Construction and Capabilities Edit
The Ingenuity was built in low Unda orbit by the IU. It was a huge shared effort, many years in the making, between the member islands of the IU. The ship cannot land on a planet, but it can enter a stable orbit and send small landers to and fro from the surface. The landers expend chemical (liquid hydrogen) rocket fuel. The Ingenuity also has a long-distance shuttle that acts as a sort of lifeboat. Carbon dioxide scrubbers allow for the recycling of air, and the ship has a very sophisticated water recycling method.
The ship is a spinning torus, with artificial gravity provided to the outer edge of the torus by centripetal force. The gravity approximately matches that of Unda. The ship is powered by an antimatter drive, which propels the ship at half the speed of light. Air and water are recycled using carbon dioxide scrubbers and a sophisticated water recycling method. The Ingenuity also uses hydroponics and aquaponics to generate oxygen and provide food for those onboard, and has an array of 3D printers to make spare parts and other necessities.
The propulsion method for the ship is an antimatter drive. The antimatter is made in situ (during the voyage) in a particle accelerator located in a ring attached to the ship’s main torus. By shooting high-energy protons and electrons at target metals, anti-protons and anti-electrons are produced. These combine into antihydrogen, which is collected and stabilized using a magnetic bottle to prevent it from colliding with ordinary matter before desired. The antimatter is funneled to the engine, where it collides with hydrogen atoms to produce huge amounts of energy that propel the ship forward. The hydrogen is carried onboard as fuel, with the hope that more will be extracted from the asteroids upon arrival.
The asteroids to which the ship was initially headed are located 0.74 light year away, orbiting a red dwarf star the next system over from Unda. This means it takes the ship about 1.5 years to get there. The original mission included spending three weeks at the asteroids. During this time, the miners would engage in a range of experimental and practical mining activity. Mining machines range from simple scoops (asteroids are covered in a layer of easily scoopable rubble called the regolith), to magnetic rakes, to heating the material to release water and other volatiles. This water can then be split into its constituent atoms of oxygen and hydrogen, with the oxygen being used to maintain a breathable atmosphere on board and the hydrogen used for fuel.
An original goal for the mining project was to find rare and expensive elements like gold, platinum, and rhodium. In addition, organic carbon, phosphorus, and other ingredients for fertilizer can be harvested from water-rich asteroids and used to help grow food in hydroponics. After the Final Transmission, mining for fertilizer was considered a much more important goal than mining for rare elements. Ingenuity has been orbiting a large asteroid designated B-612.
The ship has a crew of around thirty, led by Captain Omeda. In addition to the crew, there are a number of passengers aboard the ship. Many scientists jumped at the chance to test theories in space; the IU resource committee sent prospectors to search for valuable materials in the asteroids; a revolutionary program was developed to give three years of college education entirely in space. In addition, several famous artists, journalists and celebrities became publicly involved with the project during development and were granted spots. Some spots were given out in a high-profile lottery and some were bought at exorbitant prices.