Author: Philip Tudball
We explore. As a species, it is both what we do and defines who we are. It is what we have always done, since the first of us gazed outwards and wondered. We took ships and travelled out into the unknown, planting our flags on distant shores. The world shrank around us as the unknown became known. Eventually, the world became too small for us and we took ships, out into space, back out into the unknown. Still, we planted our flags. As the technology advanced so did our horizons, we planted more flags, reaching ever further out, until here we are today.
We are far from Earth now, so far out. Lightyears out, generations out even, and we have been travelling a long time. Our ancestors would not recognise us, those who first pushed off from a rocky shore into turbulent waters, or who first left the safety of ground for the promise of open skies. But they would recognise our intentions.
A spaceship the size of a Terran continent is hard to wrap your head around and makes the term ‘ship’ almost insulting. ‘Self-sufficient’ also loses almost all meaning when dealing with such measure. But we are a ship, and we are alone. We left our species behind when we began our journey further than any before. Longer than any before, taking us to parts of the universe our forebearers could not even conceive of. We have been seeding areas of space, marking them out for future colonisation, those rare bits of the universe where verdant star systems will allow for empires to flourish, given enough time. For those who will follow us in decades, even centuries, time. Today we are planting a flag, so to speak. Our ancestors would know us and be proud.
Today a star is going supernova, and will soon become a pulsar, throwing its detritus all the way across the universe. This star has been laced with markers and been forced into an early metamorphosis. This star will mark us out. The power required, the time and knowledge to make this happen. Decades of work by the greatest amongst our ranks. A flag our ancestors could not even comprehend.
We are grouped on the bridge, thousands of us but all quiet. Anyone who can be spared their tasks, anyone with sufficient rank. These moments come once a generation. All of us, expectant and waiting and silent. We are so far off as to make the event look insignificant. The explosion, one of the most violent acts the universe can throw at us, will be so small it cannot be seen with the eye from our vantage. There is no need to be here all together, yet here we are, we gather together anyway for we know this is a momentous occasion.
Silence. Then a computer chimes. It chimes again, then continues in short bursts. That small sound is all we need. Such a small sound for something that means so much. Some cheer, some clap. I allow myself a smile, with the knowledge of this momentous thing we have done. Our flag, to be flown across the universe. Others will follow us, our beacon or flame, a mark on the map.
Our horizons become smaller but we move on, we explore. It is both what we do and defines who we are.