meetings we elected Amy Chen to be head
of state, mayor, boss or what have you. I must admit that it was a pretty
disorganized meeting. Captain Scotia had chaired all our town meetings
for many years and we were pretty much at a loss without her. Candidates
got nominated largely by acclaim. Even I was nominated but I had the good
sense to refuse. Eventually we settled on Amy. It was a wise choice.

Amy looked just like the rest of us but her credentials were impeccable. In
her prior life she had been deputy mayor of Hong Kong and had served very
well in that capacity. In fact the rumor was that she had actually run the city
but the Chinese government insisted that a politically loyal male figurehead
should occupy the top spot. Peking refused to acknowledge that a woman
could serve in that position. We had no such compunctions.

Another important topic discusssed in the town meetings was a revision of

our calendar. Terra Nova orbited Proxima Centauri once every 11.2 Earth
days. One side was always illuminated, the other dark. The terminator was
bathed in constant twilight. Obviously an Earth year would not do. Neither
would a week or a month. We had to establish a new metric for the passage
of time. The second, the minute, and the hour were too familiar to give up
but the year and the week became synonymous. Our week was now the
equivalent of five Earth days, then a holiday, then another five work days.
We simply abandoned the idea of a month and a year. Peoples age was
simply stated as the number of weeks they had lived. My age at embarking
on the trip could be calculated as 4,472 weeks. That makes me sound quite
ancient. Of course by now it would be considerably more.

We also gave our settlement a name, Terra Nova City. Of course the
population was that of a small town but the name sounds prestigious.

After a bumpy ride down in one of the cargo lighters, I took my first steps on
the grey, sandy soil of Terra Nova. I dont know what I expected. It was
certainly not Kansas, nor was it like the sand dunes of New Mexico. My foot
sank about two inches into a gritty dark sandlike substance that covered the
planets surface. There was enough light to see. It was sort of like just before
sunset on Earth. Rocks littered the landscape. The temperature was fairly
warm and there was a definite wind.

Most of the settlers landed piecemeal, a few dozen on each shuttle. The first
order of business was to find shelter and potable water. We selected a spot
for our settlement that was shielded from the direct rays of the star by a ridge
of foothills. Our first act was to put radiation detectors on the hills to warn
us about solar plumes. The landscape was riddled with lava tube tunels and
volcanic caves. They would provide shelter from radiation storms and
temperature extremes. They could be adequate living areas. There was a
even a bit of rudimentary foliage. Life had taken hold on Terra Nova but was
not robust. We could see adequately in the dim red light of the star and our

clothes would protect us both from temperature extremes and minor
radiation episodes. The terminator climate was fairly benign provided you
shielded yourself from the radiation of Proxima Centauri.

Now for the details on our settlement. This is fairly prosaic stuff. I dont ever
remember reading what the houses on Jamestown were like. All I remember
was John Smith and Pocahontas and most of that wasnt even true. But we
did build places in which to live, cobbled together a power grid, provide an
elementary sanitation system, and grow food to eat.

The first houses on Nova Terra were simply roofed over caves. There were
many caves and craters near the site that we had selected for our settlement.
It rarely rained on Terra Nova and the climate, was moderate, at least in the
area where we were located. The caves looked like the holes in a Swiss
cheese. They were attributed to some unexplained geological phenomenon,
probably gas bubbles when the planet was in a molten state. Im sure we
would learn more about it later but right now they were a welcome
convenience. The walls were glassy and smooth.

We all worked together to build enough housing for our compliment of

settlers.We had very little lumber but plenty of material from the landing
containers. Basically the problem was to provide roofs over the entrances of
gas bubbles. We simply sketched out the opening that we wanted to cover
then cut a section out of one of the shipping containers that would cover it.
Not architecture, just a lot of hard work.

One of the shipping containers was packed full of furniture, beds, chairs and
the like. Now that we had roofs over our heads we would need places to sit
and to sleep. Obviously the planners realized that everything had to collapse
into the minimum volume. At last the reason for the beach like appearance
of the furniture became clear.

Riva and I chose a bubble near the center of the complex. It was probably
larger than necessary but she wanted to use a portion of it for a medical
clinic. It saved her walking to work. The roof over the entrance was simply a
section of a large landing crate. The benign weather allowed us to dispense
with insulation and water tightness. We illuminated the interior with
electronic candles. These were clusters of LEDs attached to a small, high
capacity battery and were one of the the few Earth like artifacts that had not
changed in over 200 years. It is one of the hallmarks of the human species

that we tend to keep things which work well. Wax candles and spoons are
still being used after 3000 years of history. Im sure that some homes nearest
the hot and cold sides of the terminator were not as comfy as ours but they
would do.

A few daring souls built actual houses using rock walls and bigger panels
scavenged from the landing craft. While the cave dwellings were limited to
the size of the bubble, there was no limit to the size of a constructed house
provided you built a large enough water filled wall to afford radiation
shielding. Both Riva and my late wife preferred smaller homes to minimize
house cleaning chores. I sympathized.

Each time the Exodus 7 passed overhead it sent down a boxlike shuttle craft,
packed with supplies. Food, machinery, construction raw materials, and tools
made up the bulk of the cargo. As many passengers as could fit were
crammed on board. Each of the shuttle lighters was guided to a receiving
area by its own autopilot. Fortunately we didnt lose a one although there
were some close calls.

We had planned on using conventional solar cells to provide electricity but

the two down loaded atomic reactors could provide power until the solar
cells came on line. Eventually the atomic reactors would wear out, or at least
use up all their fuel, and we had no means of refueling. One enterprising
engineer suggested that since the sun side of the terminator was more than
hot enough to boil water we should feed the steam into the turbine generator.
A good idea but we wont have to do it for a few hundred years.
On a more practical note, the waste steam could heat our greenhouses to
provide food crops.

Soon after landing we erected the prefabricated greenhouses that we had

brought. Amy Chen designated a crew of twelve to do the job. It was one of
her first executive orders. The greenhouses were basically circus tents
covered with transparent plastic sheeting. Nothing novel. Similar structures
had been used in Iceland for at least 200 years. In Iceland they were kept
warm by geothermal heat. Here we simply used the water wall idea. Plants
were grown in hydroponic tubs without dirt. Proxima Centauri provided
constant light in the red portion of the spectrum. With the benefit of a
continuous growing season we could harvest enough food to feed the entire
colony. The idea of using a water filled wall to provide radiation protection

worked well. It could let the colony expand beyond the shielding of the

Feeding the population was another issue. Rather than putting full kitchens
in each dwelling we decided to have a communial dining room, just like a
cruise ship or an army base. The mess hall was in one of the larger caves.
We all assemble there to eat our main meals, all prepared by the experienced
chefs who had fed us during our long voyage. When we were done eating we
would simply move the tables out of the way and have a large meeting hall.

Compared to startup colonies on Earth, Terra Nova had few natural

resources. There were a few scrub trees that were the result of our seeding
attempt, little soil, no wildlife. But we had the residue of our downloading
effort. The large parachutes of the shuttle craft would provide enough high
quality fabric to clothe an army. Parachute cord would provide miles of rope.
The 80 boxlike containers could serve as emergency shelters for our
population until we could build some more houses. Even the metal paneling
of the packing cases could be put to use.

Just about everything that was not essential to the Exodus 7 was now on the
surface of the planet. Two complete atomic energy plants were pumping out
all the electricity that we could use. Our workshops could replicate almost
any device that we desired. Our repository of knowledge, our British
Museum and Library of Congress, had been copied and was transferred to
the planets surface where it could be accessed by laptops or the ubiquitous
hand held tablets.

The lake that bordered the colony was about 15 kilometers long and 6
kilometers wide, about the size of many of the smaller lakes in Scandinavia
and in the US midwest. Photographs taken by the Pioneers showed many
similar lakes in the planets habitable zone. The water was fairly fresh and
the lake could be seeded with edible fish. It would provide water for the
plants in the greenhouses and the few food plants that would grow in the
soil. I suppose in time we would actually make boats to sail the lakes but
right now we had enough on our hands just living on the shoreline.

The idea of sailing the lakes interested me. Sailing had been one of my
favorite hobbies. As an ex sailor I mentally planned boats that would be
suitable. The lake wasnt very big so nothing too large. Also the wind only
blew from the cold side of the terminator to the hot side so tacking wouldnt

be required. It was pretty simple, really. Hardly Americas Cup conditions. I
guess something like a big outrigger canoe with sails would do fine.

The soil was primarily regolith, essentially pulverized rock. It would take
several hundred years of crops to live, die, and decompose to make humus
similar to the dirt that surfaces Earth. Now only moss and lichen would grow
on it. All they need to survive is moisture, sunlight, and carbon dioxide.
While they couldnt be easily eaten they did provide oxygen for us to breath.

Riva and I found that we were spending only our evenings and bedtimes
together. She was the only pediatrician in the settlement which now had
several hundred children. The children had their usual share of scrapes,
bruises, stomach aches and dislocations. Some things never change. She was
was fully occupied.

There were two other medical doctors in our small population, one a GP, the
other an emergency room specialist. We also had a veterinarian and a couple
of nurses. The vet had to treat human patients since, at first, we had no
animals other than chickens. Riva tried to convince everyone that a vet had
to be smarter than an MD since the patients the vet usually dealt with
couldnt tell you where it hurt. The patients initially objected but soon
realized that she was more sympathetic than a regular doctor and provided
excellent care.

The dwindling stock of our medical supplies was a problem. We had no

possibility of getting modern antibiotics or equipment replacements.
Gradually our medical care was retreating to the late 1800s level. Except, of
course, for the knowledge. It was fortunate that many basic medicines were
derived from plants. A section of our greenhouse was devoted to raising
botanicals from which medicine could be extracted. Our library had several
books written two centuries ago which showed how to use plants for
medicine. One of the crew had been a compounding pharmacist in her
previous life and knew how to make drugs from plant leaves. The
modification of our DNA had removed the curse of genetic illnesses so most
medical treatment was for accidents or minor ailments. One advantage was
that we had good medical diagnostic equipment.

I kept busy solving basic living problems. I had been raised in a rural
community in the midwest so I was familiar with the problem of living in
harmony with the land. It was surprising to find that this was unusual

knowledge. Most of the settlers were city folk who knew enough to call the
superintendent when things didnt work, but very little else.

I think some of them didnt know which end of a hammer to hold.

Unfortunately, I did. I was constantly in demand to help build housing.
Thats occupational regression for you. From a rocket scientist to a rural
carpenter in one lifetime.

Cattle became our main beasts of burden. These were miniature zebu cattle
descended from the cattle worshiped in India. The tough beasts had been
bred to be half sized but almost as strong. They also ate less than a regular
sized cow but matured faster. Cattle are very useful animals. They serve man
in many ways even through they are outranked in humanitys esteem by
horses and dogs. Right after we landed we thawed some of the cattle
embryos, intending to raise and eat them. Many of the crew from North
America and Europe felt that we needed more beef in our diet. They soon
realized what remarkable creatures cattle were. Not only did they provide
beef, veal, milk, butter, cheese and leather, but mature cattle also provided
plenty of brute energy for plowing, hauling, and milling. Of course most of
the crew with Asian heritage realized this already. We found it far more
useful to let the cattle grow to the point where they could pull a wagon or
carry heavy burdens than to simply use them as a source of meat. They
would be butchered when they could no longer pull a cart.

This was a two century regression in agriculture. On our midwest farm we

used tractors to do all the heavy work. Maybe in a few years we could
develop them for Terra Nova but right now the cattle seemed our best option
since there wasnt much plowing. We used electric motors and batteries for
most tasks but it was hard to rig them up to pull heavy loads. Fortunately the
cows found the mosses and lichen edible and they would eat and digest the
husks and skins of our greenhouse crops. They also provided fertilizer which
was excellent for plant growing when mixed with the regolith soil. We could
subsist on chicken instead of tough stringy beef for a while. I like cows
myself and our vet finally felt that she could do something suited to her

Our sanitary arrangements were right out of the 1800s. We used cesspools
and latrines located downwind of the living area. Fortunately the wind was
constant and always blew in one direction. We dumped our edible waste into
the latrines as well. In time we accumulated a sizable heap of compost that

we mixed with the regolith to make a pretty decent soil. Surprisingly, after a
month of aging it didnt smell too bad. It takes plenty of compost to turn
rock dust into a garden. Plants grew well in it if they were properly watered.
The vegetables were delicious if you didnt think too hard about where they
came from. I suppose in time we would have a community septic system and
perhaps even decent sewers but that was the future. Im sure our primitive
arrangements disturbed many people who were used to modern sanitation
systems. It didnt bother me too much. We had no better on Grandpas farm.

Small internal combustion engines powered tools in remote locations. These

were not quite like the gasoline engines used in the past. Three dimensional
printers made very simple and small two cycle engines which ran on a
mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gas contained in pressure bottles. With
plenty of electrical power, decomposition of water into its elements
provided fuel. The small engines were used to run tools like chain saws and
drills which were used far from electrical connection points. Water was the
only exhaust product. Hydrogen was the universal fuel. We had sufficient
electricity to make as much of it as we needed.

Electric battery technology had improved quite a bit over the last two
centuries. When the Exodus 7 departed Earth it took about 20 kilograms of a
conventional storage battery to hold the energy of a tumbler full of gasoline.
Now it took only one kilogram of battery to hold the same amount of energy.
This was still too much for pocket tools but it was a start. The easiest way to
distribute the energy of our atomic plants was to run wire between the places
where it would be needed. Fortunately one of our supplies was spools of
electrical wire. We had plenty of it. We adopted the USA standard of 120
volt, 60 cycle AC because most of our equipment would run on it. For
remote power we simply charged up a battery and then took it to the place
where the power would be used. I called it our wheelbarrow electrical grid.

It became an odd society, a 19th century economy based largely on

agriculture with 22nd century knowledge. Some felt that it was the best of
both worlds. I liked it myself. There was plenty of room to move around
provided you used simple precautions to avoid radiation. Riva compared it
to the early days in Israel. It had a lot in common with the freedom of the old

One problem was what to do with the Exodus 7 after crew and supplies were
offloaded. At first we intended that the ship would stay in orbit with a small
maintenance crew. It would be like a beneficent shepherd ready to help out
in any emergency. But that was not to be.

The Exodus 7, while the most reliable spaceship ever constructed, wasnt
intended to tolerate the continuous radiation that it would encounter if it
stayed in orbit around the planet. Electronic equipment would gradually fail
and would eventually become unresponsive. Besides, all the supplies and
equipment that would be of use on Terra Nova had already been landed.

We had four real choices. First, we could use the Exodus 7 to continue our
exploration of stars in the Alpha Centauri region to see if other planets could
support life. This would take many years and the chance of success was
minimal. Second, we could leave the ship in orbit as an ultimate resource
knowing that it would deteriorate and eventually crash to the planets
surface. Third, we could return the ship to Earth now that we knew that the
Sun would probably not go nova. Finally, we could put the ship in an orbit
far enough away from Proxima Centauri to escape most of the radiation,
knowing the it would not be available for immediate use. It could be used as
an ultimate escape vehicle if the colony went sour.

After a lot of discussion we voted to reject the last alternative. While we

might consider the ship in distant orbit as a deus ex machina ready to save
us if things went drastically wrong, using it would be admitting defeat. On a
practical basis it couldnt support the colony for more than a few months,
not enough time to get anywhere.

We decided to send the Exodus 7 back to Earth loaded with observations and
samples from Terra Nova. Another group of settlers might be able to use
much of what we had learned. Two of the four atomic reactors had been
transported to the surface of Terra Nova as well as the bulk of the
instruments but there was still enough power onboard to go back to Earth in
reasonable safety. But we could still make some additional use of the Exodus
7. The cargo holds intended to hold the supplies for the new colony were
empty. The metals contained in their structure represented a big chunk of
resources for the settlers.

I reluctantly accepted a new assignment of spaceship undesign. I had to
identify the portions of the ship that were superfluous and direct a crew to
cut them away. We did this with torches, power saws, and a few chisels. I
know that we left some ragged edges. The habitable areas, the control center,
and the ion drive bay were still space worthy. The Exodus 7 no longer
looked like an illustration in Aerospace magazine. More like an escapee
from some interplanetary junk yard.

The removed sections were jettisoned so that they would fall to Terra Nova
within a few miles of the settlement. They would make a valuable trove of
aluminum, steel, plastic and copper for the settlers to use until they could
develop the resources of the planet.

Ion drives had improved considerably in the 200 years that had elapsed on
Earth since our launch. We had made some of the advances ourselves and
learned of a few on our interstellar internet. With most of the crew and
supplies gone the Exodus 7 was quite a bit lighter than at takeoff. This
reduced mass allowed the trip back to Earth to be made in about a quarter of
the time it took to get here. If we kept the drive going long enough the
increased thrust would let us achieve an average of 10% of light speed.

A few people and a couple of the maintenance crew decided to guide the
ship on its return voyage. There were two other men besides me, both in
their 20s and 15 women. Our medical needs would be met by a medical
trainee, one of the students apprenticed to the emergency room doctor. She
should have learned enough by now. I guess there were 18 people in all,
enough to handle the ship. Even the Mayflower was sent back to England.

By a unanimous vote of the crew of the Exodus 7, I was elected captain for
the return trip to Earth. This seemed to me a polite way of saying that I was
no longer needed on Terra Nova. The new school system was well
established and some former teachers who actually knew how to manage a
school were in charge. Space ship design, my area of technical expertise,
was now irrelevant. The only person who really regretted my departure was
Riva. She couldnt accompany me because her skills and training were
sorely needed on the planet. She took consolation in the idea that I would
eventually return with my mind inhabiting a new android body. This concept
of physical immortality became our substitute for a real religion.

One of my assignments, when I started this trip, was to be the project
historian so I guess I better complete my history. At least to the present date.

My viewpoint has changed over the course of the voyage. Remember that
history is alway written through the filter of the historian. When I embarked
on the trip I was a dedicated technocrat assuming that every problem could
be solved by the proper application of scientific principles. Over the years
my viewpoint changed. Now I realize that most problems are people
problems almost impervious to technological solution. Without a leader like
Captain Scotia the Exodus 7 would have never made it to Proxima Centauri.
Lets hope that Amy Chen is the right choice. I know that I would not have

I sent my completed manuscript back to Earth via our interstellar internet. It

would arrive in about four years, long before we came back in person. I was
sad to leave but I felt that more would be accomplished by returning samples
and information about Terra Nova than by staying. I certainly hoped that a
faster way of interstellar travel had been invented on Earth in the interim. I
hoped to return to Terra Novs to see how things had turned out and I didnt
want to travel for another two centuries to get back.

When everything was ready to go, Riva and I had a bitter/sweet farewell
party. We hugged and kissed and drank more than a little bit of her home
made cocktails. Even if we never actually married, I felt just like I did when
my wife died. Our aircraft like shuttle had to make three trips to the orbiting
Exodus 7 to get everyone aboard. As we boarded the shuttle on its final trip,
a group of people assembled. It wasnt just me they were seeing off. Many
had friends aboard the ship and this was the last chance to say goodbye.

In short the inhabitants of Terra Nova were far better prepared for success as
a colony than the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. Students of ancient history tell
me that conditions were not much different from those of the first colonies in
Australia or the Americas. In a vague way I felt a bit disappointed. Rather
adapt ourselves to a new environment we were making the environment
adapt itself to us. We were terraforming Terra Nova. Perhaps robots might
have been a better choice. Humanity has a lot of arrows in its quiver. If we
fire enough, one might stick in the target. I hope to return in a century or two
to see how the colony fared. If all goes well, humanity would be a true
interstellar species.

This short story was written by Lawrence Zeitlin, a former NASA Senior
Scientist. Dr. Zeitlin was responsible for significant portions of NASA s
lunar landing program and, until his retirement, participated in planning for
interstellar voyages. Many of the aspects of the story are based on actual
experiences of his coworkers. The technical details are all correct and are
based on current research. An interstellar spaceship would look very much
like the ones described.