Win-Bahg, A., (2180). A Brief History of the Great Diaspora, 3rd ed. Spica:Schaum University Press.
The Great Diaspora is generally considered to have begun around 2090 when the first of the ten ark-ships, Serendipity, left Sol for the Tau Ceti system and lasted until approximately 2102 when the last of the ark-ships, Eureka, made transit to Delta Pavonis. In those 12 stanyers, the ark-ships established human presence in thirty-two systems and moved over a million people off the planet.
The Twentieth Century gave the universe three great minds — Albert Einstein, Steven Hawking, and Eva Silverstein. It wasn’t until the middle of the Twenty-First Century that their various works in relativity, time, and string theory came together in a Quantum Physics Lab at UC/Berkeley when Doctoral Candidates Edvard Knapp and Marla Xi discovered the convergence of the three bodies of work in a set of equations that Knapp maintained was an attempt to get pizza delivered to his lab while the cheese was still hot. Knapp’s self-deprecating humor notwithstanding, the theoretical constructs which formed the foundation of what would become known as the Burleson drive were known by 2040. It took another twenty years for reclusive entrepreneur T. A. Burleson to construct a working prototype and transport it far enough out of the solar system’s gravity well to test it. The first successful test occurred on 2061-10-12 when the automated package jumped from Sol to Proxima Centauri and back in an afternoon. Ironically, it took longer for the radioed news of the breakthrough to reach Earth, less than 4 billion miles away, than it took for the probe to travel the eight light-years to Promixa Centauri and back.
The basis of the drive had been theorized for decades and was based on the idea that travel over interstellar distances could be possible without violating any of Einstein’s theories of relativity if one were able to bend the space-time continuum in such a way that two points very far away from each other could be made contiguous long enough for a vessel to travel between them. Quantum physics and string theory provided the foundational knowledge which Knapp and Xi finally integrated and Burleson implemented. The problem, as we know today, is that the Burleson drive only works when it is far enough outside of a system’s gravity well to overcome the residual gravity to successfully fold space-time in such a way that a ship can transition from one point in the universe to another without actually passing through all the intervening points. The transition is almost instantaneous and the ship never goes much faster than a fraction of the speed of light.
That marked the beginning of an unprecedented race for the stars. Once it became known that it was actually possible to reach them, resources poured into what became known as “first and last mile” technologies. The challenge became how to travel 4,000 million miles in a short enough period of time to make the trip worthwhile and without becoming bankrupt in the process. Eventually designs for what we know today as the Solar Clippers (See note 1) began coming out of commercial research and development efforts and all the pieces came together for what would become known as The Great Diaspora of 2090.
Ark-ships and the Rise of Commercialism
Perhaps not since the Gold Rush of 1849 on Earth has such a massive migration of the human race occurred with largely private money. T. A. Burleson’s wealth financed the creation of the drive that still carries her name without any governmental funding. Attempts by governments to gain regulatory control of the device were stymied by the publication of the plans on public networks, effectively releasing it into the public domain. The technology needed to create the fields was relatively common and Burleson, already the eighth richest person on the planet, made nothing in licenses from the drive.(See note 2)
A private consortium of business people put up the estimated four hundred billion credits to build the ark-ships in an orbital shipyard anchored over the Pacific Ocean of Earth. Shuttle technology of the early days was rudimentary compared to what it would become but in spite of that, the first ship began space trials in 2088 and the last came off the ways in 2093. After that, the yard was converted to general ship construction and even as the first colonies were being established, the conglomerates began positioning themselves.
By 2102 it was possible to buy regular, albeit expensive, passage to practically all of Earth’s colonies which marked the end of the Diaspora and the viability of the ark-ships to establish colonies. Smaller, more agile, and faster ships in the new commercial fleets edged out the ark-ships. They were eventually all sold to the shipping conglomerates and refitted to be luxury liners except for the Serendipity which was turned into an orbital museum in Sol System.
Meanwhile, the next generation of explorers and entrepreneurs was fanning out to find planets suited to human habitation. Many of these explorers were funded by the shipping conglomerates and by 2145 nearly 400 systems had been identified as having the potential to support human life with little or no terra-forming effort and over 500 more would support humans with a moderate terraforming effort. Fully two-thirds of these systems became de facto Company systems where all aspects of life were controlled by the corporate entities that had funded exploration and subsequent development. Surprisingly there were few instances of “claim jumping” and very little conflict among the Big Five. There was just too much volume to cover and too many rich opportunities to waste time squabbling over single systems.
With all this available space in which to spread out, the human race exploded. From a modest beginning of 12B in Sol’s planets and orbital stations, the human population in the galaxy mushroomed to over 48B by 2120 as advances in longevity took the average lifespan from 90 stanyers up to 130. Restrictions on family size were rather strict in Sol System, but non-existent on colonies and many of those who took thos early ark-ships saw emigration as a path to having families. By 2180 the growth curve leveled out at about 120B and has remained around 5% for the last century.
The convergence of Twentieth Century ideas and Twenty-First Century capitalism resulted in the establishment of a human galactic civilization. More and more systems are established every year, some of which grow and prosper while others become the galactic equivalent of ghost towns. Early concerns about first contact with alien races and infections diseases have proven, so far, to be unfounded.
1. The Solar Clipper used established field-generation technologies in what became known as solar-sails and gravity-keels allowing the ships to move at significant speeds within the solar system. This technology had been available and in use since the 2050’s in asteroid mining operations but had not been used on the same scale as the clippers.
2. Despite not retaining rights to the drive technology, Burleson capitalized on the device, by setting up the first commercial transportation line, Ad Astra, in 2097 to link Earth with the twenty-two systems established by then and expanding to serve all thirty-two original colonies by 2105.