This week we preview the ARC Project, one of the most ambitious engineering efforts currently underway in the future of Shadows Over Sol. The ARC Project (short for Alpha-Centauri Remote Colony) is no less than an attempt to construct humanity's first interstellar colony ship. Once completed, this ship will be launched at the planet Sirine orbiting Alpha Centauri A, carrying some 10,000 inhabitants. It will then undergo a four century journey to its final destination with the hope of colonizing a distant exoplanet.
In 2031, an Earth-like planet was discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri A, a scant 4.36 light years from the Sol system. Over the course of the next century, this planet—nicknamed Sirine—was found both to be in the star's habitable “Goldilocks” zone and to hold all the chemical components necessary to support life. Despite catching the imagination of scientists the system over and almost two centuries of listening for radio transmissions, there have been no signs of detectable or intelligent life.
Lindiwe Temma, a wealthy Neoret business tycoon and Stillwater Catholic faithful, said that in 2207 he received a premonition that humanity would need to spread beyond the Sol system, seeding itself elsewhere in the galaxy if it were to survive. Over the course of the next three years, he began to gather other investors and companies interested in the project of constructing the very first interstellar colony ship, but he repeatedly ran up against the fact that despite the promise of Sirine and almost two centuries of observation, no one knew exactly what would be found at the end of the trip. Whoever launched themselves in such a ship would have to be taking it on faith that their children would one day reach the promised land. With this in mind, he turned to the Stillwater Catholic Church with his venture. They quickly became the project's biggest investors.
Initially, Temma formed the Arc Engineering Corporation to design and administer the new endeavor. Soon afterward, however, Unitech began pressuring the small corp and the Stillwater Catholics for construction rights on the project. Temma objected to this move by Unitech and convinced the investors, most notably the Church's leadership, to resist the pressure. Unitech did not take this lightly.
Facing increasing pressure, Temma began to realize that he would need the backing of a larger corp to resist Unitech's involvement. He reached out to other Neoret business contacts and was soon put into communication with Utakar System Dynamics (USD). Negotiation with USD did not last long. Sensing a chance to shut Unitech out, Utakar took control of the ARC Project's construction and administration through a rapid series of bribes and a forceful takeover of ARC Engineering Corporation headquarters.
When the metaphorical dust settled, USD had convinced enough of the project's investors to back to their leadership. The Stillwater Church objected to USD's tactics, but not too loudly because they came out of the arrangement with increased oversight in colonist selection and the religious content of the project. Lindiwe Temma maintains a position on the ARC Project advisory board but is largely bereft of the leadership and control he once held over the project.
The ARC Project was conceived of in 2207, and construction on the interstellar colony vessel began in 2211. Today, in 2214, the ARC Project employs a virtual army of engineers, technicians, life support biologists, administrators and construction workers. Initial interviews of would-be colonists are ongoing, and the ship is scheduled for a 2221 launch date. Below is the projected timeline of the project:
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