Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Patience, Young Padawan!

During my days at the Tau Ceti Naval Academy our instructors would often interrupt their lessons with the one and only question: 'What are the true virtues of a Space Pilot?' Hell, some even woke us up in the middle of the night (which were short anyway!) and asked us that. Although the answer was what must have been one of the Navy's best guarded secrets we always thought of things like bravery, loyalty, integrity or truthfulness. We were so young...

Now, right here in my 'AGS Intrepid' some 20,000 light years away from Tau Ceti I finally found the answer in a lockbox that was securely stowed away in some corner of my mind for all these years. The true virtue of any Space Pilot is patience. It's that simple. You see, space generally is not the flashy funky place full of speedy spacecraft, burning thrusters and glittering lasers and all that 'Space PR' stuff. No, most of the time it's empty, it's without sound and it's soul-crushingly boring. There can be some rare exceptions to this...

...some routine duties...

...but it all gets down to a lot of uneventful hours at the helm.

So for the last 6,000 light years I made my way through what I cynically called the 'Carina Suburbs': Uniformly looking space just like those prefab homes in an endless row where one looks like the other. I can confirm now, that M type stars make up more than 90% of all stars in the galaxy. Well, maybe it's even 107%, I don't know... What I know is I can confirm zero nebulae, zero giant stars, zero O-types and zero stellar remnants along the way, except for a one-in-a-million Neutron Star. This puts the explorer's mind to a test. Those brave souls that have flown through the 'Smoju' or 'Blia Euq' Sectors know exactly what I mean. The reasons for this I already mentioned. These regions of space are very old, most young stars went nova long ago and all interstellar gas has long been used up so there is hardly any star formation left. This makes the regions so 'plain'.
Here comes your space virtue: In a vast stretch of space where there are no significant 'beacons' standing out from all these stellar suburbs your patience is being put to a serious test. When I decided to do a traverse across the Orion Spur Shallows towards the Perseus Spiral Arm I was tempted more than often to just speed things up and do what you might call a stellar drive-by. After all the density of stars becomes significantly lower in the Shallows and this alone keeps telling you to 'go faster' just in order to be rid of it. 

This is explainable from a psychological point of view, because – sure! – we seek the unknown, which has to be amazing and shiny, right? Wrong. It's wrong, because even within M type star systems there are some rare finds. But the thing truly is to stay determined and keep looking. If you do, you can discover tiny terraformalble planets in close embrace of their M star, you can discover gas giants that do the same (and are therefore called 'Hot Jupiters' or 'Hot Neptunes') and there are even some Water Worlds with indigenous life lying in wait for the not-so-bored explorer.

Should I ever return to Tau Ceti (or even the Federation) I will pay the Academy a visit and write it a hundred times across the Forum walls: 'A Space Pilot's virtue is patience!'

'nuff said, time to move on. I have a vast star formation cluster waiting for me at the end of the rainbow.

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