The government finally decided on naming the ship “Armstrong” after the first man to land on the moon. While it was briefly discussed to open up the naming of the craft to the people using a poll on the internet, fear of “Spacey McSpaceface” caused the Vice President to quickly squash that idea.
Of course, discussions about the ship became more serious once the reasonings for its flight came to light. No one could keep the secret for long. Though the order for secrecy was airtight, and the penalty severe, a whispered word from husband to wife, or mother to child quickly spread around the world, becoming the most talked about story to ever reach the airwaves since OJ Simpson: the Earth was going to be hit by an incoming asteroid. The asteroid was almost 100% metallic and almost perfectly round. Speculation as to an alien origin has given birth to more abduction stories, conspiracy theories about what species our leaders were and a resurgence in sandwich boards reading “The End is Nigh!”
But the Armstrong is what can be built when an entire planet comes together. Boosters from China, living quarters from the ESA, rocket fuel from India and Japan-and the USA supplying a dozen mothballed NERVA rockets from the 70s. Nuclear powered rockets that never saw the light of day due to mounting concerns of nuclear safety.
The plan: Attach these rockets to the “Orb” (what people ended up calling the asteroid when that word started losing its meaning) and divert it from its deadly course. The Armstrong would do a gravity assist around Venus, another assist around Earth, and a final assist around Jupiter to make contact with the Orb. There it will use its fuel to match speed with the object. Then using EVAs and some elbow grease (no time was given for robotic arms or other easy way to attach the rockets), the rockets would be attached and fired. Then the Armstrong would follow the Orb’s original flight path which would send it straight home to Earth. It would, however, use its remaining fuel to slow itself and reach a more stable orbit where our heroes can return to the surface and life can continue.
The plan would take 18 months of flight. The only way to feed and house astronauts for that long without resupply is to only send four people. Arguments flared over sending so few people for such an important mission, but in the end, this is what was decided. Sixteen specialists were trained on all aspects of the mission, though only four ultimately were sent:
Jessica Barnez – Pilot
Allison Haslip – Lead Engineer
Dexter Pendragon – Astrophysicist
Shirley Van Housen – Doctor
The World’s prayers go with these four brave humans, sent on a mission as Our Last Best Hope.