Logbook entry

Elderrook / 18 Jul 3305
Exploration for Dummies

The Leif Erikson has finally been repaired. Although I've been enjoying myself flying the 'Incisor' for a few weeks while doing some bounty hunting, I'm looking forward to setting off into deep space to do some exploring. Don't think I'm simply wasting my time on some flight of fancy. I've discovered that exploration data is a fairly valuable commodity. Various factions are willing to pay substantial sums of credits for even the most remote data. Naturally they pay more for terrestrial world and those rich in resources.

I have a general idea of the route I plan to take. If my estimates are correct, I expect to be away for approximately two or three months. I could be back faster but I plan on taking my time. I've purchased an upgraded main ship's computer with an enhanced entertainment package. Music, movies, games, I certainly won't be bored. I'm confident that the business is in good hands, and can weather my absence for that long.

I'm also going to try keeping a separate 'Explorer's Log' for the duration of this journey. My departure is scheduled for two days from now, so this will be my last personal log for some .

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THE EXPLORER'S LOG OF RYAN ELDERS

Day Two
I've been pushing the Asp X pretty hard since departing i Sola Prospect in Brestla two days ago. If something is off with the ship, I'd rather find out now than later. So far everything is operating flawlessly. I'm not really exploring any of the systems I've gone through. You only get premium value for exploration data by being the first person to discover worlds. As incredible as it might seem, it's almost impossible to find an unexplored system until you're at least three thousand light years out from the settled region we call 'the Bubble'.

Day Five
I've reached the first previously unexplored solar system today. I had to travel a little more than one hundred light years straight 'up' from the galactic plane. There are fewer systems in this region, but at least I'm finding 'first-in' systems now. Distance from Sol for the first system is thirty-two hundred light years. Time to get to work.

Day Ten
We hear about space exploration and our minds go back to the holovids when we were kids with a dashing hero traveling through space and landing on another terrestrial world each week, encountering some bizarre space monster that usually meant him ill. Reality is a little different.

Here's a bit of information on the actual process of space exploration. I've found that I can easily explore three to ten star systems in a day if things go well. That's at the relatively leisurely pace I set for myself. If I do a landing on one of the planetary bodies, which tends to take a lot more time, it may even be less than three.

As soon as I emerge from hyperspace while the Frame Shift Drive is still spooling down, I activate the Discovery Scanner. This simple to use device sends out an energy pulse that reveals everything within a solar system. It doesn't identify things, just reveals their location. A return could be a rocky moon, a gas giant, even some type of spectral anomaly. Further effort will be needed, but it gives you a good place to start. The peculiar sound generated aboard ship has caused many to refer to this process as 'honking'. The resulting noise sounds a bit like some sort of avian creature that made a similar noise, referred to as a honk.

The next step for any smart explorer is to refuel their ship. The last thing you want to do is wind up low on fuel and need to leave in a hurry. This is easily done by the Leif Erikson by making a close orbit pass of the system's primary star. I've heard that some Asp-class explorers have difficulty with this, sometimes requiring the pilot to make more than one pass. Apparently, there's an issue with a stock ship handling the heat build-up from this maneuver. With the oversized fuel scoop and refinery on my ship, I haven't had an issue with this.

With the fuel tanks filled I head away from the primary star for the next part. Close proximity of a star can distort the views of the optical lenses of the Full Spectrum Scanner. This device uses standard optics as well as a variety of others such as electrographic, magnetographic, and photonographic scopes to get a detailed reading on the various objects revealed by the Discovery Scanner.

This is perhaps the most interesting part of exploration for me. I understand that many explorers simply verify each object in order to speed up the process. I've never subscribed to this method. It takes time for the Full Spectrum Scanner to fully focus on the object. If you're patient, not only can you identify what type of planet it is but you can discover other things as well. Such as whether or not it has unusual geographic features, surface gravity, atmospheric content, even if there are biological signs.

Speaking of which, the notion of finding intelligent life somewhere in our galaxy has been dreamed of since mankind first took to the stars. The reality is that there's simply a whole lot of nothing out there. Other than some so-called Guardian sites and the enigmatic Thargoids, the only life that's been discovered is some non-sentient, simple life forms. Still, the possibility to find something new exists. Thus we keep looking and hoping to be the one to discover it. But I digress.

Once I've identified the characteristics of each planet, it's time for the big decision. If I'm the first to discover the system, then I already have the credit for first discovery. Depending on what types of planets I've found will determine my next step.

Planets have value just like gemstones. Some are more valuable than others. At the bottom of the scale are Rocky and Icy worlds. They're the most common and least valuable. Following these are the various gas giants. There's not much value in these, either. The first truly valuable world's are those classified as high metal content or metal-rich. These are the exploitable world's sought out by corporate interests. Still, none of these are enough to pique my interests.

The truly valuable world's begin with water and ammonia worlds. These are the semi-precious stones of exploration. The very best are terraformable worlds and the elusive earthlike worlds. I've yet to find an earthlike world, but I've located a few terraformable and water worlds.

So here's where the decision comes in. Any good explorer will equip their ship with a Detailed Surface Scanner. This is a specialized computer that links with tiny probes launched from the ship. The probes are self replicating, so you really don't ever run out. These little guys drop towards the planet's surface while mapping out the terrain. Those biological and geological anomalies the Full Spectrum Scanner picked up on earlier? These little probes pinpoint their exact location. Although you can do this with any world you discover, I find that the time it takes makes it worth it only for the water worlds and up. Also, if I plan to take a closer look at any surface anomalies, this will locate them for me.

The final step then is to decide whether or not to visit the surface. Interstellar law currently limits us from landing on any planetary body with an atmosphere, although legislation is in place that might hopefully change this soon.

I enjoy planetary landings. After all, I came out here to discover new worlds. It's nice to just take pictures, but the feeling of getting your boots on the ground of a world never before visited by man simply can't be beat. Personally, I like to land every evening before turning in for the night. I tend to miss the feeling of gravity, and never sleep as well without it. Even low gravity is more comfortable for me than zero Gee.

I also have an SRV bay with a single SRV. Many explorers consider it an unnecessary waste of space and weight. But I couldn't imagine going exploring without one. Even back when mankind first left earth on a missile to go to their moon, they took a rover with them. For me, there's nothing like ending the evening with a little drive around a planet's surface before going to bed.

If you've never woken up to an alien sunrise on a planet previously unseen by human eyes, you haven't really lived. It's quite the experience.

So, that's what I call stellar exploration. Others may have slightly different methods. I suppose like any job, eventually the experience becomes routine, the novelty wearing off and all. I can't imagine ever becoming so jaded as to let that happen. I truly love doing this, and wish I could just keep going.
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