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Return to Saturn

Saturn hasnít changed much in a dozen years. I canít say the same for us. Last time out here, I was the junior lander pilot on the Pegasus. Now Iím in charge of a crew of twenty-four. Weíve all changed. The Last World War was one of those traumatic cusps that changes everything. The Earth is united, but two billion people are dead.

Thatís all old news now. The Kepler survived the war, as did we all. And the ship, at least, is better for the wear.

They pulled out the old KTR deuterium-tritium reactor and put in a Hvit-Nikolia thirty gigawatt deuterium-helium 3 tokamak. Itís safer and more powerful than the KTR, but it sure puts out a lot of heat. Weíve been decelerating since Phoebe orbit, fusing deuterium slush and spitting it out at 750 kps, and those huge radiator panels are almost glowing red. Not sure if we trust the new reactor to run continuously for two years, though, so we still have our four old GE pebble-beds and the Chang-Diaz plasma drives. They could get us home, though it would take a couple of extra years.

After the seven month cruise, weíre all eager to get out there. Only four days until we loop around and stop in Titan orbit. Weíre a full day ahead of the Huygens, and Iíll be down on the surface of Titan again before they make orbit. But itís just a friendly competition. Weíre all on the same team now.

- Captain Benjamin Alderson, CSEA Kepler

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