Run For Your Life

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

(Caution: Science content) The Perseus Space Colony is a marvel of twenty-third century engineering. It is located approximately 400,000 kilometers from the Earth, and trailing 60 degrees behind the Moon. Astronomers call it the Lagrange (L5) point, and it’s one of the very few truly stable orbits in the Earth-Moon system. The gravitational forces of the Earth, Moon, and Sun keep the mammoth habitat in an 89-day kidney shaped sub-orbit around the L5 point. Like a marble in a bowl, if the colony drifts in any direction, the E-M-S gravity fields always brings it home.

The Perseus’ outermost “H” ring is 2,700 meters in diameter, and it houses the living quarters for the 824 permanent residents, and the 182 visitors that are “on-station” at any given time. The Preseus rotates at a leisurely 0.73 revolutions per minute, which produces a comfortable 0.8g in the “H” ring; less as you approach the hub. As the H-ring spins at more than 100 meters per second (circumferentially), it produces some disorienting physiological effects on the occupants. For example, if a person in the H-ring drops an object, it curves sideways as it falls, a radial Coriolis effect. It’s the same phenomenon that causes hurricanes to rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere. Permanent residents don’t even notice the effect when they go about their cycle’s business, but first time visitors always move around like they had taken too many recs.

Senior Maintenance Engineer Louis Spiridon crawled backwards out of the cylindrical conduit that exits the noisy pumping room of the C-ring’s recycling center. As he removed his hearing protection, he became aware of the variable wail of the station’s emergency alarm. He activated a comm panel along the wall of the main corridor to find out what was wrong. The computer informed him that there had been a significant solar flare event, and that all personnel had been ordered into the shielded auditorium at the station’s hub. “Do I have time to take a shower?” he asked, knowing that it generally took hours for the sun’s coronal mass ejection to reach Earth’s orbit, and because the recycling center tended to leave an unpleasant scent on all those that pass through.

“Negative,” responded the computer. “This is an X-class flare. The immediate concerns are the high levels of electromagnetic radiation, not coronal ejecta. Lethal levels of x-rays have already reached the station. You need to start running anti-rotation, now.”

“What? Shouldn’t I head for a spoke, so I can take a lift to the auditorium?” Just incase the computer knew what it was talking about; Louis began jogging against the station’s direction of rotation.

“Sorry,” replied the computer. ”The lifts won’t function in an X-class flare. But, fortunately for you, the current orientation of the Perseus has the shielded auditorium located directly between your current location and the sun. However, you’ll only be in its shadow for another 3 seconds. Since the station is rotating, you need to run, not jog, to stay within the auditorium’s shadow. As long as you maintain that position, you’ll be shielded from the lethal radiation. However, you need to sustain a steady pace of 780 meters per minute to keep the auditorium aligned with the sun. It’s only 0.1g at your current radial distance, so it should not be too difficult. The lethal phase of the flare will only last for another two hours and five minutes. That’s 91 laps around the C-ring. I’ll regulate your pace. A little faster please, Mr. Spiridon.”


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