Friday, September 04, 2009

Gardens Of The Sun, Part Two, Chapter Three

Pluto was currently approaching perihelion. Its highly elliptical orbit was not only carrying it inside the orbit of Neptune; it was also about as close to Uranus as it would ever get -- currently, the ice giant and the dwarf planet were separated by less than two billion kilometres. As far as the Free Outers were concerned, there would never be a better time to pay a visit.

The expedition consisted of two ships equipped with fast-fusion motors, Newt Jones's and Macy Minnot's tug Elephant and the shuttle Out of Eden, carrying twenty-four people, six of them children. The presence of children another reminder to Macy that space was the Outers' natural habitat: not something to be endured or survived but the place where they lived, so they saw no problem in taking their children off on a voyage into the unknown in ships powered by incompletely tested motors. Of course, the older children had more experience of ships and moonscapes than Macy, and could probably cope with any emergency better than she. And the Pluto System wasn't exactly terra incognita, for it had been visited and mapped and sampled by robot probes and human explorers over the past two centuries. Even so, the dwarf planets of the outer dark were strange and incompletely understood, and a long way from anywhere else if something went wrong; Macy admired the Outers' fearless can-do attitude and didn't doubt their competence, but she knew that this wasn't exactly a stroll in the park.

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