Per Ardua Ad Astra
Chapter 9: Group Discussions

Copyright© 2013 by normist

James Continued, "In a moment we will take a coffee break. Afterward that, please join the Groups indicated in your invitational letters. The Brochure you found on your seats when you came in shows where each Group is meeting. Will each Group please appoint a Chairman who can report back when we reconvene at four o'clock. If any of you feel that they want to join another Group, please feel free to do so. Just let your Chairman know so that transfers don't get out of hand. Thank you."

We moved out to the adjacent cafeteria and were served with donuts and coffee. James was mobbed by a large number of the delegates. I did not altogether escape.

I was button-holed by a gentleman who said, "I'm Paulsy: Lockheed-Martin's Skunk Works. I don't see a Group designated to discuss the drives. Why is that?"

"It's really a matter of security. The White House accepts the necessity of discussion of most of the relevant aspects of our next craft but feels that the details of the drive must be kept under wraps. Tell me. What is your subject of expertise?"

"I normally deal with airplane engines. Hence my interest in your drive. Are you going to be able to scale up the power output?"

"It doesn't seem to work like that. The required power goes into providing acceleration, independently of the mass of the craft. However, I don't think that I should say any more about it, at this stage."

Before long the crowd dispersed to their various discussion rooms. I joined the hull design group in their allotted room. A large table surrounded by chairs dominated the room. There were also chairs up against the walls. I took one of the latter. The engineer I had been talking to earlier turned and saw me.

He stood and said, "Doctor Axon, may I suggest that you become the chairman of our group?"

"I'm afraid not. I'm only here to give you some thoughts for your consideration. I must then go on to some of the other groups. Why don't you take the Chair?"

This was received with a few murmurs of, "hear, hear."

I continued, "It seems that you're elected Mister Paulsy. What I wanted to say to this Group is that among the original group, we had some ill-informed discussion about the replacement for the 'Enterprise'. We were only chewing the fat, but we thought that we might need a capacity for a hundred to two hundred people and their gear and supplies. Most of those would be specialists like Zoologists, Physicists, Geologists and so on. We shan't require a wheeled undercarriage, but the legs should make the body automatically self-leveling Some of the crew should be classed as Marines. I think that I've covered enough to get you started."

"What about safety?" one of the group asked. "What are the risks of the hull being pierced, and what do do you want us to do about that?"

"Any risk is too great a risk. Make any suggestions you feel relevant," I replied. "Oh, and don't forget to provide for shuttle craft."

I gave Paulsy my card with my cell phone number on it. "If, by any chance, you come to a stop, give me a buzz and I'll come and give you something more to chew on."

My visits to the scientific groups had a certain sameness. They should assess their staff needs and submit three estimates. What would be ideal, what would be the minimum and something practical in between. The same went for space and equipment. I also asked them to assess what could be achieved in a limited time. We could always return to an exoplanet if the circumstances warranted it.

Visits to other discussion groups followed along similar lines. All of us had agreed that these pointers were the way to go. That is James and I, Major Groves (Yes, he had been promoted), Susan and Benson all circulated where we could at least understand the experts.

After the afternoon break, we all reassembled in the auditorium to hear the reports of the Group Chairmen. James welcomed us back and called on the Chairman of the hull group for the first report. Paulsy stepped up onto the stage and opened his notes.

"Ladies and Gentlemen. The first thoughts of the hull group on the shape of an inter-stellar craft were that it should be spherical. It would give us the maximum volume for any given surface area. The drawback here is that it would be inherently unstable if it were on the ground. We discussed various shapes and eventually agreed that the craft should be the shape of an egg with the underside flattened. Unlike the craft in the 'Star Trek' series, we felt that the bridge or control room should be located in the lower portion of the forward end."

"May I ask why it should be there?" said James.

"For navigation close to a planetary surface. You would need to navigate by eye close to the ground."

"Good thought. Pray, continue."

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