Mission Mars Hunt
Author's note: The story and the characters in it are my own. I wrote this for my college magazine in 2010. I don't claim that the scientific data presented here is accurate.
Year 2056 AD:
Our celestial neighbor, the red planet, Mars goes mad.
Not its fault…
Rewind 20 yrs:
The 2026UB313 meteor was distracted from its original target, the earth, to hit Mars in a massive explosion. The meteor was spotted in the year 2026 and hence the name. Its trajectory had alarmed the scientists as it was in collision norms with the Earth. The calculated impact time was 10 years.
Ever since the 2012 doomsday was successfully averted, the space had grown hostile towards the earth. As many as 100 meteorite crashes were reported in 2yrs. Our sun showered more cosmic radiation than ever through the depleting Ozone layer. As fixing these became the top priority, no one paid attention to the 2300 km wide rock hiding in the Jupiter's shadow. And by the time the spectral analysis confirming a moving object was taken seriously, it was almost too late. There was not time to check the composition of the meteor, without which blowing it up was not practical. The only way to avert it was to change its trajectory. With the technology of the time, it wasn't possible to divert it far enough to escape the earth's gravity. So, it had to be made to collide with something else. Moon would be too small a target and too close. However, there was another option 140 million miles away, twice as big as our moon and half the size of the earth. Mars was chosen as the scapegoat.
By the calculations, the meteor would miss the red planet by 10.56 minutes and the gravitational pull of Mars would distort its path to a direct head on collision with the earth. The plan was to strike the meteor at a certain angle without trying to blow it up, deviating it to collide with Mars instead.
Equipped with the newly developed wormhole technology envisaged by Stephen Hawking 10s of years ago, an ambitious team of scientists lead by senior astrophysicist John Mc Gill successfully accomplished the Mission UB313. The mission however tore big holes in the federal budget. But it was worth it.
And after 15 years:
An unseen aspect of the mission's consequences had come into light. The red planet has suffered a knockout of its orbit after the impact and is slowly moving towards the center of the solar system. The trajectory interfered with the revolution of the earth.
Mars was on collision norms with the earth
The initial repercussions were already evident. The day has been shorted by one hour. This was because the pull of incoming Mars on the moon, dragging it away from the earth. It is the moon which stabilizes the Earth's axis of rotation to 23 and 1/2 degrees and preserves the balance of days and nights and the seasons. It was calculated that the axis of the earth would turn to as much as 30 degrees before the impact, causing catastrophic changes in the atmosphere.
And then, Mars would aim at the heart of the earth and we wouldn't stand a chance.
The deadline - 5th of April 2056, after which nothing could be done to change the planet's path. Mars would be at the highest eccentric point of its orbit, and if an impact is made on the planet then, pushing it in the opposite direction, it could go back into its orbit.
The probability wasn't 1. But there was no other way out!
Bruce Mc Gill sat at his desk. He considered the disordered pile of papers that lay before him. They had in them, the details and action plan of the "Mission Mars Hunt".
It was day of action
And it all began at 5PM.
Bruce checked his watch...9:00AM.
In the next 8hours, the earth would either rewrite the history or would itself be on a road to become history. He had no time to contemplate. The Earth's axis had already rotated by ½ minute. Mars was now at the ideal point to be struck by 'ZEUS', the huge impactor which was the result of passionate work put in by the scientists all over the world in the last 5 years. The impactor was one of its kind, with 7000 thrust engines, a huge magnetic front cone and innumerable nuclear missiles to cause the required impact to move the massive planet. The impactor would be controlled by a crew of 25 positronic robots on board and a team of 1,000 scientists from 25 different countries, headed by the 40yr old Bruce Mc Gill, the son of John Mc Gill. The mission had surpassed its predecessor 20yrs ago in the degree of impact, the usage of man and material power and of course it tore bigger holes into the world economy. The only aspect in which it couldn't equal the Mission UB313 was the ''PROBABILITY OF SUCCESS''.And that definitely wasn't good news. If the impactor wasn't launched at the proper time, or if it failed to hit at the proper target on the planet's surface then in addition to mission failure, the nuclear explosion would affect the earth too, probably wiping out the human race even before its date with Mars.
1:00 PM - 5th April 2056:
Bruce rose, ready to go to the control room. He turned around to steal a glance at the portrait of his father, John Mc Gill, on the wall behind his chair. It was made by the most revered artist of the time after the success of the Mission UB313. His eyes filled with reverence for the great man, as they always did, and Bruce said to himself -
"I want to see the same pride in my son's eyes!"
He removed his wallet and took out the small family photo they had taken 10 years ago
He, Andrea and little Damien.
Damie would be 15 today - he thought.
"Commander, we are ready to move," the voice from the intercom alerted him.
"Let's go then."
3:00PM - 5th April 2056: The "ZEUS" was ready. The masterful impactor is being taken to the launch pad. The crew of 25 positronic robots fed with precise instructions waited outside for the signal. Bruce, along with two other scientists went around perform the final checks. Everything looked perfect.
4:30 PM - 5th April 2056: the scientists took their positions in the control room. The robots went on board, waiting for the launch count down. The world watched anxiously on the telecast media. 30 minutes to go.
4:59:50PM - 5th April 2056:
The countdown began…
The mighty ZEUS rose magnificently. It cleared the earth's atmosphere without any trouble, thanks to the anti-friction design given by the Indian aeronautical engineers. The crucial moment arrived as the impactor had to open a worm hole to jump straight onto the target.
5...4...3...2...1...disturbance in the space.
The wormhole opened...
But to everyone's horror, it collapsed before the impactor could enter.
The scientists gaped at their screens, aghast! Bruce felt his blood pressure plummet down to ground zero, sending him into a trance. Excited cries from his peers around brought him back to senses. ZEUS just stood there, like a paused in a video game.
"Try again!" Bruce ordered, collecting his thoughts.
The worm hole opened again, small and unstable.
"Full power!" Bruce screamed.
All of the impactor's 7000 engines sprang to life. The impactor made it through the worm hole with seconds to spare for its collapse.
The control room breathed out in relief while their screen went temporarily out of focus after a blinding flash as expected. The ZEUS's high resolution cameras were adjusting themselves to relay their new position. After a few seconds, the main monitor sprang to life again, showing the surface of the red planet. Minutes to go before the final impact.
But something wasn't just right!
"We are moving away!" someone announced. The control room fell silent again.
Indeed they were. A void was forming to the left of the screen. But the cone was dangerously close to the surface, miles away from the target site.
"The impactor is slowing down. We are critically low on fuel!" another voice announced. More bad news!
"We are not going to make it!"
"Shut down the engines, don't enable them till I say" Bruce's voice echoed. He had a plan!
A murmur of dissent filled the control room. What is he up to?
"Shutting down the engines would leave the impactor to the mercy of Mars' gravity," the second-in-command protested.
But Bruce wouldn't listen.
He established the master comm link with the impactor, overriding all the commands of everyone else. He had the sole control over the ship and it's crew.
"This is insane. You'll kill us all right now!"
Bruce wasn't listening. He knew what he was doing, but he had no time to explain.
"Give the magnetic cone a repulsive charge" he ordered.
The impactor almost grazed the surface of the planet, but slowly began to move away from it. The void on the screen was getting bigger, and the protests grew louder.
No time to explain. Just wait for the kill…
"Enable torque providers for a 90 degree turn. Give the cone an attracting charge".
And the impactor rotated with the magnetic cone as the center.
By Jove! He was right!
As per the plan, the engines had to be turned on once the impactor was out of the worm hole and straight onto the target, and then a full thrust in the equatorial plane would be followed by the explosion. But the worm hole collapse lead to its drift away from the target site with low fuel. There was too little time to change the direction with the speed they were going and the fuel would go out before impact.
So, the engines had to be turned off , and the gravity of Mars would pull the impactor towards it. But that would mean collision of the cone with the surface first, triggering the explosion. So the cone had to be given a replusive charge, so that it moved away. There was a clockwise torque acting on the impactor bringing it parallel to the planet's surface. And then, when the impactor reached the desired location, the torque providers provided an anti-clockwise torque augmented by the attractive charge of the cone, bringing the ZEUS's cone straight above the taget spot.
"Enable full thrust" shouted Bruce.
"Engage Missiles, Full thrust on!"
In the next few seconds, all one could see was violent explosion of the impactor and sparks all around. Slowly the field cleared showing the red planet ''moving'', actually ''moving'', back to its orbit.
Spectrograph records the results quickly. THE MARS IS BACK IN ITS ORBIT! Confirmed!
The scientists hugged each other and cry out in joy. Same was the case with the billions of people watching all this action live.
Bruce collapsed in his chair, perspiring heavily!
Is there a doctor in the house?
"Dad I've seen you on TV with the President. You look great with the Medal of Honour. You are a hero dad, superhero! My friends are dying to meet you. When are you coming back? Love you dad, miss you so much" – a message from Damien.
Back in his office after the celebration, Bruce replayed the message, this time looking at himself in the mirror on the opposite wall. He could see the reflection of his father's image, along with his own. His eyes filled.
"My son is proud of me, dad...as I am proud of you..."