15 06 2010

Stohlberg held a lettuce frond delicately between his fingers.

“I appreciate you taking the time to come down here,” Lindenmeyr said.

Stohlberg shook his head slightly. “Not at all. Truth be told, a lot of our digging equipment was seconded by the Stephenson Project. There’s less work for us now, out at the open-cut site.”

Lindenmeyr and Stohlberg each wore light-weight, long-sleeved ponchos. Lindenmeyr explained that metal halide light lit the hydroponic bay; metal halide emitted more light in the blue spectrum, which accelerated plant growth, but was a carcinogen to exposed human skin.

“We light each of the bays for eighteen to twenty hours each day,” Lindenmeyr said. “Between the halide light and the lengthened days, we’re producing crops in greater yields than on the Quoqasi. The hydroponics facilities in Alphas One, Three and Four are together producing a sufficient excess to feed the population of Alpha-2.”

“I see,” Stohlberg replied. “I feel drunk.”

“That’s the cee-oh-two. We keep the levels pretty high in here, again, for the plants. It’s not dangerous, but it takes some getting used to.”

He looked up from the lettuce and saw, stretched a hundred meters ahead of him, row upon row of plants, aglow in the artificial blue-white light. The greens were simply breathtaking. Lindenmeyr remarked that it was not a colour seen outside the hydroponics facilities; not in the Colonies nor on Fram itself. She spoke of a psychological study done on the journey to Alpha Centauri that had shown that the botanists who worked in the hydroponic labs were on average happier than their peers.

Stohlberg nodded, and asked her, “What is grown here?”

“Lettuce, pak choi, asparagus. Carrots, tomatoes. Mushrooms. Spinach. Plants with high levels of vitamins and minerals. Our staple is soy, of course. Those versatile, little beans pack a lot of nutritional value for the space it takes to grow them.”

Lindenmeyr explained the process behind the hydroponic crops. She called it Soilless, Controlled Environment Agriculture. The plants existed on a nutrient solution that flowed constantly past their roots; she pushed back the overhanging fronds of a head of lettuce and pointed to the bank in which the plant sat. Here there was a shallow channel of water, running through a bed of clay aggregate pebbles upon which the roots rested. The pebbles were not entirely submerged by the solution.

“Thus, the roots are well oxygenated while still fed by the nutrient solution.”

Stohlberg watched the nutrient solution move past the roots of the plants in this bank. Lindenmeyr rattled off a list of elements made soluble and dissolved into the water: essentials like iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc; and macronutrients like potassium nitrate and calcium nitrate. There were also sulphates mixed in for the sulphur.

“I didn’t realise until now just how much of what we dig up in the mines goes into our bodies,” Stohlberg commented. “From the Earth we come, to the Earth we return.”

Lindenmeyr frowned. “An anachronistic adage.”


Lindenmeyr pointed to the banks arranged in long rows along the length of the bay. Each of the rows was inclined at an angle, which allowed the nutrient solution to run easily and prevented the solution from pooling. Stohlberg noticed that these rows were not continuous, but that the banks were segmented every ten to fifteen meters; this, Lindenmeyr replied, was to prevent the depletion of nitrogen which occurred when too many plants were nourished from a single nutrient feed.

“There are plant rooms attached to each of the hydroponic bays,” Lindenmeyr said. She pointed to the wall on their right. “Enormous carbon filters through which we run the nutrient solution. There we can monitor pH levels, salinity, flow rate.”

“And top up the solubles?”


Stohlberg lowered his nose to the lettuce frond and sniffed deeply.

“Sera, this is wonderful. But I don’t know how a geologist could help here. Fram is thousands of years away from having soil – maybe tens of thousands. Sure, the regolith has magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride. But there’s no nitrogen, and it’s completely unable to retain moisture.”

Lindenmeyr looked up at Stohlberg with an amused grin. “I’m a botanist. I know that!”

Again, she carefully pushed back the lettuce heads and scooped a handful of the pebbles from the nutrient channel. They were a variety of rich colours, Stohlberg saw now: brown and red and terracotta. Lindenmeyr described how the pebbles had been baked from the clay of Earth and Mars – the rusty red pebbles were clearly Martian – and had been carried with us on the journey from Sol. After each crop rotation the pebbles were washed in a solution of hydrogen peroxide.

Lindenmeyr cracked open a pebble; Stohlberg saw that it was porous, and criss-crossed by tiny lines invisible from the exterior.

“Are those fracture lines? From firing in the kiln?” he asked.

Lindenmeyr shook her head. “No. This is root growth. From thousands of generations of crops grown in the same clay aggregate. For almost six years.”

She explained that this root growth did not have a detrimental effect on subsequent crop yield, but only if the pebbles were sterilised in hydrogen peroxide after each harvest – an enormous investment of hydrogen and oxygen.

“If we were to use a local product as a medium,” Lindenmeyr spoke enthusiastically, “we could further tighten down the life-support loop by cutting out the hydrogen peroxide wash completely.”

Stohlberg nodded. “But there’s no clay on Fram.”

“There’s basalt.”

He grinned. “I’m a geologist. I know that!”

He listened while Lindenmeyr explained the need for a mixture of perlite and vermiculite – fusions of basalt and granite – superheated until expanded into glassy pebbles. If produced in sufficient quantities, the hydroponics facilities of the Colonies could simply discard the clay aggregate and use the disposable perlite/vermiculite mix.

She asked, “Do you know how many tonnes of H and O that would free up?”

“You won’t get much from the open-cut site,” Stohlberg continued, oblivious to her question. “The tails are being ransacked for uranium. And the Yom Kippur site is well past the bedrock. Actually, I think the Stephenson dig sites are the most promising – they’ve had a lot of trouble with basalt sheets around Charlotte Station.”

Stohlberg smiled, leaned down and kissed Lindenmeyr on the cheek.

“I’ll get to work!”



25 03 2010

Light Rail Channel

“…Project Stephenson, the task of connecting the outposts and mining stations, was the largest planetside undertaking since the construction of Charlotte Station.  Channels were carved through the uneven landscape to provide protection from meteor showers and to streamline loading and unloading of minerals and equipment required elsewhere across Fram.” 

The rail project was the next logical step in the effort to connect the four colonies with each other, and with the various installations scattered about the edge of the main crater. Project Stephenson was prioritised by the First Congress, and work began mere weeks after the close of that meeting. The project represented the most significant capital investment yet undertaken by our fledgling Colony; our other great undertakings – such as Charlotte Station, Port Mayflower, and the cable which connected them – had all been constructed using prefabricated materials, and according to designs drawn up in Sol.

The Stephenson rail network would be almost entirely produced from resources mined from Fram, and designed by us.

The highways of carbon sheeting had been a temporary measure, and one inconsistently applied at that. Each of the colonies had been connected to the central hub, Charlotte Station, although none was directly connected to another. Nor were the open-cut and COIL mines, or the solar field and launch complex, connected to the highway system. Moreover, these were surface roads, with all the problems entailed therein: windstorms would deposit regolith across the carbon sheeting, and these drifts could cut access until they were ploughed to the side.

Light rail was an elegant solution, though not one commenced without thorough consideration. For example, the Conference rejected the use of maglev systems. Most persuasive of the arguments submitted in favour of a light rail electrification scheme was the conservation of power and comparative ease of construction. A magnetic levitation system would involve the construction of high-temperature superconductors and magnetic shielding; moreover, the levitation and propulsion systems would have to be carried onboard the train, reducing cargo space and increasing weight. A light rail network could be connected to and powered by a Colony-wide power board.

We began by digging trenches ten meters deep and thirty meters wide. The inside faces of the channels were strengthened with inlaid carbon mesh. We modified one of our enormous UC-104s: its utility crane was stripped from the chassis and, instead, installed were two load-bearing arms ending in a single rotary bore attachment. Its legs locked in place and the body hung low as its arms dug up the regolith, eerily like a Martian handling-machine plucking victims from the ground in a Wellsian novel.

Our priority, as with the carbon highways, was to connect each of the colonies to Charlotte Station. The elevator ground station was located between each of the colonies and served as a natural terminal. We had to dig over eight kilometres of channels just to fulfil this limited objective.

The closer that we dug to Charlotte Station, the more difficult that task became; Charlotte was located in the base of the large crater in which all the colony pods had landed, and as such there was less regolith between the surface and the bedrock. In places we also struck fractured basalt sheets. Here KOVTARs equipped with portable COIL rigs broke up the densest materials.

It was important that the channels be deep and wide. Deep trenches afforded better protection from meteorites, and we would add a further parapet of exhumed material to the western lip of each channel. The trenches would be widest for the main lines of the network, those between the colonies and the Charlotte Station Terminal – on these lines we would lay two tracks, one for each direction. When we began construction on the ancillary lines, to the spaceport, mines and reactor, we would lay only a single track to accommodate comparatively less traffic.

Three rails were installed for each track. The Stephenson network used a third rail to provide 1,200 V of power to the trains. The conditions of Fram and the depth of the rail channels precluded the use of catenaries and overhead wires, thus necessitating the third rail. Here we used a covered, bottom-contact rail to prevent the kind of disruptions caused by wind-driven regolith that had plagued the carbon highways.

Yet the geographic conditions also gave us certain benefits. The distances between terminals were short – Charlotte Station was no more than three kilometres from any colony – which meant that there was no need to construct feeder stations along the line. Furthermore, our channels followed the general decline of the crater; trains running to Charlotte would run downhill. Our trains would be built with regenerative breaking equipment, which would generate power while breaking and return that power to the rail network for use by trains travelling uphill. Excess energy would be converted to heat and vented into Fram’s atmosphere – our first, if somewhat insignificant, terraforming effort.

But first we had to dig the channels, lay the track, and build the trains. That was many months of work. Still, our impression upon this ancient and dusty planet grew more profound…

Charlotte Station

14 10 2007

Exactly one week before the Mayflower would arrive, the mining site cracked through the crust and started digging into the upper mantle. Immediately we started bringing up unprecedented amounts of silicone and aluminium, which partially offset how late these resources had started coming in.

Thankfully, some bright spark back Home had pushed for the essential components for the anchor station to be carried with us, prefabricated. At the cost of reaction mass we hauled most of the ground station with us: all that had to be built were the tethers to the body placed in geosynchronous orbit by our orbiters. We had started running simultaneous missions to get that part ready for the Mayflower, and at any time now we had at least two of our six orbiters up above us.

By the time we finished Charlotte Station, our impression on this ancient planet had grown to be quite considerable, though it must be said that it was much less than we had intended, three months after planetfall. There were four cities, growing out of, and over, the colony pods; we had an underground mine and were planning a second, open-cut site far to the north; an active spaceport with limited launch facilities; and now Charlotte, our ground station for the space elevator. Connecting these were the beginnings of our carbon highways, slowly spreading out from the cities like cracks in ice.

Our timetable, written by the same learned people who foresaw the need for a prefabricated ground station, put the completion of all components of the space elevator at a date already more than three weeks past. We had yet to stabilise the geosynchronous orbit of Wilbur, that silicate hunk of Amundsen that we had captured and slipped into orbit directly above the ground station. And, of course, while the Mayflower was itself enclosed by the structure which would unfold to become our space station and shipyard, it still required a basic dock to tether itself to when it arrived, which we hadn’t finished.

It would be a close thing, but that had been how this colony had started, and got by in the time since. There was growing optimism in everyone here. Some of us began to believe that we had passed the worst of the bottleneck – that the arrival of the Mayflower would mean the end of rationing and the end of double-shifts. But this optimism was not yet widespread. Many still feared the one event which would instantly destroy our modest progress. More of us would simply not allow ourselves to hope.

And then the solar station misaligned while painting an NFO, nudging one of the objects tagged by the orbiters in the wrong direction. It orbited Fram sixteen times, each orbit dropping lower and lower, before it slammed into the Quoqasi – still in the orbit we had left it when we made planetfall. The ship which had borne us across the unimaginable distance between Sol and Alpha Centauri was snapped in two, and the entire bow section was decompressed…

KOVTAR-3C Webfoot

10 06 2007


“…the KOVTAR-3C was nicknamed “Webfoot”, due to the additional stabiliser plates adorning its feet and the subsequent comparison to the biped locomation of waterfowl. The slide-crane module was attached to a basic KOVTAR-3 biped chassis, with a counterweight section situated behind the main engine manifold. Reinforced legs meant the Webfoot mobilised in a slow, lumbering way; each footfall accompanied by a sharp hiss and a blast from the suspension valves. With a gross lift limit of fifty tonnes, the Webfoot was an essential part of colonial construction projects. Incidentally, it was around the Webfoot where the phraseology for KOVTAR-related accidents or breakdowns took root; any incident being subsequently referred to as ‘Duck a l’orange!’.”


“Wow, look at that,” said Zimmerman.

Yi looked up from the tablet. When the tip of his stylus left the screen, the schematics, covered in scrawled notes, blacked out into standby mode.

Yi followed Zimmerman’s outstretched finger. He pointed into the sky, where dots of brown-yellow light were moving. These were silicate remnants of Amundsen, probably no larger than a Sprat, gliding across the red bowl of the sky. But Yi saw a smaller, brighter light among them – this was an orbiter, rolling over its axis, one of its arrow-shaped wings catching the light of Alpha B.

Yi returned to the tablet. There was a marshalling yard, by the side of the carbon ribbon, where the flatbeds were dumping the prefab boxes shipped from the colonies. Of course the arterial had been started on both ends, but did not yet meet in the middle; the flatbeds coming from the old Alpha-2 site were caught in the regolith between when the lead vehicle bogged in a drift and threw its gears. It looked like the KOVTARs would have to unload the lead truck while the other two ground toward their original destination; Yi had to find space in the marshalling yard for the components.

There was a spark of light from Zimmerman’s faceplate – arc welders, the magnesium white light flickering from the shell of the ground station. The base was completed, although the elevator station and the port facilities were still prefabricated frameworks, and the loading platform hadn’t even been started. There were three buildings under construction, and the foundation for a fourth being laid; these were skeletons encased in scaffolding, lit by welders and crawling with regolith-smeared e-suits.

There were two and a half weeks remaining until the supply ship arrived in orbit of Fram. Zimmerman, his head forever turned to the sky, spent each evening searching for the fusion torch of the decelerating Mayflower. For now he was content to watch the orbiter trace a line across the sky – as stressed as Yi was with the timetable for the ground station, he knew those vacuum-sucking orbiter crews were pulling multiple EVAs each day to clear NFO space, and slip the tether into perfect, geosynchronous orbit directly over his head.

One of those lights, behind the spiralling orbiter, could well be that asteroid: rockets flaring at its nose and decelerating with each orbit until, just before the May arrived, it would be in position and ready to dock with both Mayflower and the abandoned Quoqasi.

“Zimmerman,” Yi said, snapping his assistant out of his stargazing, “let’s get two of the Webfoots out to those jackasses stuck in the dust. We’ll stick those crates here and here, but we’ll have to move the lift hydraulics over there…”

With his stylus and with the schematics of the half-built ground station, Yi set to work.

Field Work

26 05 2007

Tahir Full2

“…the e-suits were standard issue, meaning if it didn’t fit, lock, zip or shut, it was up to you to make it fit, lock, zip or shut. The outpost maintenance crews were already overworked with stopping the breakdowns within the vehicle fleet, so kickers, such as the surveyors, the science teams etc., all had to do custom repairs and upgrade modding themselves. This led to a broad variation on the e-suit practicality and aesthetics, as each division worked on their own design to make their job just that little bit easier.”

It was a one-man mission, although it was a two-person job. Ruslan was exhausted. There were more vehicles in the repair shop than not, which was nothing new. So it was appropriate, then, that without enough two-person vehicles to drag this far out from the grid, the second person for the job would be requisitioned by the vehicle shop to help clear the backlog of repairs.

And so here was Ruslan, alone, clocking dozens of kilometers and hours on a KOVTAR scantily refitted with disposable sheets over its leg actuators, hoping not to break down this far from the colonies.

He was a good twenty-five klicks from the nearest of the colony pods. This far out, spectroscopic studies from orbit had shown a good probability of metals subducted beneath basalt sheets. Every few kilometers Ruslan would park the KOVTAR, set up the drill equipment strapped to the rear cabin of the walker, and take a core sample. It was tough, though laborious, work. Two people were needed to manhandle the equipment, although he managed that well enough alone; more of a concern for him, though, was the need for somebody else were something to happen to him, so far from help.

He put these thoughts to the back of his mind. The treasure was out here, somewhere, seeded beneath the regolith during the formation of Fram billions of years ago, waiting those geologic ages of inactivity for his drill piece to bore through the basalt of great impactors.

Ruslan had a good eight hours of oxygen left of the eighteen hour maximum reservoir carried by the e-suits. He would have power enough to last through the thickened twilight of Fram’s night, although even in the absence of sunlight for the photosynthetic receptors, he could in emergencies link with the power source of the KOVTAR. During the last nine hours his e-suit had fed hungrily on the light of Alpha B, and had converted that energy and the waste products of his body into stores of genetically-engineered algae. This algae produced oxygen, extending the suit’s so-called “battery life” by fifty percent; it was also edible, though the taste and consistency deterred most.

He had only two more samples to take; despite this, the exhaustion was piling on his shoulders and pooling behind his eyes. Ruslan, not for the first time, found himself missing Home. Even during the worst times in the fresh water mines, work was never such a bone-jarring, spirit-crushing affair. There was such little redundancy built into the enterprise of colonizing other stars that merely existing required sacrifices not made by humans for generations.

And then the KOVTAR crested a ridge, and Ruslan caught his breath. He was instantly reminded what it was all for.

He dismounted, and walked a half dozen paces ahead of the machine. Ahead of him, the terrain sloped down steeply, running away into the distance toward a string of craters. To his left and right, several hundred meters away, ridges of bedrock rose sharply from the regolith, framing the horizon with unnaturally straight lines.

In the gap between these ridges, the ring of Fram rose from the horizon – a muddy brown arc which curled along the bowl of the sky at right angles to the horizon, up and above Ruslan’s shoulder. The ring was fuzzy, for the most part indistinct, but as he watched it now he saw larger pieces, in higher orbits, caught in the light of Alpha B, which was now below the horizon. He saw hundreds of these objects, brown rocks highlighted in bright golden lines, made misty by the dust of the ring.

Through the ring he could see Alpha A, from which Fram receded with each moment. Its light, diminished by the ring and by distance, was now like that of a full moon on Earth, or the light of Saturn through the night clouds of Titan. Its light caught the edges of the methane clouds above the horizon, and shot a spectrum of colours through these.

He looked down, to his feet. Rust-coloured regolith was ground into the surface of his e-suit, as far as his knees. Behind him he saw footprints, crisp in the duricrust – the only footprints for twenty-five kilometers, the only footprints in five billion years.

His footprints.

Ruslan smiled, and felt all the worries of the world washed away by the beauty of the moment. But these moments had always existed here, on wind-swept Fram, for the billions of years it had existed and looped between the suns. Its moons had risen and set, eclipsed, and had been lit by the light of three stars for five billion years – yet human eyes had only seen these sights for less than three months.

Could such moments have ever existed, without mind, without consciousness, here to witness them, to appreciate them, to understand them? The thought enfolded Ruslan, dwarfed him. He was reminded of a puzzle posed to him when he was younger: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

This was why man went to the stars. This is why we walk the razor edge of dieback.

The crescent of Sverdrup crested the horizon, illuminated by the light of two suns. Complex shadows were cast across its surface.

Supply & Demand

16 05 2007


"…Nassimatissi was Quartermaster-Alpha for Outpost Alpha-3. He was the first to calculate and vocalise that, if things kept going the way they were; the colonial equipment continually being subjected to dust-related breakdowns, they wouldn’t have the propensity to expand at a rate requisite to an operational colony of that size.

The first stocks to rapidly drop in number were seals and filtration sleeves for the heavy movers. The KOVTARs kept throwing their actuator seals after gear aggravation by the dust, not to mention the maintenance they required after a few days out on the surface. The M-1010 catepillar tractors had a poorly designed engine manifold, at least for this landscape, which led to the fleet of twenty being garaged while the defects were patched up, dust-proofed and spot-welded. Stopping damage from happening was one thing, repairing what had already occurred was another.

…Nassimatissi hoped that the supply frame had more welding rods stowed within its silent bays. Vacuum caulk would stop a starship from turning inside out, but it wasn’t enough to put together an outpost or keep the ground fleet operational."

We were working in the plant room when we saw the Colony’s QA – I couldn’t remember his name, but Mierhof insisted it was Nassimatissi. He was with QA4, too, of course. Oddly, Alpha-4’s Quartermaster noticed us, but Nassimatissi did not.

We couldn’t eavesdrop in the plant room, of course, not near the massive carbon filters. The Quartermasters were walking between the filters, inspecting each of the spheres before moving to the next. There were sixteen spheres in this plant room, for Alpha-3’s hydroponic dome, each sphere easily the height of two men. The Quartermasters seemed to be checking the filtration: maybe someone got sick from the food, or maybe, with plans to connect each Outpost and our mining operations, we were running out of carbon, too.

Mierhof didn’t care – he seemed to think that, with our mining operations setting up, the Quartermaster-Alpha had better things to do than micromanage the hydroponic filtration of each Outpost of the Colony.

But I cared, because Nassimatissi, who had become somewhat of a celebrity across these fractured microcommunities, was not as impassive as he’d been made out. His face was furrowed, even when examining something as trivial as these carbon filters, with the edge of worry.

We had only five weeks to go until our supply ship arrived. They said that when Alpha A set, through a telescope, you could see the glow of the ship decelerating. People were excited, for different reasons: either for the resources, raw or prefabricated, which would ease the current bottleneck; or, more disturbingly, for the lifeboat the supply ship represented.

Our colony pods, now the center of our Outposts and the source of our warmth and light, would never again see the Quoqasi which bore them to this place. But the supply ship represented a second interstellar engine, and a second cargo module.

Many had begun to feel that all of our setbacks and problems were pandemic, and emblematic of what was to logically come next: a dieback, mass death caused by the collapse of life-support loops or a reactor accident or an impactor. These were the people who saw the supply ship as a lifeboat to Sol.

I cared – no, I worried – only because Nassimatissi seemed resigned, even defeated. And that suggested he was one of these latter.

Outpost Alpha-2

14 05 2007

Unmanned Aerial Survey Drone

“…one of the major setbacks on Fram was Outpost Alpha-2, one of the four Colony Pods brought to Fram by the Quoqasi. Plagued by continual damage from falling orbital debris, Alpha was eventually scrapped and abandoned for a resettlement in a safer area, several kilometres away.”

The first deaths happened a few weeks after planetfall.

Alpha-2, the second of the four colonisation pods, which had set up on the highlands north of Alpha-3, was hit by a rock that, after burning up in the thick atmosphere, was hardly the size of a clenched fist. The colony lost five people who choked to death on a mixture of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen and argon. That brought the total numbers on Fram to 3, 994, although a woman over at Alpha-4 was seven months pregnant (there had been several miscarriages due to deceleration and atmospheric entry).

The rock missed the modules which composed the Outpost, and missed also the pod from Quoqasi. Instead it hit the airbridge which linked the fusion reactor, under the blister of the Quoqasi pod, to the hydroponics dome. If it had hit the fusion reactor, Humanity’s adventure in Alpha Centauri would have ended there.

Alpha-2 had been battered by micrometeorites since it had landed. The other three pods had put down either in the base of a crater, or at the base of the highlands which ran north of the ten-by-ten grid chosen from orbit to colonise. This way they were protected from the rain of rocks by Fram’s geography: anything from Amundsen would have to come in from the west – Amundsen’s orbit was retrograde – and the other Outposts kept themselves sheltered from that direction.

This way it wasn’t necessary to bury the Outposts in regolith, like the first colonies on Mars had to because of the solar wind. The debate now was to bury Alpha-2, or to relocate the entire Outpost, just five weeks after it was set up.

Eventually, the colonists elected to move the entire Outpost before it grew too big to be relocated. Extra habitat modules were erected at Alpha-1, Alpha-3 and Alpha-4 to house the nine hundred and ninety five people of Alpha-2 while the tractor haulers moved the modules to the southern mouth of de Lacaille Canyon, a half dozen kilometers north-west of Alpha-1. Now the four Outposts formed a rough diamond, with Alpha-2 near the middle, and no outpost was more than six kilometers from another.

Nothing was really going to plan, yet. The KOVTARs were breaking down, the haulers had problems moving through the dust over such huge distances, the life-support systems of the other three Outposts were overworked, and everyone wanted to get outside and see the suns and moons and horizon after five years cooped up in a spaceship. There weren’t enough spare parts, there weren’t enough e-suits, and the deep-core mining wasn’t yet up and running, so there were no resources to produce replacements.

Slowly, a dark, subtle despair was setting in. The deaths at Alpha-2 exacerbated the feeling that, for some colonists at any rate, Fram was not like any other colonisation project in the Solar System – there, in even the most ambitious projects before Fram, help had been at hand, only a few months away. Fram was beginning to feel oppressively far from Home, and, once the supply ship arrived, the Colony would be entirely cut off from Sol…