Earth Finds A Derelict

Earth Finds A Derelict

Postby Sionnach Glic » Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:56 pm

This is an idea that came to me recently, I thought I'd toss the scenario at you lot to see how you think it'd progress.

It's the modern day. A group of aliens are quietly performing mining operations on some large resource-rich asteroids at the edge of our system. Unfortunately, something goes horribly wrong and the entire crew abandon the ship, fleeing the system in escape shuttles. Before leaving the captain set the ship to fly straight into the sun, to ensure it doesn't fall into the hands of the primitive locals. However, after they've left an errant asteroid hits the ship and alters its course - punting it into a rough orbit around Earth.

This ship itself is massive, a full five kilometres from bow to stern. Most of this bulk consists of huge bays to transport the mined resources, with another large chunk taken up by the engines, FTL drive and the reactor. A relatively small part of the ship is given over to crew quarters, medical facilities, a few research labs, etc. Being a mining vessel it's mostly unarmed, with just a few small turrets designed more for shooting down incoming chunks of rock than taking on other ships. However, it does have a "weapon" in the form of a huge mining laser on its belly used to carve up asteroids. The ship also has two hangers, one on each side. They're virtualy empty due to the shuttles being used for the evacuation, but there are still a half dozen or so unarmed shuttles lying around.

The ship is completely depopulated but still has power - enough to last for about a century. The emergency that scared the crew off has been contained by the ship's AI. The AI itself has stabilised the ship's orbit around Earth, and has gone into a dormant standby mode. For the most part if doesn't care about what happens aboard the ship and won't try to stop anyone who happens to wander aboard (that's a job for the now missing security detatchment). Its only concern is to see that no harm comes to the ship, so it will only activate and step in if there's a problem. The AI itself isn't sapient - it's just a program designed to ensure the safety of the ship.

So with the ship itself established, here's a couple of scenarios. What I'm interested in is how you think people and society itself would react.

1) An amateur astronomer is gazing through his telescope one night when he spots the above mining ship just as it enters orbit. After picking himself up off the ground he rushes out to inform every news station and astronomy group he can find the phone number of. By the next day word has spread across the world of the mysterious ship, and observatories in all countries are providing pictures and videos of the vessel. How does society as a whole react to a massive ship turning up in orbit? How do the world's governments react?

2) The space shuttle Discovery is on a routine mission to drop supplies up to the ISS. Just after undocking from the ISS, its pilot looks out the window and promptly discovers the problems of wetting oneself in zero-G when he sees the ship looming above them. The ship has only been seen by the personel on board the Discovery, and NASA is the only agency that knows if its existence. It'll be two months before anyone else discovers the ship's existence. How would the US's government react to the find? Would it attempt to board the ship? Would it try to suppress the ship's existence becoming public knowledge?

Finaly, in both scenarios, just what would be the result of trying to investigate the ship? Assuming people manage to get aboard it, how long would it take humans to figure out how to understand the completely alien language that everything is written in?
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Re: Earth Finds A Derelict

Postby shran » Wed Aug 18, 2010 10:14 am

Some questions arise.

1. Does the ship transmit signals to wherever it comes from to ensure it is picked up again?
2. Are the aliens going to retrieve it some time, if they notice this ship survived it?
3. Does the ship have anti-burglaring technology?
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Re: Earth Finds A Derelict

Postby Tyyr » Wed Aug 18, 2010 1:38 pm

In scenario one the world collectively shits itself. A big question is if the aliens are hostile or not. The big problem here is that the derelict won't communicate at all with us which is going to make people nervous. I don't think anyone is going to try and nuke it* but there will be lots and lots of nervous people. Expect missions, if it's even an option given the ship's orbit, to be planned immediately. Unfortunately the US is up a creek in regards to missions to the ship. We might get one or two shuttle missions depending on when it shows up but we've effectively ruined any chance of using the shuttle due to shutting down and wrecking the facilities needed to make the ET. We'd be laregly reliant upon the Russians, Chinese, and maybe Indians to get to the thing.

*I'm not even 100% sure that's a possibility. Contrary to Hollywood most of your ballistic missiles are just that, ballistic. They aren't capable of hitting orbital velocities with anything but the smallest payloads therefore getting one up the level of a stable orbit for this thing would be very difficult.

In scenario two I don't think it'll be months. The ISS is visible from the ground, something the size of this ship will be visible with the naked eye and binoculars will tell you it's not natural. A decent backyard telescope will give you decent detail on the thing. I don't think your secret stays secret for more than one or two nights, tops.
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Re: Earth Finds A Derelict

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:58 pm

shran wrote:1. Does the ship transmit signals to wherever it comes from to ensure it is picked up again?
2. Are the aliens going to retrieve it some time, if they notice this ship survived it?


The ship itself is basicaly on standby. It's not doing anything other than just sitting there keeping the life-support and gravity running, and won't send out any signals unless we figure out how to make it do so.

Its owners think it's in the middle of the sun somewhere, and aren't going to bother coming back to our system for a long time.

3. Does the ship have anti-burglaring technology?


Not really. Security was supposed to be handled by the vessel's contingent of guards. You'll be asked for passwords and codes if you try to start/access anything, but nothing more.

Tyyr wrote:In scenario two I don't think it'll be months. The ISS is visible from the ground, something the size of this ship will be visible with the naked eye and binoculars will tell you it's not natural. A decent backyard telescope will give you decent detail on the thing. I don't think your secret stays secret for more than one or two nights, tops.


Fair point.

Tyyr wrote:We might get one or two shuttle missions depending on when it shows up but we've effectively ruined any chance of using the shuttle due to shutting down and wrecking the facilities needed to make the ET. We'd be laregly reliant upon the Russians, Chinese, and maybe Indians to get to the thing.


That brings up the interesting question of whether other nations would agree to shuttle US scientists (or those from any other nationality) up there.
If, say, the Russians are the only ones with the ships capable of reaching the derelict, wouldn't it be quite tempting to try and keep the ship (and any tech that may be on board) for themselves?
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Re: Earth Finds A Derelict

Postby Tyyr » Wed Aug 18, 2010 8:01 pm

Sionnach Glic wrote:That brings up the interesting question of whether other nations would agree to shuttle US scientists (or those from any other nationality) up there.
If, say, the Russians are the only ones with the ships capable of reaching the derelict, wouldn't it be quite tempting to try and keep the ship (and any tech that may be on board) for themselves?

I don't see them doing it. Let's face it, the potential benefits far eclipse even the edge the atomic bomb first gave. A country that could explore it and actually start to reap the benefits of it has no motivation what-so-ever to give anyone else any access at all to it.
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