October 16 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Energy Year: Beyond Rating: 2
A soft future fiction scenario.
By 2020 space had become an unexpectedly crowded place. Catalyzed by evolutionary shuttle design systems, increasingly capable robotics, and super-efficient solar cell technology, mankind’s Space Reach had expanded considerably. Orbital tourism had exploded, asteroid mining efforts were in their early stages, extra-terrestrial solar harvesting had become the new rage and the race to dominate the extensive lunar Helium 3 reserves (a critical step toward the seemingly inevitable construction of a Dyson Sphere) was on.
On April 1, 2021 the first lunar construction bots, assembled in orbit using scattered material from the McMullen Asteroid Incident of 2018, and sent forth by private company LunaFacia, parachuted to down to the moon. - Sure, it’s impossible due to lack of atmosphere, but please suspend your disbelief for the moment. ;)
Controlled by a mix of on-board AI algorithms and remote instruction from “pilots” orbiting the moon in private spacecraft, the multitude of Lunar Bots quickly deployed arrays of fold-out solar cells across the surface of the four major Helium-3 sites. It soon became clear that LunaFacia, a Chinese-funded venture, was systematically laying down the infrastructure for an extensive mining and nuclear energy operation.
Of course, the play to dominate lunar Helium-3 did not sit well with the United States and the Russian Federation, the #2 and #3 world economies, and so they formalized the secret Greiner-Blashinsky Lunar Surface Pact and commenced collaborative construction of a similar solar droid army.
By mid-2022 the Russo-American bot forces had claimed 11% of Helium-3 surface area. By 2023, as the brightness of the moon continued to diminished, that number had climbed to 23%. Then, in August of that year, with all critical surface area spoken for, that figure peaked at 27%.
Frantic negotiations commenced, but the Chinese would not back down from their dominant position. The Americans and Russians sued through the World Court and United nations, but both bodies determined that they did not possess the necessary jurisdiction to render verdicts or arbitration.
As the situation grew stale, the U.S. hawks finally got their way by cleverly placing a set of highly-armed defense bots in a contested zone, then setting them to auto-retaliation mode (a behavior that had long prior been banned back on Earth). It was an incident that would go down forever as “The Pulse Heard Around the Solar System”.
Reinforced by additional military bots that had been stockpiled in lunar orbiters, The Great Lunar War raged for three whole months as Earth-dwelling viewers watched the conflict online through the POV of private moon-based media bots. (Many older citizens said it greatly reminded of an ancient game called Starcraft.) It was finally brought to an end by the Lunar Treaty of 2024 which resulted in the cessation of all combat activities and, ultimately, a net loss of 7% of Helium-3 surface area and 39% of lunar production capacity for the U.S. and the Russians.
Amazingly, not a single human life had been lost, a fact that did not go unnoticed to governments and private organizations that now had been convinced to pour massive resources into additional asteroid mining and interplanetary operations.
Only time would tell whether any of the likely future conflicts would exceed the entertainment value of the Great Lunar War of 2023-2024, which everyone agreed was for sure the flat-out coolest war ever witnessed by human and robot observers alike.