A BRIEF HISTORY
The discovery of Genesis by Captain Ben Alan and the crew of the Aurora in 2240 cetc, did not bring universal jubilation on Earth. No statement illustrates the anguish this planet caused the pioneering movement than the following passage from Ben Alan’s personal log.
“Our excitement reached frenzied levels as we made final preparations to land on the planet’s surface! The beautiful, blue sphere below us possessed breathable atmosphere, warm temperatures, no radiological hazards, and no evidence of intelligent life. As the landing craft began its descent, we stared intently at the main screen which amplified the view below. We broke beneath a layer of clouds and glimpsed our first clear view of the grey landscape.
“Just our luck! We came down in a desert! Thinking that surely it couldn’t go on forever, we pressed forward, travelling at 1200 kilometers per hour, 7000 meters above the surface. Four hours later upon reaching the seacoast, hydrocarbon scanners had not revealed the slightest chemical traces of life.
Even Earth’s most barren wastes would not have produced such readings. We continued parallel to the shore for fourteen hours more, circumnavigating the entire continent without sensing a living thing on the land. Yet carbon readings in the sea revealed some life there and proved our sensors were functioning. In desperation we touched down and still clad in our biosuits, stepped from the shuttle into an awful landscape littered with ugly black rocks and totally devoid of any life. We took microspopic samples from many places, but even stagnant pools of water in the rocks didn’t reveal a single living cell.
“Fatigued and feeling uneasy, we returned to the ship. The next day and for fourteen days after, I dispatched landing parties to the surface. At last the awful reality dawned on us. This planet is a desert. True, some elementary life exists in the sea which probably accounts for the oxygen atmosphere, but how could Humankind survive on those dreadful rock plains below?” Aurora remained on Genesis for four months, studying what native life there was. When it returned to Earth, Alan’s report classified Genesis uninhabitable, but he appended the following comment to his recommendation.
“Despite the planet’s inhospitable environment, I believe that someday Humans will live on it. The planet contains the fundamental conditions necessary to support our form of life. When our technology advances enough to allow us to transport much larger payloads across the interstellar space, then we will be able to bring enough equipment and enough supporting life forms from our mother planet to permit life as we know it to thrive there.” He went on to exercise his preogative as captain and named the planet, an unprecedented custom for a world considered uninhabitable.
For 20 years no planetologist challenged Alan’s conclusion. The problems of colonizing his barren planet seemed insurmountable. The elementary shellfish of Genesis’ seas could have provided some minimal sustenance to a Human population, but nothing approaching a normal Human diet could be cultivated on its barren continents.
Humans need more than food too. Few would voluntarily agree to spend their lives in a desolate wasteland. Grass, trees, and other living animals may not seem like necessities of life, but early in the history of space travel, scientists learned how important they could be. After more than two years on the first permanent Martian base, the total bleakness of that planet’s landscape began to have serious psychological effects upon the trained and experienced travellers that staffed them. No large and inexperienced group of pioneers could have coped with Genesis indefinitely.
Yet even before the discovery of Genesis, events were under way that eventually made its colonization possible. Contact with the Ardotians in 2217 adtc created a tremendous increase in the level of both Human and Ardot knowledge. Within a few years, the formulation of the Comprehensive Unified Field Theory led to the development of highly efficient matter-antimatter reactors. These reactors allowed people to transport far greater cargoes across interstellar space at a fraction of the cost.
Both Humans and Ardotians soon became interested in Ben Alan’s barren planet again. They reasoned that Genesis provided a rare opportunity for an advanced civilization to create a biologically perfect world, a world without disease, pests, vermin, even weeds! It would provide the ultimate test of intelligent life’s ability to shape and control its environment. Because of their scientific interest in Genesis, the Ardotians offered to supply engines for the largest starship ever built, if the people of Earth would undertake the planet’s development and provide the life-support modules, equipment, and supplies for the vessel. All the Ardotians asked in return for their contribution were detailed reports about the progress of the experiment.
Earth’s International Council for Space Exploration began planning for the first colony on Genesis soon after receiving the Ardotian offer; yet another 20 years passed before the launching of the first “Noah’s Ark.” The magnitude of the project seemed overwhelming. In the space of a few years, Humankind would attempt to leap half a billion years of evolution. Techniques for creating living soil from barren rock had to be developed. The proper mix of desirable Earth species had to be selected, and safeguards to insure that Genesis would not become contaminated by pests and diseases from Earth had to be refined. Finally, a large-scale evacuation plan had to be drawn up, should the entire project fail catastrophically. No detail escaped scrutiny. As a final check, Ardotian computers analyzed the entire plan, independently assessed its probable outcome and made several important recommendations.
Planners chose the southernmost tip of Harvestland for the first settlement, which pioneers named Malthus. Situated at the edge of the southern tropic zone, the climate is warm and the ocean is protected from violent storms. The colony organization followed the lines of a socialist democracy, similar in concept to the highly successful kibbutz used in the 20th century redevelopment of Israel.
The first 3000 pioneers brought food for five years, although the starship made the round trip to Earth annually, bringing still more food, equipment and new colonists. Pioneers lived in temporary housing constructed from parts of the ship that brought them, early precursors to the residential spires of today’s pioneering vessels. In the early years, most efforts focused on cultivation of Earth’s native life forms. It took two years to prepare the soil for planting the first crops. At the same time, the pioneers began to develop aquaculture of both native and imported species to hedge against possible failure of the primary food supply. The first pioneers had no resources for manufacturing or processing industrial goods. Most of them were biologists or farming technicians, with a smattering of the mechanics, programmers, and comtechs needed to keep their equipment functioning.
Life’s foothold on the planet was assured as food production became self-sustaining at the end of the fourth year. After that the slow process of building basic industries began, first with the importation of mineral recovery equipment, followed by critical manufacturing processes. Development of Genesis has proceeded steadily, if more slowly than on worlds more bountifully endowed by nature. Today, 92 years later, it boasts a modern, industrial society with many of the luxuries and conveniences of Earth.