Here we go – number 9 weighing in at 684 words
Bryan sat as his console and thought about his next break. What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night. Sitting in a chair in an environmentally controlled room staring at blinking lights and a large screen monitor. He still could not believe he had let his “friend” talk him into the extra shift. Yes, the money would be nice, but no, he couldn’t think of a more boring way to make it.
Lunar City itself wasn’t that bad these days. After years of intense construction converting lunar soil into and underground human “hive,” many of the things available on Earth itself could be had at base. Luxury items were a bit pricey, but anything that had a composition compatible with the Earth-Orbit waste or lunar soil was really pretty reasonable.
Bryan spent a lot of his time directing the traffic that moved salvage from the debris field orbiting the earth to the sorting platforms orbiting the moon and on to the 3-D manufacturing bots near the Mars Mission construction site. He had been a stellar math student but in today’s job market “stellar” wasn’t always good enough. To get traction in that market he needed to beef up his resume. Thus, one trip to the moon to be a traffic cop running numbers to verify orbits and keep the traffic from bumping into one another or floating off course. For Bryan it was mind-numbing.
As he activated a desk-side concession bot for one more cup of something called “coffee” a light began to blink on his panel. Opening a communication channel to the affected platform, he maneuvered his visual field to see if there were any apparent problems. What he saw did not immediately make sense.
He could see that that the lunar low-orbit was in trouble. The docking tether had snagged a collection net on the Sweep and was not deploying as it should. Not a common occurrence, but not that unusual, either. The collection nets could get a substantial magnetic charge up and some of the older tethers had not been replaced with zinc-coated arms. Still it should not have been a problem requiring his intervention. The platform had bots that could handle the situation within minutes. No, what bothered him was something that was not right with the platform station itself.
Technically the system was a monument to simplicity for such a complex task. Each LLO would snag a Sweeper, maneuver it to the station, dock and secure the vehicles. Then station bots would snag the collector nets, detach and push them through the station loading ramps. By the time the nets were run down conveyor belts to the sorting rooms the engineer from the shuttle would be seated to help sort through the collection. Using robotic arms, metals, cables and nuclear waste were sorted for separate processing. The nets were “vacuumed” and de-magnetized. Bots would take the empty nets back to the Sweep and the engineer would shuttle the Sweep to launch orbit.
The system had efficiently handled tens of thousands of metric tons of debris in the last several years. Using the recycled debris and resources mined from the moon, both the Lunar City and the interplanetary ship had been constructed on accelerated schedules. It had to work efficiently. Target launch date was 2032 and that was fast approaching.
Something, however, was wrong with the platform Bryan was looking at. The pilot of the shuttle was filing a mayday because he could not get a response. Suddenly, the image Bryon had not been able to process became crystal clear. He hit the communication button and ordered the engineer to disengage. “Abandon the Sweep! Get that ship clear!”
NOTE: Well, again this is not all fiction. There are indeed companies that are working on using lunar soil compositions in 3-D printers to build habitat parts. Recycling earth’s space debris is also within the reach of current technology. It seems that if we are to reach other parts of our solar system we really do need to think beyond our own atmosphere for resources and development.