Sunday, November 15, 2015

Port Of Call

My fellow adventurers,
on November 14th, 3301 AD the AGS Intrepid finally called port at Irkutsk Capitol in the Alliance system of Alioth. After having been out in the Orion Spur and Perseus Arm for five and a half months the first session in the station was spent in the 'Dubai Lounge & Bar'. The second was spent waiting patiently in a queue at the Stellar Cartographics Exploration Data ATM.

The Pilgrim's Path Mission was declared a success, its prime mission statement of traversing the Orion Spur Shallows well beyond NGC 3199 was fulfilled. Along the way, many known and previously unknown stellar phenomena could be visited and explored in various degrees. These were (in order of visitation date):
- HIP 63835 (The 'Explorer's Graveyard')
- The Coalsack Dark Nebula
- Open Cluster NGC 3532
- Open Cluster NGC 3114
- Open Cluster Collinder (Col) 240
- Open Cluster NGC 3590
- The Statue of Liberty Nebula (NGC 3576)
- Open Cluster Collinder (Col) 228
- Open Cluster NGC 3324 & the Eta Carinae Solar System
- Open Cluster NGC 3293
- The Eta Carina Nebula (NGC 3372)
- Open Clusters Trumpler (Tr) 14 & 16
- The Seven Sapphires Cluster (Smojo Sector)
- NGC 3199 Wolf-Rayet Nebula
- Traversing the Far Orion Spur Shallows
- The Vela Ultima Molecular Complex (Hyuedau/Preou Thua Sectors)
- The Hyon Cluster (Hyuedau Sector)
- The Gloomgown Association (Phreia Phoe/Gludgou Sectors)
- The Skull and Crossbones Nebula (NGC 2467)
- Open Clusters Haffner (Haf) 18 & 19
- The Hyperion Cluster (Hypio Phoea Sector)
- Open Cluster NGC 2384
- Open Cluster NGC 2367
- Open Cluster NGC 2374
- Thor's Helmet (NGC 2359)
- Open Cluster Collinder (Col) 132
- VY Canis Maioris Solar System
- Vela Dark Region

Some statistics:
Departure date: May 30th, 3301 AD
Return date: November 14th, 3301 AD
Hull Status on return: 67%
Systems visited: 2,917
Distance travelled: ~73,000 LY
Rank achievement: Pioneer
Highest payout: 480,011 Credits
Coffee consumed: 6.48 Metric Tons

Next steps:
'After the trip is before the trip' as they say. The AGS Intrepid is being overhauled at the moment and I am turning my eyes on a ship that can withstand the rigors of space even better while also providing ample space (and protection) for deep space equipment and maybe the capacity to drop a ground vehicle. Yes, I am planning to go out there again but what I have in mind is a light exploration cruiser. The Alliance uses some to great effect. The 'Long Arm Program' is headed by several Anaconda-class vessels, and even some T-9 Heavy's, kitted especially to serve in deep and unknown space.

I guess I have to stock up my wallet for this a bit, though. Those biggies do not come cheap and that goes especially for an explorer trying to squeeze out every bit of range. Let's see how this turns out.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Lighthouse

'The circle is now complete!' I recall this quote from some entertainment Holovid, can’t remember which, but it was definitely Sci-Fi. Well, I guess the same applies to me and the Pilgrim’s Path. The Perseus Arm is rich in exploratory marvels. It still holds enough gas and dust to give birth to all the different types of stars an explorer could hope to see and, well, explore. That's the cycle of stellar life and death as I have mentioned before. Out there in the deep Perseus Arm you come across a stretch of space that is so rich in the younger, hotter types of stars and you struggle to find a suitable name for it; at least one that supercedes such flashy sector names like Gludgou or Ouchorrs.  

And speaking about circles, my voyage also finally comes around full circle: Yesterday evening I once again crossed that invisible line I once defined as the border between contemporary and 'creative' astronomy. 'NGC-Land', here I come. Finding names and imprinting them forever on some galaxy map is a thing of the past now. With full speed ahead I am nearing what in ancient times was called the Known World. For explorers it’s what you might call a return home. For seafarers of old, your homely shores await: Your astrometric computer stops struggling with Gludgou’s, Flyiah Eohn’s, Hyuedau’s or Smojo’s. Where stellar cartography seemingly ended at NGC 3199 way up 'north', it begins anew here and now where The Perseus Arm kisses the Orion Spur. Sorry for that bit of poetry, I couldn’t resist. But the scenery is this: Open clusters, nebulae and dust clouds have their respective catalogue entries listed, you see NGC’s, Col’s and IC’s again. Civilisation, you have me back! 

You also realize this when after months out in the deep, deep void you see a familiar shape unfold before the galactic horizon. Switch to infrared and you see mighty Barnard’s Loop. Switch to UV and you see bright young stars greeting you. 'Hey Barny', you think, 'I last saw you five months ago. How you’re doing old pal?' 
 I like to draw parallels to navigation and astronomy in ancient times. I have quite a few Holo Novels at home and even a few real paperback books. 'Barny’s Loop' is what must have been the beam of a lighthouse in familiar waters: Once you see it you know home is near. It’s a magnet, really. Inevitably it draws you nearer and nearer and in your guts (I already mentioned every explorer has his personal 'guts') you have this warm feeling that it’s a good thing. A welcoming light. Home, at least for a few days, before The Sea calls you again. 
It reminds me of some lines from an archaic poem, yet they are still true in the days of the Frame Shift Drive.

'They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils,
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.'

And thus I give myself to my ship and my guts, and my nav courses bring me nearer and nearer home. And the lighthouse comes closer with every step.