The ArcBuilder Universe


TimeLine of the ArcBuilder Universe


The Neoaster Period
The Early Technological Era

1945 AD to 1973 AD


1946 AD:  The Polish-American mathematician Stanislaw Ulam lays down the general proposals for nuclear-based propulsion.  Based off of the results from the United State's fledgling nuclear weapons program, his proposal is in the hopes of opening the Solar System to mankind for a more peaceful future.  Widely believing that Mars and Venus are not only habitable but might be garden worlds like the Earth, his ideas gain strong support in various levels of the government.

1947 AD:  Through spectroscopic observation, it is determined that the atmospheric  composition of Mars is almost an exact duplicate of the Earth's.  It is also revealed that plant life is common on the surface.  Also, the presence of free oxygen in the atmosphere all but confirms the presence of animal life as well.  Popular culture begins to explode with speculations on the nature of life on the surface of Mars.
1951 AD:  The atmosphere of Venus is determined to be extremely similar to the Earth's, albeit with a markedly higher range of oxygen.  This and the presence of chlorophyll mark Venus, like Mars, as a world bearing the full richness of life.
1957 AD:  The Soviet Union launches Sputnik I, the modern world's first artificial satellite.  This surprise launch precipitates the Space Race between the Soviets and the United States.
1958 AD:  Project Orion is initiated under the direction of Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson, with the specific purpose of establishing nuclear propulsion suitable for relatively cheap interplanetary travel.  While there is some opposition due to fears of radioactive fallout, it is the strong beginning of the Soviet space program, as well as the promise of a habitable Mars and Venus, which spurs the program forward.

1959 AD:  The Soviet Union launches the unmanned probe Luna 2 to the Moon, where it becomes the first manmade object of the modern era to impact the Lunar surface.  Later that year, Luna 3 travels to the Moon and images the Far Side for the first time.  Bolstered by these and other successes in their aerospace programs, the Soviet space program leaps forward in earnest.  In response, the United States moves forward on their two-pronged manned space initiative, which revolves around orbital flights and the Orion Program.

1961 AD:  The first unmanned orbital missions of the modern era are launched by the Soviet Union and the United States.  Subsequent manned missions by both nations lead up to the swift establishment of a proven technological presence in orbital space.  As a part of this entire race into space, President Kennedy formally announces the intention of the United States to reach the Moon by the end of the decade.  The Soviets respond to this with a long string of nationalist statements about their own goal of reaching and claiming territories on the Moon.

1962 AD:  The American unmanned probe Mariner 2 flies by Venus, the first such probe to achieve such a thing.  The spacecraft measured the planet's magnetic field and made temperature measurements of its clouds and surface.  All in all, the planet was found to be very similar to the Earth, albeit with a somewhat higher mean temperature, as is to be expected for a world closer to the Sun.  No images were taken, however.  No further Venus missions would come, however, as the American scientific eye turned squarely towards the Moon and Mars.
1963 AD:  The International Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is signed and ratified.  This limits all nuclear weapons testing to subsurface locations and installations.  However, usage that is regulated by strict oversight for non-weapons applications is allowed.  This provision to the Treaty is insisted upon by both the United States and the Soviet Union, in order for each nation to pursue their own nuclear powered interplanetary programs.

1965 AD

  • The American unmanned probe Mariner 4 flies by Mars, providing the first close-up images of another planet.  While the resolution was poor, the images did reveal what appeared to be lakes and possible river systems, as well as open ocean.  This success bolsters the American Mars program.  In the coming years, further fly-byes in the Mariner probe program would reveal much of the surface in higher detail.
  • The Soviet Venera 3 unmanned probe arrives at Venus.  The Venera program is underfunded due to ongoing Soviet Lunar aspirations, and Venera 3 itself fails before it reaches the planet.  However, it can be determined that the probe did impact the surface of Venus, though most of its mass is believed to have burnt up in the atmosphere.  Nonetheless, this is the first man-made object of the modern era that will have struck the surface of another planet.
1967 AD:  The Soviet unmanned Venera 4 mission enters into the Venusian atmosphere, and begins collecting non-visual data during its descent.  Conditions are determined to be almost identical to the Earth, and the probe in fact touches down on the surface.  Landing in  a large body of water, the probe's sugar-lock system will keep it afloat and data transmission continues for another 67 minutes 34 seconds.  After this point it is believed that the probe had sunk.  The presence of water on Venus had long been known and confirmed, but these very Earthlike readings push the Soviets into bolstering their Venusian programs to the point where they are equal to those being designed for the Moon.

1968 AD

  • The first feasibility study surrounding the concept of space-based solar power collectors is initiated.  Meant to aid in the replacement of fossil fuels and compliment the growing nuclear power industry, the study will conclude that such a system is indeed feasible and effective, and will indeed become quite essential.  These power satellites can be built and maintained easily when  placed against the growing manned presence in Low Earth Orbit.  However, little headway is made in putting forth this technology, and the entire concept will eventually be shelved.  Too many resources are already in play for the Lunar and Orion programs, and it is believed that the nuclear industry, coupled with current fossil fuel usage, can meet the Nation's energy needs for the near future.

The Soviet Union becomes the first nation to land men on the surface of the Moon.  Located in the Sea of Storms, they plant the Soviet flag and declare the region around the landing site as Soviet national territory.  While falling far short of claiming the entire Moon for the USSR, the statement still enrages the United States, who simultaneously applaud the accomplishment and decry the grandiose posturing.

1969 AD:  The United States makes its first manned landing on the surface of the Moon, in the Sea of Tranquility.  Tranquility Base is claimed and established as a United States territory.  While this was an expected action, the Soviets still mock the announcement, calling the United States both "good Lunar neighbors" and "unexpected but welcome tenants".  The presence of these two competing superpowers on the Moon only serves to push forward Humanity's foothold here as a whole.  The Apollo Program utilizes technology that will eventually come to be used as for support for the more advanced Orion vessels, still under construction in Low Earth Orbit.

1970 AD

  • Apollo 13, en route to the Moon with the goal to establish and expand on the United State's presence, suffers a catastrophic failure.  As the crew desperately attempts to salvage their crippled spacecraft, the USS Orion, the first functional nuclear powered US spacecraft, arrives and rescues the crew.  The entire event is hailed as a major triumph in manned space travel, and public support explodes for the Orion Program itself, which up until this point had been seen as a growing money pit in the Federal budget.  Nationalism is at an all time high.
  • The Soviets reposition themselves on the Moon and establish the beginnings of their colonial base at Grimaldi Crater.  Emission detections here point to possible resources, including molecular water, and the site itself serves as an easily definable territorial annex.

The Soviet unmanned probe Venera 7 soft lands on Venus, in the middle of an open field surrounded by thick forest.  The probe measures the surface, takes images, and serves as the primary source of information for future Venus missions.  The highlight of the three day mission includes weather observations, as well as the movement of a herd of indistinct animals passing from the forest to an estimated forty meters from the probe, before disappearing.  This is the first confirmed and direct observation of life on a world other than the Earth.

1971 AD

  • The United States establishes a primary colonial base on the Moon, on the central peak of the Malapert Crater at the southern pole.  The advantages of the site are clear, with access to major reserves of frozen water, nearly continuous sunlight, and other items.  The initial outpost is small, and only temporarily manned.  Contingent to establishing and maintaining this outpost are the Orion class space vessels.  Their usage in this capacity is also meant to be a proving ground for their technology, and their eventual use beyond the Earth-Moon system.
  • November 14:  Mariner 9, an unmanned American probe, becomes the first spacecraft to orbit another planet.  It begins a detailed and revolutionary mapping mission of Mars.


  • November 27:  The Soviet Mars-2 lander, an unmanned probe that was a part of a hurried program to establish a Soviet presence on Mars, arrives at the Red Planet.  However, it suffers a major computer malfunction and impacts the surface.
  •  December 2:  The Soviet Mars-3 lander, twin to the failed Mars-2, achieves a soft landing on Mars, in the Siren Uplands.  However, after only a few seconds, its transmissions cease.  Having landed during a fairly large seasonal dust storm, it is believed that winds and atmospheric particles irreparably damaged the landing systems.  A single image taken by the lander showed no identifiable features.  This final failure, coupled with the American ongoing success of the Mariner 9 orbiter, effectively ends the Soviet interest in Mars.


1972 AD

  • The first Lunar artifacts are discovered.  For years possible images of "ruins" on the Moon have been seen, but largely dismissed.  However, during an exploratory flight by the Americans, a small cluster of house-sized habitats are discovered.  Surrounded by faint tracks and trails, it is clear that humanoids once walked here.  While their origins are unknown at the time, these ruins will eventually be dated back to the Denisovan civilization of the Eemian.  Their discovery creates a tremendous stir in the public, adding to the popular notion (already bolstered by a habitable Mars and Venus) that Humans are not alone in the universe.  Further ancient ruins will be eventually discovered, dating from the Eemian to the more recent Sivata, and even the Lost Civilization.
  • The Soviet Union establishes  the Salyut orbital station above the Moon.  Designed in a similar manner to those stations already orbiting the Earth, it is the initial component of what will become a major transportational hub between the Moon and Earth LEO.  The long term design plan is that of a large, modular station.
  • July 22:  The Soviet unmanned probe Venera 8 lands on the surface of Venus.  The mission is far more advanced than Venera 7, possessing the ability to directly measure the surface composition, as well as to analyze biological samples.  Above, an accompanying orbiter performs mapping operations.  The entire mission is a prelude to initial colonization, but the nations of the world are convinced that such an endeavor is years away.  Discoveries made by the Soviets are considered national secrets, but with much of the rest of the world enraptured by American  discoveries on the Moon and regarding Mars, this scientific hoarding is largely ignored.

1973 AD

  • The United States LEO station of SkyLab is launched into orbit, and will serve as the core component of an eventual station that will be the hub of official American governmental activity in space.  While much smaller than the Orion at this point, SkyLab still serves as a support, maintenance, and research facility for the vessel and all planned future vessels of that particular class.
  • To the complete surprise and shock to the rest of the world, the Soviet Union launches the Yuri Gagarin, an Orion-type spacecraft.  Unlike its American counterpart, this Gagarin-class vessel is smaller and more streamlined, and it is immediately sent directly to Venus.  Accompanying it are several smaller launches, of more standard designs and propulsion, which will carry supplies and materials necessary for the infrastructure of a Venusian outpost.  This "klaster zapusk", or cluster launch, is a style that will dominate Soviet space launches for the next several years.  It allows for the swift placement of infrastructure materials, and more redundancy and reliability than is present for single vehicle launches.
  • A twin to SkyLab is launched and placed in orbit of the Moon by the United States.  Like the Salyut station, this facility (named Freedom) will serve as a transportational hub for American and allies CisLunar traffic.
  • The Ares I mission is launched and later arrives in orbit of Mars.  This manned mission utilizes the second American Orion-class vessel, the USS Stanislaw Ulam, which was constructed specifically for this task.  This is the first long term Human mission to the planet.  During the course of the mission several orbiters and landers are launched, effectively placing the planet under wide ranging surveillance.  Probes are also sent to the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos.  It is during this phase of the mission that the first indications of advanced technological past intelligence are discovered in the Mars system.  Plant and animal life is also observed, and based on these observations it is determined that life on Mars is similar enough to the Earth to argue a common origin.  No Human landing is made during this mission, with all surface activities being teleo-operated.

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The ArcBuilder Universe is a science fiction project established, authored, and copyrighted ©
by John M. Dollan 2002-2016
This page first uploaded in March 12, 2016
Most recent update for this page March 13, 2016