Mercury for Beginners
Mercury for Beginners
Mercury For Beginners
UWP: C300416-8 Po Va
Size: Approximately 0.055 Earths by Mass
Gravity: 0.38 g
Surface Pressure: Negligible
Surface Composition: Metallic Material (70%), Silicate Rock (30%)
Atmosphere: Trace – Molecular Oxygen (42%), Sodium (29%), Hydrogen (22%), Helium (6%), Potassium (0.5%)
Surface Temperature: Around 427° C/800° F.
Day: 176 Days
Year: 88 Earth-Standard Days
Conquering the Dead Planet
From a distance you’d think that the smallest planet in the solar system should belong in orbit around another world. After all, the surface of Mercury looks very similar to Luna and its equatorial diameter of 4879 kilometers is smaller than Jupiter’s Ganymede and Saturn’s Titan. However, upon closer inspection, you’d find that Mercury once possessed a geologically active life much like that of primordial Earth, with massive plate shifts and volcanic activity. Mercury is a terrestrial world formed of metals and silicate rock with a large iron core some 900 kilometers below the surface. The volcanic life of Mercury has ceased. Millions of years have seen this tiny planet bake relentlessly like a spinning rotisserie under the punishing heat of the Sun’s rays. Space debris, free from the protective barrier of an active atmosphere, relentlessly pummels Mercury’s surface. The force of solar winds wears against the sharp edges of crater rims and craggy peaks. Even the vast differences in surface temperature make this world seem impossible to sustain life. What human engineering could produce a colony structure that could withstand temperature variations from between -315ºF and +800ºF? Mercury certainly seems to insist on remaining a dead planet. Mercury’s rotational cycle is one of the strangest in the Solar System. It actually takes longer for this planet to spin on its axis than it does for it to orbit the sun. A remarkably long 176 Earth days is required for Mercury to complete an entire rotation and yet only 88 Earth Days to complete a single solar orbit.
One of the most important physical features on Mercury is the Chao Meng-Fu crater, located at the planet’s South Pole. This crater, with an approximate diameter of 167 kilometers/104 miles, is unique in that its polar position allows it to maintain a relatively constant temperature of -170° C/-275º F. 40% of Chao Meng-Fu’s basin remains perpetually in shadow and thus offers a protected haven from the Sun’s brutal assault. This creates an absolutely perfect condition from which to establish a colony on Mercury.
The Colony Port Tian is Mercury’s one and only colony, settled within the Chao Meng-Fu crater. Viewers from an approaching spacecraft would notice the expected landing terminals and multiple domes of the colony’s spaceport. However, the majority of Port Tian would be undetectable by outside scrutiny as this settlement actually exists well below the surface of the planet. Sealed caverns have replaced the arcology domes of other worlds. Large external collector panels trap radiated energy from the Sun to provide power and regulated heat. Air supply units mix nitrogen, oxygen, and recycled carbon dioxide to produce breathable air. Port Tian is spartan and functional in design, with overall utility being higher in priority than aesthetics. That suits its 16,000 residents just fine.
What would drive human endeavor and investment to such an inhospitable world? For some, it is a chance to take advantage of Mercury’s growing mining industry. Spend a few years digging precious metals and save enough wealth to return home to Earth in style. For others, it is a chance to discover something new. Yet for others, it is that last chance to escape. Mercury is for many a promise, a penance, a purgatory, or a punishment entirely depending on their point of view.
So it was that a group of Chinese colonists, armed with all their own private purposes, set out to establish the first human settlement of Port Tian. It was here that the Chinese colony ship Shenzhou landed to establish the first Mercury colony ninety-three years ago. Original funding for the colony was granted by a new conglomeration of three major Chinese corporations called TRIAD Enterprises LLC, operating in cooperation with the Chinese government.
Today Terrestrial Research Infrastructure And Development (TRIAD) manages the daily routine of the colony under the watchful eye of both the Sino-China Alliance and the Unified World Council. One must be a TRIAD employee to work the mines of Mercury. However, independent business owners can operate within the colony if granted a contract. Free enterprise exists in Port Tian, but there is always a price when setting up on TRIAD-held land.
Even though TRIAD continues to turn a healthy profit each year in exported raw metals, the fact remains that Port Tian is not a self-sustaining colony. The residents of Port Tian rely heavily on outside trade for food, water, parts, and manufactured goods. Thus, a tidy profit can certainly be made by those freelance traders willing to make the Mercury run.
Port Tian’s heavy reliance on external trade is also the reason that the Unified World Council holds a certain amount of unofficial influence over this colony. Nothing would hurt business for TRIAD more than a UWC imposed trade embargo. It’s important to note that the UWC secured a treaty with TRIAD to allow for the establishment of an independent scientific research facility at Port Tian to study the Sun up close, as well as the impact of intense and prolonged heat on the surface of Mercury. Many sensor stations have been set up around the southern hemisphere of Mercury to provide readings, as facings of the planet revolve from night into day.
Life on Mercury
People don’t go to Mercury unless they have business there. Tourism, lavish entertainment venues, and plush lifestyles do not exist here. People work hard and often play hard, but the pleasures of life are only enjoyed in the simplest of terms. A local video broadcast network sponsored by TRIAD provides news, corporate updates, and on-demand movie selections, but the library is rarely updated. People come to Port Tian, make their money, and go home.
TRIAD does treat its employees well, with regards to pay and benefits. In fact, Port Tian is equipped with very good medical facilities that are free for employee use and offered at reasonable prices for visitors. The company also offers an attractive plan to help relocate workers from off-world. Cycling workers is essential to sustain Mercury’s survivability, so recruitment campaigns are often seen on most of the inner worlds.
Leaving the frontier-like mix found at Port Tian’s spaceport allows a visitor to experience an interesting cultural shift as they make their way to the colony levels below. Unlike the East/West ethnic soup of the upper level, the lower levels are very much East. Sino-China Alliance culture, custom, and tradition forges the very foundation of Port Tian society.
A large Asian marketplace forms the social hub of the colony and adjacent neighborhoods are divided according to position in the company. A kind of social hierarchy exists similar to an ancient caste system. Fraternization between management and workers is very much frowned upon. Foreigners soon learn the language and to adapt to cultural differences.