Colonisation of the Solar System
The Early Days
Since the earliest people walked the Earth, they looked up at the dark sky wondering what it was that lay so far out of reach. Mankind continued this fascination with the stars from that early period through to the present. As humanity’s understanding of the stars improved, this interest has only intensified.
The realization that Earth was not the center of the universe, but just one of a number of planets rotating around the sun, spawned stories of other civilizations, vast treasures, and anything else one could imagine. With the ever-present fascination and wonder, many have been at a loss to explain why it actually took so long to finally take that leap and move out into the solar system – even after the technological base was created to make it happen.
In the early days of space exploration, nearly all the efforts were undertaken by various governments across the globe. It was a natural fit initially, as the costs involved were so extreme that only a governmental entity could justify the expenditures. In addition, it was these same governments who could benefit the most in the early efforts. Communication and spy satellites were the lion’s share of man-made objects placed in orbit. In some cases, even weapons were placed above humanity’s heads, though generally kept highly classified by the governments.
Corporate concerns soon began to understand the potential benefits of entering space industries. The initial entrance by corporations into space was limited to satellites that they paid the relevant government entity to place into orbit. In time, private and public corporations overtook governmental efforts, shifting the costs of research away from the public and into more private efforts.
Escaping the Bonds of Mother Earth
After the former United States stood on the moon in 1969, many believed it would be the beginning of what would become vast colonies beyond the atmosphere of Earth. However, the opposite was actually true. While the United States continued on with several moon landings in the decade that followed,
it would be nearly 80 years before humanity really began to make true strides in conquering the solar system. After the last Apollo mission, the moon would not feel the touch of human feet again until 2052 and it would not be a government or country who would do so, but the Venture Corporation.
The first colony, Tranquility, was established on the moon in 2052. It was a cooperative effort of four corporations, with Venture Corp the senior partner. The colony served several functions. Outwardly it was a destination for the super-rich for a literal out-of-this-world vacation. However, it also became a hub for the four companies for their next big initiative: the asteroid belt. In time, the four corporations merged into one large company that is still one of the most successful corporations in the solar system – 4G Enterprises.
For years, Venture and their partners sank deep into the red and many believed their efforts would drive them into bankruptcy. However, in 2063 the first Venture-flagged mining vessel returned from its maiden voyage to the asteroid belt and brought with it a cargo hold filled with proof that Venture Corp was right.
The Sky isn’t the Limit
Many liken the initial rush into space to be similar to the Gold Rush of the 1800’s in the old state of California. When Venture, now known as 4G Enterprises, turned decades of bleeding red ink into massive profits overnight, dozens of other firms and individuals who had the resources rushed to play catch up. This explosion into space was initially limited to efforts centered around the Moon and asteroid belt.
However, it was obvious to all that those who were willing to take the risks to push this boundary further and further out were the ones most likely to be able to cash in on the discoveries that were made. While the newly christened 4G Enterprises had a leg up, they had to fight to keep it.
As humanity forged deeper and deeper into the solar system, new industries were created to support them. Heavy Hull Inc. and Quantum Propulsion are two that are still strong today. Heavy Hull is considered by many to be the first true spaceship architectural and construction firm. The costs of designing a spacecraft are huge and most corporations, even those as successful as 4G Enterprises, simply cannot shoulder those costs easily.
Heavy Hull, however, found that by marketing their craft to everyone, both corporations and national governments, they were able to offset the costs with bulk orders. Transit drives were first introduced under the banner of Quantum Propulsion and overnight trips that used to take six months to make now only required three.
The Solar System Today
Today humankind can be found in nearly every recess of the solar system. From Mercury to the Kuiper Belt, humans have spread wherever resources are, or in some cases, scientific knowledge can be found. The one notable exception is the dwarf planet Pluto. Thus far, every effort to even establish a presence in orbit around Pluto has met with disaster, and its peculiar activities in the last two decades has led to a ban against any further efforts to exploit either it or any of its three moons.
While various corporations and private concerns make up the lion’s share of those who operate within the solar system, the Unified World Council has gone to great lengths to ensure they have at least a modicum of representation. In some places, such as Neptune, this is limited to a liaison/ambassador who tries to keep the UWC’s interests represented.
Closer to Earth, this presence can be felt more heavily, with the military working to keep trade lanes safe and to keep aggression between rival corporations to an acceptable level.
Life across the solar system varies in levels of danger and comfort. The colonies of Mars and Venus offer colonists relative luxury with most, if not all, of the amenities one would get living on Earth itself.
On the other hand, life further out gets progressively less grand, more spartan, and more dangerous. All the way out in the Kuiper Belt, the type of people you find are hardy and self-reliant. While there are large space stations where they can relax in relative comfort, these people spend most of their time isolated, performing dangerous work. Accidents are not uncommon and help is often too far out to be useful.
However, it is also where a person has the greatest chance of making a mark on the universe, which is why those who brave these regions are so willing to risk it all.