The Bottleneck Years
|Chapter 59||Table of Contents||Chapter 61|
L1 Roustabouts, February 15, 2058
The L1 crew were not like the moon colonists. They were cowboys. We didn't get up-close and web-personal with them. The corporate imagery around them played up rugged individualism and avoided any mention of colonization. They were all young men, no women, no families. Anytime we saw them they were sparring, jousting and joking with each other in good natured bonhomie. Or acting like boy scouts. It was all completely phony.
Arguably what the L1 astronauts were doing --- zipping around on small rocket sleds, catching modules as they came from the moon and feeding them to the assembly robots --- was more difficult and dangerous than being on the moon. There were accidents. Rockets failed. Speeds were miscalculated. People died. And still Carillon had volunteers lined up out the door.
On earth, the spidery L1 robots, spiderbots as they came to be known, created a sensation, mainly because they looked scary. They were many-handed, many-legged, rocket propelled machines that looked like something out of a sci-fi horror flick. The robots took the moon modules packed with girders and nano-thin silicon panes to assemble the shields. They were integral. The undertaking was too massive for manpower alone; the work too delicate.
The crew lived in a modular space station attached to the central computer complex that would manage the completed sunshades. A superconducting magnetic shell protected the computers from most solar particles while providing a safe haven for the men.
What little we saw of the roustabouts on earth was strictly controlled. They were in the computing centre or the adjoining recreation area, never on the rocket sleds. I wondered about that and used my UNGETF access to look up the rocket sled design.
They were not glamorous: an eggshell sitting on an X-shaped structure with rockets and electromagnetic grapples. The end of each 5 meter leg of the X had opposing rockets which allowed the craft to be quickly oriented in any direction. The pilot was buried in the eggshell with a flight computer, radar and electronic eyes to keep the light levels within human tolerance.
When the cowboys grappled an incoming module, they could slap a small ion drive on it or bring it to a spiderbot themselves. The ion drive would be handled by the primary control station. At first the modules were all delivered by rocket sled, but as the work load increased, the ion drives were used more often.
The first 1 km. shield took a month and a half to assemble. At that rate the sunshade would take thousands of years, but more robots were arriving all the time and another rail gun was being constructed on the moon. The moon colonists were also setting up more photovoltaic arrays so they would have more power. Soon Carillon was building 10 sunshades at a time.
For me on the earth, the L1 actiivity was a passing diversion. The climate was still running amuck. The top of the atmosphere was still receiving 1366 watts per square meter, the same way it had since measurements were first made. It was going to take a long time for the sunshade to make any difference.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
For further information, see
A Gentle Introduction.
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Last modified October 1, 2013
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