A NEBULOUS GOAL

The Gazette gets up close and personal with the driving forces behind the Colonia Nebula Project

What does ‘colonisation’ mean?

It means the great spinning cities that we’re all used to, sure. But as well as this it means finding the next ‘pale blue dots’ upon which we could thrive, not just survive. It means finding the precious resources we will need for the construction of our new homes; finding the means to feed ourselves. In short, it means severing the cord that links us to the worlds upon which we were born.

elitedangerous32-exe_dx11_20160425_153923

An Earth-like world in the Bubble

 

At present, that cord takes the form of great transport ships steadily making their way through the silence towards us, carrying everything we need to survive.

That’s not colonisation – that’s dependence.

That’s why the Colonia Nebula Project (CNP) was created.

In echoes of the Borderlands Venture, which this newspaper featured recently, the initiative sounds breathtakingly ambitious. To scout an entire nebula for humanity’s new homes. To catalogue all the places we might find the resources we need to sustain ourselves.

And yet, progress is being made. Spearheaded by a (similarly Francophone) team of scientists and cartographers, the CNP is quietly and relentlessly compiling data, sending their findings to great humming data centres at Colonia Hub.

The Gazette spoke to Commander Gazer__, one of the members of the cartography team.

“It seems such an impossibly hard mission – to map in detail such a vast area of space,” he told us.  “However, the project seems to precisely fit the type of Commander here.”

The lure of the prize is compelling:

“If you could see what I’m looking at right now though–an Earth-like world just 28 light years from Jaques–you too would wish to walk down there and call it home. If it wasn’t for CCN and the nebula mapping project, I wouldn’t be here staring at the sight of ‘the moon’ with a blue marble slowly rising in the distance. Incredible!”

screenshot_0081

A water world found by Commander Alex Ringess

We managed to catch up with two of the lead coordinators of the project, Commanders Alex Ringess and EfilOne.

***

Gazette: Thank you both for joining us! It’s great that you managed to take the time out from your work to speak to us.

Alex: Thanks. It’s a pleasure to be there with you and all the colonists.

EfilOne: Thank you! It’s a real pleasure to be here.

Gazette: Before we get onto the enormous project you’re working on, I’m sure our readers would like to know more about the two of you. What brought you to the field of science and mapping, originally?

Alex: While I was involved in August Exodus Expedition, I came naturally to the idea that we must support ourselves in the regional mapping work to make sure that the data collected are in good hands and above all they can be available to everyone.

screenshot_0041

Alex’s ship during the August Exodus: Jaunt to Jaques

EfilOne: Very good question! To be frank, everything has been about exploration since the very beginning for me.

The science side of things really gained momentum for me a few years after switching from my good old Diamondback Explorer, ECHO-419, to Star’s End, my forever ASP ship dedicated to science. It happened when joining Distant Worlds Expedition (DWE), and more specifically soon after joining the Rock Rats. I found prospecting very interesting, but what took me into the world of science was all the analysis behind materials and the trials to predict their presence depending on planet types.

Gazette: EfilOne, what brought you to CCN originally?

EfilOne: After the DWE and lots of analysis and trials on the methods, I realised I was enjoying it so much I needed to ‘science’ pretty much everything I could.

A good DWE buddy, Qohen Leth, and I decided that it would be amazing to gather data that would help with the engineering side of our ships – retrieve every intel we could get and compile that into a big database that every commander could access to get to know what they’d want in a matter of seconds.

Since then, I’ve kept in frequent contact with him. Not long ago, he invited me to provide help on the science side of a project called CNP.

Gazette: Ah yes, we know Qohen.

Alex, am I right in thinking that you first conceived the idea for the Colonia Nebula Project?

Alex: This project was in embryonic stage when the August Exodus Expedition happened. It had been thought out and begun by Cmdr Astrix, the LOSP and Cmdr Yuksarr, who was a freelancer at the time. We built its foundations with little means and virtually no knowledge of stellar cartography. But the spirit of the project was already there and it was Cmdr Erimus Kamzel who asked me to join the CCN. It was the spirit with which we started the project and its general philosophy that led him to come find me.

That’s when the Colonia Nebula Project was born. Qohen saw the difficulty we were having for moving on to the next stage and introduced me to EfilOne.

Gazette: Like many things in CCN, it sounds like it was a joint genesis between many people!

For the benefit of new readers or those who have recently joined the network, let’s talk a bit about the project in general. Exactly what are you hoping to achieve?

Alex: It’s very simple: to exhaustively map all the star systems in the Colonia Nebula. And like many simple things, that proved to be a massive undertaking.

EfilOne: The long-term goal is to provide a database of friendly systems for further colonization and expansion. Also to prepare for the eventuality that we may discover Barnacles.

Like Alex said, the means are simple. What lies under is, in itself, an enormous task requiring time and dedication. And that has been driving every member of the project so far!

Alex: This project’s scale is so grand that we are currently involved in building the foundations that will support all future endeavours.

Gazette: That is, quite frankly, staggering.

What area of space is that, do you think?

EfilOne: As a first step we decided that everything within 21 Ly of Jaques would be surveyed – which makes a cube of about 42 Ly each side, Jaques being at the center.

Gazette: That sounds achievable. Are you scanning and logging every astronomical body?

Alex: All systems will be scanned and logged systematically, so yes, all the astronomical bodies. In fact, there are some that will not be on the survey: the asteroid fields near the stars, or some resources on landable planets that are so common, it won’t be relevant to log it.

eol_prou_rs-t_d3-94_8

Asteroid fields are not logged on the CNP database unless they contain useful resources

Gazette: What details are you recording?

EfilOne: For stars, we record the system name and the star’s class, mass, radius and temperature.

For planets, we record much more due to the kinds of analysis we can run on them. The system name and body name, the Star Class it orbits, its type, mass, radius, and surface temperature, its amount of metal, rock and ice percentages, its atmospheric composition (if it has one), the number of rings it has (if applicable), and the resource percentages.

We also check if metal deposits are found in canyons, whether the body can be landed upon, and whether it has Barnacles on it.

And, of course we always record the distance from Jaques station.

screenshot_0079

Jaques Station

Alex: We also pay special attention to planets with atmosphere that has a high content of Ammonia. According to recent research by the Canonn Interstellar Research Group, Unknown Probes seem to appreciate this type of stellar bodies.

Gazette: A significant body of work. How many contributors are there in the project as of today?

Alex: We have around 50 people for now but as the project gains momentum we anticipate that more will join us.

Gazette: What have you discovered so far? What amazed you?

EfilOne: The amount of data a small group of people can log in such a short time!

Alex: 152 stars and around 650 objects are in the database already. We have found around 140 colonizable bodies and about 50 planets that are candidates for hosting Barnacles.

Gazette: What kind of progress are you making towards covering the entire 42 Ly side cube, and when do you think it’ll be finished?

Alex: Personally, I don’t want to think about that, as it’s a long-term project.

Giving an estimation of the time the project may take is difficult. The tools we have now make the process slow.

EfilOne: The reason is that we are surveying a very dense region of space–albeit clearly defined–and that makes any time projections extremely difficult.

Gazette: There’s clearly been a great deal of preparation and some keen intellects involved.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the project?

EfilOne: Accuracy in the data collected; and of course, the potential attrition due to the project’s size.

On another side, the upcoming release the scanning computer’s firmware will render some of our current processes obsolete. We are working closely with the Pilot’s Federation to prepare for the change while keeping the team productive and free of frustrations.

Alex: At the beginning, it was the high stellar density, a challenge that we suspect will remain till the end of the project. And of course we want to keep this database free for everyone interested in the collected data, something we hope is not going to prove a major challenge.

screenshot_0083

The cartographers at work on a rocky body in Colonia

Gazette: Has your involvement in the project taught you much, so far?

Alex: A lot!

First of all, I discovered the meaning of ‘community’. And of course, the mapping process in itself. It’s a process that mobilises a wide array of knowledge and different skills.

Finally, I’ve learned endurance. Endurance to do the trip from the Old Worlds to Jaques (I’ve made it four times) and endurance to develop and maintain this project.

EfilOne: Plenty, to be honest!

I never ever was in the position of managing a group of people before. This simple thing taught me a lot about how to react and manage things for the greater good of the group as a whole, and not only the data in itself.

Gazette: That’s great to hear. It sounds like you have a lot on your plates!

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the Project?

Alex: Don’t panic! It’s all good. You’ll do the best you can do. You are not alone and what you do, even if you consider it small, is bigger than you can imagine.

EfilOne: We’re always here to provide help and answer questions whenever we can; also all the existing project members are happy to do so as well.

Also, have fun. Some may want to tell a story while participating in the project, some may find the inner scientist in themselves while logging – it’s all fun and great times down the road!

Alex: I wanted to add something else. There are actually two events linked to the CNP.

The first is a system hunt – the Grand System Hunt, built by Cmdr Infernal-Jawa. A paintjob is offered to the winners.

The second, organised by Cmdr Tharrn, is called  ‘Pale Blue Dots‘ and is self-explanatory.

Those projects can be done by anyone involved in the CNP as they can be considered part of the wider Project.

Gazette: I’m sure you’ll have piqued interest – you may find yourselves with more cartographers before long.

So I guess I ought to let you get back to your work!

Thank you both very much for taking the time to talk to us. We’ve learnt a lot more about what you guys get up to and why the CNP is important.

EfilOne: Thank you very much! And I would also like to thank everyone involved in the project so far, you guys are doing truly stellar work!

Alex: Thank you!

Advertisements

Please share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s