On the seventh month and second day of the Hope Calendar, the Hope successfully arrived at the gas giant's meteorite belt. According to the calculations made by the central mainframe, this was the safest distance for the Hope because even though they were still about 50 kilometers away from the mineable meteorite cl.u.s.ter, they were safe from collision with stray meteorites. Nevertheless, additional missiles were prepared for cases where crash was inevitable.
Other than that, the shuttle was given another upgrade so that it could serve as a mining vessel. Two giant mechanical arms and a collection chute were added. Harvested minerals could be transferred through the chute to be deposited inside the shuttle.
Naturally, a single shuttle couldn't satisfy the needs of twelve million people. Therefore, it was understood that this was supposed to be a trial run. The aim was to check whether these minerals contained any harmful elements and to check whether they were worth harvesting. After the experience on Planet Sahara, everyone on the Hope was that much more wary when approaching this alien situation.
After preparation had been done, at two in the afternoon, several scientists, engineers, and two soldiers boarded the mining shuttle. A few minutes later, they departed from the Hope for the meteorite cl.u.s.ter.
The shuttle crossed 50 kilometers in the blink of an eye. Without further permission, they wouldn't venture deep into the cl.u.s.ter. Instead, they hovered by its perimeter where a 2 cubic meters asteroid was collected.
The whole process was conducted under the watchful eye of the Hope's surveillance, which had been restored to its full capacity after they left the nebula. It is worth mentioning that even though man's technology then was still too amateur for actual s.p.a.ce-travel, it remained a source of comfort for citizens of the Hope because they already had the best man could offer.
To garner morale, visuals of man's first s.p.a.ce mining operation were projected on monitors all over the Hope. The Hope News Agency  was even doing a live broadcast. A sense of excitement could be felt all over the Hope that night.
"Good evening. As you can see on the screen, the shuttle is harvesting its first asteroid, and its size appears to be around 2 cubic meters. At the moment, the asteroid is now firmly in the mechanical arms' grasp. They only need to send it into the chute now. According to updates from the Workshop, operations on the shuttle are running smoothly. This operation you are witnessing on the screen right now is run by a Mr. Hanzo Bick. Mr. Hanzo used to be a marine salvage operator, so I have faith that this operation is in good hands."
In contrast to the military feed videos, which were laden with statistics, the visuals broadcast to the public came attached with an anchor. The female anchor was a seasoned journalist and newscaster. According to rumors, she was previously affiliated with a famous American news organization and was the Hope News Agency's first hire.
"Dear viewers, now we have to be patient because a.n.a.lysis of the asteroid will take about three to six hours. We know that s.p.a.ce is full of unknown dangers, so before we are certain of the actual components of this asteroid, the shuttle is not allowed back into the Hope. On that note, we have here on set Professor Yuan Bin, the world-famous biologist. Now Professor Yuan Bin, can you help explain to our audience the possible dangers this asteroid could contain…"
At that moment in command central, Yao Yuan and everyone else were glued to the main monitor, the shuttle's channel of communication. This was where people got firsthand knowledge regarding the s.p.a.ce mining operation.
Zhang Heng, Jay, and a few members of the Black Star Unit though were watching the evening news on a smaller screen nearby. When Yuan Pin appeared on screen, Zhang Heng said quizzically, "Professor Yuan Pin? Didn't he say he detests these showy news programs? Why would he agree to an appearance now? I was expecting a normal science expert, not the Hope's best in biology."
Without taking his eyes away from the monitor, Yao Yuan answered, "I told him to make an appearance. This is to stop baseless speculation that makes people charge aimlessly into danger during emergencies, like how they did on Planet Sahara… Other than that, haven't you noticed? Professor Yuan Pin is speaking in Chinese."
"He is indeed explaining everything in Chinese. What about it?" Guang Zhen asked, with a hint of interest.
"Notice that he's speaking Chinese and the screen has English subt.i.tles… Still not getting it?" Yao Yuan shook his head, chuckling. "At the moment, there are about ten main languages being used on the Hope, the most common ones being Chinese and English. The rest includes French, German, Russian, Korean, and j.a.panese. In any case, it's complicated and it doesn't serve our cause of uniting the people. To do that, we need a lingua franca.
"There is still some time before we need to formalize an official language, but when that need arises, my choice is Chinese. Therefore, I've requested experts like Professor Yuan Pin to appear on these shows and speak in Chinese to implant into the people's mind the importance of the Chinese language."
After Yao Yuan finished, everyone in the room started speaking in Chinese, which left Jay alone in the dark. Only Zhang Heng noticed Jay's confused expression and patted him consolingly on his shoulder… (The poor fella, looks like he might need to put some extra effort into learning a new language, but then again, the girl he was chasing, I remember quite distinctly was a language expert. Maybe she could be of help.)
Simultaneously, out in the shuttle, experiments were being expertly carried out. First, the asteroid was spilt in half. Then, various experiments were conducted on the rock's outer surface, inner layers, and its core. Their chemical make-up, mineral composition, and even possible sentience were given a thorough sweep.
At around four in the afternoon, initial reports showed that while the asteroid contained no microbes or viruses, its components were incredibly complex. It contained multiple metallic and non-metallic compounds, carbon dioxide, ice particles, and most importantly, radioactive substances!
This meant that among this meteorite cl.u.s.ter there were some meteorites that contained radioactive deposits!
Scientists from the Academy cheered in happiness when they were relayed this news. Their hypothesis had been proven correct. During the formation of a new solar system, it is going to be suffused with ample minerals. They cheered because this meant that the Hope was going to get a timely restock of their supply!
And this included energy needed for s.p.a.ce-warping!
According to the ma.s.s spectrometer, the asteroid consisted of rich elements that could be trans.m.u.ted through processes like electrolysis to produce water, oxygen, chemicals, fertilizers, mineral ores, and even raw materials for drugs!
The significance it represented couldn't be understated!
This meant that as long as the solar system suffered no great tragedy, the Hope could stay within this system indefinitely! Using the materials supplied by these asteroids and meteorites, man could very well build a s.p.a.ce base. While waiting for the terrestrial planet to form, a.s.sembly of new s.p.a.ceships like the Hope could be initiated. Landing could occur when the planet is ready and the Hope's technology by then should be more capable to terraform the planet into man's new home planet!
"Have we finally… found a new home?"
Yao Yuan saw celebration erupt across the Hope through the monitor, but a sneaking wariness prevented him from sharing in the people's joy. That wariness came from…
The fiery newborn star…
Name of the news agency created in the previous chapter.