This was a small exercise done in a travel writing class that spawned an idea for a comic book I am currently working on.
I feel like my suit should be melting. The electromagnetic shielding is the only barrier between me and the sun. If not for that, I’d be destroyed in an instant. Total annihilation. But it’s working, keeping me and the others safe. And since we’re only touring the photosphere, a relatively low temp area of a mere 7,250 degrees F in the center of a sunspot, the shielding isn’t even working hard. Plus Virgin Sun has wisely programmed our suits and equipment with navigational boundaries that actively adjust according to the ever changing conditions of the sun. The suits can withstand temperatures as high as 30,000 degrees F, but they won’t let us outside of zones where the temp increases beyond 10,000 degrees F.
The plasma collector we brought with us however, will descend through the photosphere into the core, harvesting plasma somewhere in the range of 2-3 million degrees F. This is a paltry temperature compared to the plasma created by our own fusion reactors. They heat two hydrogen isotopes to more than 270 million degrees F. But the sun’s plasma has unique properties that cannot be duplicated on earth. So here we are, watching the plasma specialist operate the collector via the imaging equipment inside our helmets.
The display shows me a computer rendered image of the sunspot we are hovering in and our transport looming large above us. The transport brought us through the dangerous corona, which reaches temperatures of 3.6 million degrees F. The Virgin Sun transport lacks any of the usual logos associated with the Branson regime. The transport is of such a size on the outside—more than twice the size of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai—that the paint needed for the logo seen from any kind of distance would increase the weight by thousands of thousands of pounds. Unnecessary weight is cost prohibitive, especially considering that the inside of the transport is no bigger than a two-bedroom house in the suburbs. It’s a small womb in the middle of a gigantic radiation shield.
The plasma specialist alerts us to stay put—as if we could move against our suit’s nav system—telling us that the descending arm will eject in twenty seconds. He sounds like a pissed off baby-sitter as he tells us this, and to be honest, this isn’t far from the truth. The privatization of space over the last couple of decades has dramatically changed the way scientists do business. Our plasma specialist is really just hitching a ride. Virgin Sun is more than willing to accommodate the scientist as long as he minds a few space-gawkers like myself, especially since I shelled out over $2M to take this trip.
The privatization of space has forced a symbiotic relationship with the scientific community. It started off a little rocky when they first went asteroid mining. The billionaires were greedy and thought they’d bring back tons of gold and other precious metals and increase their wealth. While they did bring back literally tons of precious metals, they didn’t become any richer. They actually devalued the commodity they brought back. They flooded the market with so much precious metal that the price went down. Who would have thought that there could be too much gold?
While the gold rush failed, tourism did not. And scientists like our dear plasma specialist have had to hold the hands of rich tourists to get any work done out in space. But the sciences and the arts have always needed patronage of some sort, be it wealthy merchants, monarchies, or governments. And as I watched the screen in my helmet show me the plasma collector’s descending arm shoot out from the center of the machine at more than 400 miles per hour amidst the backdrop of the sun’s surface, with solar winds from the corona swirling past at even higher speeds, I thought it a worthy price to pay.
Please leave any criticism, ideas, thoughts, or whatever in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!