Lift Ships™, a short SciFi story of possibilities
Copyright © Bob Freeman, 2009-2019 All Rights Reserved
LiftShips carry cargo from the asteroid belt to Luna, Mars, via Phoebe, and Earth where they can land, re-fuel and pick up raw and finished materials for the return trip.
The asteroids have abundant supplies of minerals and light-gravity manufactured equipment. They also have huge aquafarms where fish are grown for export. Fish and algae are the only protein sources that do well in low or zero gravity. Plants and herbivores will survive in zero gravity, but they are far from tasty, having a consistency of mush after living without gravity for extended periods of time.
Earth is still the center of the solar system, purchasing computers from Luna and processed minerals, micro-gravity grown crystal from the asteroids to mention a few. Earth is the bread basket of the planets, selling live cattle, sheep, goats, swine, fish stock, and grains. Minerals such as coal and oil that are only found on Earth are in demand.
Outgoing LiftShips carry a temporary Boost Crew to compress the Hydrogen and the regular crew handles the winches to switch the balloon to a solar sail.
In port, the strength and reach of of crew members such as Tang is unmatched. Jack simply barks orders and directs the loading crew.
After loading the animals, Jack is chief herder, in charge of maintaining control of any edible ungulate cargo during the return trip.
Algal farms are standard on most all of the lumps of rock, pointing toward the sun. Originally, highly productive and successful, even with the distant weak sunlight . Over time, x- and gamma rays knock off amino acids and modifying the genetic code of the algal farms at rates that cause the introduction of unwelcome mutations.
New algal seed stock needs to be re-introduced from earth on a regular basis to insure that the farms will continue to produce.
Algal farm teams consists of hydrologists, microbiologists, limnologists and just some regular workologists to do the heavy lifting.
As more and more humans and animals move to the belts, there is higher risk of the introduction of unwanted blue-green algae, protozoa, viruses and troublesome bacteria. The scientists and technicians are always on the lookout for these nasty cohorts which increase the risk of contamination and failure.
Grass and plants grow astoundingly fast in the micro-gravity environment of the belt, but after a few generations, the lignin becomes less and less compressed and the plants become spongy and tasteless.
Grazing animals were introduced as a supplemental food source as soon as it became clear that they could survive in the environment, but, like the grasses they ate, after a few years they would be come as soft and spongy as their food.
Attempts were made to exercise the animals using the herding dogs, but while it was fun for the dogs, the animals would just become stressed after being run around the rock a few times. Other techniques such as cow and sheep exercise equipment were just about as successful as the dog workouts.
Surprising, swine do well in low and zero gravity of the asteroids, being more closely related to humans than the other even-toed ungulates. Pigs are not constrained to just eating grass and more then willing to root and work for their dinner. The fact that they love garbage is a plus, but they sure miss the mud.