By: Sri Ram
The two capsules, 6 feet long and 2 feet wide, kept next to each other, on the floor of the advanced cryostasis chamber were open already. Marks of wet footsteps on the floor ran from the tail of the capsules to the window. With time they were to slowly smudge. At the window, Mark and Lisi, saw, their space ship awaited for them, at the foot of a huge hill, on the solid rocks of planet BB143, several light years away from the earth-like planet, Kepler 22ZA.
The planet BB143 was cold, dry and dissolute. Light from its host star brightened the surface of the planet. Storms of dust that ran all over the surface from time to time, kept its sky almost dark. Outside the cryostasis chamber, awaited a thick layer of carbon di oxide to fill their lungs and kill their brains. The distant mountains and hills were mere iron oxides and the soil, red in color was nothing but rust.
Light, from the host star, the only source of energy illuminated that side of the planet so bright during the day. The cryostasis chamber’s array of solar cells harvested the bright hot source, whose veins were plugged into the chamber. These veins energized the chamber all through the SOL days and nights. The Dust often fell over on the solar cells but was wiped off by the storms regularly.
“Something is terribly wrong!” Mark said. His voice trembled. He appeared to have been feeling guilty of lost something. He seemed to have not been impacted much by the relatively shorter cryosleep, that he woken up from.
“How terrible?” Lisi asked. One could see a fresh look of panic on her face, as she looked through the window. Outside, the very sight of the ferocious storm threatened her. It was not so fierce, the moment, they landed on the planet, as she recalled. The storm was strong enough to wrench the chamber from time to time.
“Terrible to the extent, we have to abort the mission any time from now” Mark wore his space suit again while Lisi still looked outside through the window. She wore only a cryosleep apron. Though she was now completely away from the capsules, there were still a few sensors that stuck to her body through the apron.
“You stay in. Better get your ass inside the suit. We may have to go elsewhere.” Mark opened the latch, stepped into the outer chamber and closed the latch. Moments later, Lisi saw him, open the outer chamber latch, stepped out and walked here and there. He even jumped quite high couple of times on the red rusty soil of the planet. Lisi wondered, how he was able to jump that high.
Lisi took a report of the duration of cryosleep, that she woken up from. The figures on the report could be related. Lisi, checked out the status of oxygen in her suit. Having found it lesser, she re-filled oxygen removed the sensors and apron and wore her space suit. It stuck on her wet skin and it made her feel good. She folded the apron and kept it on the capsules with the sensors on the apron. The report showed accurate data on the duration of time spent on cryosleep. There were no fluctuations or ambiguity on the figures. She went through it again and again. Still no part of the report raised her eye brow.
Moments later, Mark entered the chamber and sealed it behind. He then waited for the chamber to announce ‘pressure stabilized’. He looked confused, preoccupied and kind of lost in thoughts.
“Would you tell me, what is going on? Has Kepler 22AZ survived the comet collision?” Lisi asked.
“No. Time! It’s been fucked up” he said.
“What? But the report is fine on the figures”
“Gravity! It’s been fucked up Lisi, when we were in cryosleep. We could not have observed. Didn’t you notice the change in gravity? We need to re-compute the data” Mark said, while he sat on the computer. He quickly turned on the feeds from the geo-stationary satellite, the Observer, that held itself 400 miles above the surface of the planet in space facing the southern hemisphere of the planet BB143 took images at regular intervals and relayed. The received images from the geo-stationary satellite showed the rock mass of planet BB143 steadily disintegrating into tiny chunks of sand and dust that continuously escaped into space. What made it to happen, was beyond their knowledge of space and astrophysics to understand and was something they both wanted the scientists, theoretical physicist, cosmologist on Earth to find out, first thing as it has now become an obstacle in their plan of colonizing the next Earth-like planet Kepler 22AZ. The best that they could do, was to leave behind notes to space stations, so that, the reasons behind such an event, could be researched later.
In space, the escaping chunks of sand and dust could form a belt around the planet. If they could attract one another, they could form into a moon or a meteor or a comet or a planet. A planet could gain more mass by attracting other floating smaller rocks and dusts. That Mass could eventually warp. That could bring gravity and that will dilate time. Space is all that stupid thing. Forming and deforming in cyclic process. One thing to another and so on. Nothing gets wasted. Everything balances every other thing. Nothing is stable. Energy is Immutable!
Lisi looked at the gravity data from the computer. The Gravity had nearly halved. Now she understood the whole mess.
“We are lucky that the rock mass, that holds the foundation of this chamber has not given up yet. We must have woken up much earlier then” she said, with her eyes transfixed at the numeric figures on the computer.
“To be more precise, if we had woken up at the right time it was according to the old gravity data. With the new gravity data, I think, we have woken up much earlier.” Mark said while allowing the computer to initiate certain assembly codes. The computer performed numerous calculations on the screen. Mark and Lisi waited as the computer digested zillions of computational cycles. Outside the chamber, through the window dust storm moved here and there, appeared and disappeared periodically. Some of them were weak while some of them were strong and took longer time to go thin in the air. After considerably longer time, the computer spurted all the results throughout the 17 inches monitor without leaving an inch of space on the screen.
Looking curiously into the data on the screen, Mark said,
“Yes. We have woken up much earlier. According to the old gravity data, an hour here was equivalent to several years in Kepler 22AZ, so the short cryosleep duration in months we set initially was just enough for the mission. By the end of it, Kepler 22AZ would have already undergone the much anticipated comet collision and would have cooled down and would have been in a condition to support life of the living cells that we would deploy to colonize it. But gravity is fucked up now. With the new gravity data, the cryosleep duration extends to a few SOL years, which means, we have woken up much earlier.”
“But the capsules we have here, will support us in cryosleep not more than few SOL months, Mark” Lisi said.
“Yes. That is a problem. This planet with the new gravity will not help us with our mission. Eventually all this might be sucked in. We need to spend the remaining cryosleep time elsewhere in a planet that has time dilation, more or less the same as that of BB143 before gravity change. This is now, our plan A” mark said thoughtfully.
“Do we have a plan B?” Lisi asked.
“Until we arrive at a plan B, plan A is plan B” Mark said.
“But there was no mention of gravity loss, anywhere in the catalog” Lisi said.
“Catalog! That big junk book must have been obsolete by now. Not sure why do we still have it. Space is a den of uncertainty. It is so unpredictable and with us in it, it changes” Mark said. His voice glazed with disappointment. He thought for a while and then
“Let us find a planet whose gravity could dilate time with Kepler 22AZ and progress with our mission. That’s an order” he said.
Lisi received the command and the computer began to respond to her queries. Upon her command, the computer searched among the planets that were identified, the one planet that had gravity the same as BB143 before gravity change.
“I have found one from the list of prospective planets that we had already.” Lisi shrieked aloud.
Mark drew himself to her seat impetuously and together they looked into Lisi’s computer terminal.
“Kepler G160 looks stable and appropriate for our needs. Its gravity would allow us to hibernate until Kepler 22AZ recovers from collision and cool off” she said.
“Though not very far, it would take a while for us to reach that planet. We also would have to carry these cryostasis capsules in our ship” he said.
“Obviously!!” she replied.
The two capsules were there side by side. One of which had Lisi’s apron with sensors. Outside, the storm seemed to have gained strength. The chamber wobbled as the storms actively roamed all around. Time! It was now not in favor of their purpose. They together chose to choose a favorable time. They together waited for the ferocious storm to fade away. Even to choose a favorable time, you have to wait for the right time.