In Geosynchronous Orbit
The hanger was sealed and repressurized. The Soyuz spacecraft had been secured to the deck. To Boatman’s eyes it was clearly a relic of an ancient day. The green fireproof nomex fabric that covered the reentry and mission modules of the spacecraft gleamed in the light of the hangar deck.
The Ranger honor guard in their deep green dress uniforms had secured their feet to the deck with grip shoes. Both Alice and Judith as well as captain sterling were wearing communication headsets that were linked to the cluster of supercomputers that controlled the Eagle. For this event the headsets included a small speaker which would broadcast the translation of individuals speech in Russian. Evelyn alone was not wearing a headset.
The loudspeakers blared.
“Soviet Visitors, arriving.”
As if this were the signal to act the docking hatch of the mission module opened and the two men floated forth into the hangar.
Both Leonov and Gorbachev had changed to their mission uniforms for the meeting. Upon their egress in free fall Boatman spoke to them clearly in Russian.
“Welcome gentlemen to the starship Eagle, I am Evelyn Boatman.”
“You speak Russian?” Said Gorbachev.
“Yes, Mikhail Sergeyevich.” Boatman replied. “This vessel was originally designed to cross interstellar space at one fifth the speed of light. With acceleration and braking the journey to Alpha Centauri would take about twenty five years. As you can imagine this gives a new meaning to the concept of boredom. As I had time to catch up on some reading I chose to read Tsiolkovsky and Korolev in the original Russian.”
“And Lenin?” Gorbachev asked.
“No,” said Boatman, “of course not, I leave psychotics to the correct professionals.”
“Of course.” Gorbachev replied.
Boatman then stepped with the grip shoes towards Leonov and extended his hand.
“Cosmonaut Leonov,” he said, “it is an honor to meet you, sir.”
Leonov took and shook Boatman’s hand.
“Thank you, sir.”
“You’re welcome” He replied. “Allow me to introduce these good people. First this is Captain Dennis Sterling, the commander of the Eagle.”
Captain Sterling nodded and put forth his hand to be shook. Cosmonaut Leonov and Gorbachev responded in kind.
“This is my adopted daughter, Doctor Alice Boatman.”
Alice said the word, “Hello.” This was translated into Russian and transmitted back by her communications set.
“Hello Doctor Boatman.” Said Cosmonaut Leonov. Gorbachev had simply said, “Hello.”
And Boatman made the last introduction.
“And this is Judith Grant, she is presently receiving treatment for some severe injuries she received on the ground.”
Both of the Russians had read of the incident in Dallas. And both decided at that point to simply nod.
Boatman then looked at the Soyuz spacecraft and spoke to Leonov.
“You’re flying with the standard heat shield on this mission?”
“Yes.” Leonov replied.
Boatman frowned and shook his head.
“While Russians do tend to be a bit conservative in engineering you still have more energy to bleed off during reentry from this altitude.” He said. “Would you accept a ride down to a lower orbit before attempting reentry?”
“Yes.” Said Leonov. “We would.”
“Yes.” Said Gorbachev.
“Of we’ll have to secure the spacecraft to the deck, with your permission.” Said Boatman.
“Of course.” Leonov replied.
“And while that is taken care of, we could do a short tour of the ship.”
“That would be good.” Said Cosmonaut Leonov.
“Yes, thank you.” Said Gorbachev.
After a set of grip shoes had been issued to the cosmonauts, the group made their way to the main engine room.
“And this is the primary control station for the Quantum Singularity Drive. “ Said Boatman.
He brought up and image on the primary large flat screen monitor. The grey image showed an grid with a distortion at the center.
“What you are seeing on this image is not the singularity itself but the distorting effect of the gravitational pull.”
“A physicist at Moscow University told us that you have recreated the gravitational effects of a frozen star on the subatomic level.”
Gorbachev had used the Russian term for the phenomena. The English term Black Hole translated directly into Russian was unfortunately and commonly used as a rude anatomical reference.
Leonov then spoke.
“If I under stood the concept correctly you generate usable energy by dropping matter into the singularity?”
“Yes,” Boatman replied, “protons and electrons in the process of being gravitationally merged into neutrons give off photons which in turn are used to heat up normal matter. Which then leads to this...”
Boatman changed the image on the screen to a diagram of the larger drive section.
“...in the normal rocket mode for insystem propulsion at lower velocities we use ordinary hydrogen for the reaction mass, but for interstellar flight we scoop the mass from outside of the ship.”
“As in the Bussard Ramjet?” Said Leonov.
“Yes, but there are some difficulties.” Boatman replied.
“I’m sorry.” Said Gorbachev, “but what is a Bussard Ramjet?”
To Gorbachev the mission commander’s face had taken on the appearance of a university lecturer who had just joyously discovered a dullard in his classroom. Unfortunately for Gorbachev the dullard was him.
“The ramjet was proposed as a means of starship propulsion by Doctor Robert Bussard, in this the system would magnetically scoop the hydrogen in interstellar space and use it as fuel for a fusion rocket. But there were two basic problems with the concept. The first is that artificial thermonuclear fusion requires neutrons in the nucleus of the fuel. Thus our use of Deuterium and Helium-3 as fusion fuels. The second is that maximum velocity of the system is limited to the exhaust velocity of the rocket motor. Which on the Eagle is twenty percent of the speed of light. Now this configuration of the system is generally known as the Ram Augmented Interstellar Rocket.”
Cosmonaut Leonov had a question.
“As I understand it, Hydrogen is magnetically neutral, so how can it be magnetically scooped up?”
“Good question,” said Boatman, “In our system we use a laser to separate the electrons from the proton core. So the protons are then scooped in and used as the reaction mass.”
Leonov nodded. Boatman then looked at his watch.
“And it appears to be time for dinner.”