Mingwei Gu

writings on business, meditation, technology, markets, sci-fi, organizations

29 Sep 2020

High Speed Asteroid Chase

“That bastard’s got my grandson. I can’t let him get away.” Paolo mutters under his breath.

He’s clipped onto the back of a small asteroid. And the kidnapper’s on an even smaller one about half a kilometer in front.

And both asteroids are hurtling towards Earth. Through the blackness of space.

Paolo’s wearing a standard atmospheric suit made of curved bronze metal plates. Based on a diving suit design from 1882, its semi-spherical joints fit together to form airtight seals and give him a limited range of motion. The helmet has thirty small circular ports so he move his and see around him.

He disengages his first safety clip. That’ll give him about half a meter of safety chain to move about the rock. He takes a hand mirror from his bandolier and extends it around the edge of the asteroid to see the asteroid he’s pursuing.

Paolo’s still gaining on his target. Perhaps half a meter a second. But that’s too slow.

Fifteen minutes until Earth’s atmosphere. He has to catch up before then. If he doesn’t, they might all burn up on re-entry.

And he won’t let his grandson die.

Paolo puts back his mirror and thinks. Given his asteroid’s current mass of 964 kg, he estimates he’ll need to find a rock about 15 kg to achieve the adjustment he needs.

He takes out his hand-sized pick axe. And ventures toward the edge of the asteroid. He finds a protrusion that looks about the size he needs. Paolo carves off the rock with his pick axe and examines it. Looks about right.

He puts away his pick axe and makes his way over to the ballista attached to the back of the asteroid. While originally designed to be a weapon, asteroid riders have coopted it mainly for course correction.

It’s a wooden contraption of one meter in length and about the same in width. The wielder of the ballista can rotate its angle and its incline.

Paolo had already hand cranked the ballista, so places the rock onto the ballista’s projectile area. Paolo takes out his mirror again to confirm the bearing. He sets the angle and incline of the ballista, unlocks the safety, braces himself and fires.

The 15 kg piece of rock goes flying behind the asteroid, and he feels a small jolt as the asteroid changes velocity slightly. He checks his mirror and he’s gaining faster on the kidnapper. Three minutes until he reaches the kidnapper.

Paolo grabs the pneumatic harpoon gun. And he attaches the end of his own safety chain into the gun. He disengages his second and third safety clips to give himself enough safety chain to go to the front of the asteroid.

He moves by handholds to the edge of the asteroid. The kidnapper’s asteroid is 50 meters away now.

Paolo clips in his backup chain onto the front of the asteroid. And stands and readies the harpoon gun.

25 meters away. Paolo aims at a crevasse in the other asteroid, illuminated by the sun.

Ten meters. And he fires. The harpoon gun recoils as the harpoon takes his safety chain towards the asteroid. The sound of metal ripping rock tells he’s got a hold. Paolo unclips his backup chain to detach himself from his own asteroid.

He looks back at the kidnapper’s asteroid and presses the button on his harpoon gun to pull him in.

Just as his body is floating away, Paolo sees a rock flying towards him. It connects with his helmet and knocks him back into his own asteroid. The back of his head slams against the back of the helmet. He hears a crack behind him.

Paolo tries to lift his head and look forward but he can’t focus. He feels the wetness at the back of his head.

Five minutes until Earth’s atmosphere. His vision starts to fade. Must save grandson.