In the movie Gravity, gravity embodies the persona of the film by virtue of its absence. It purportedly leaves the audience with a sense of fear of the chaotic zero-G environment and likewise leaves them with new respect/appreciation for our gravity-exerting Earth. In stark contrast, I would like to portray a utopian zero-G environment where the space farers are floating about merrily without a care in the world. Gravity in my setting is actually the source of conflict.
In my futuristic setting, humans are colonizing space. Here is some basic info:
- Number of supply ships: 5
- Average supply ship population: 2000
- Purpose of mission: supply vital resources/human capital to fledgling colonies
- Length of voyage: 400 years
- Crew survival method: genetic longevity and new generations (no fancy hyper-sleep)
- Flight path: computer navigated, predetermined, unalterable
- Landing: can be over-ridden by pilot
- Ship Fuel: Limited
- Edible Food: Unlimited
These ships do not have artificial gravity. Instead, the space farers in my setting are utilizing future technology: genetic modification such that humans are not prone to muscle atrophy or any other adverse effects of extended zero gravity habitation (calcium loss, vision loss, etc). However, as a double edged sword, this futuristic zero-gravity setting also sets the stage for a dark and unexpected outcome. Namely, extreme barophobia (fear of gravity) has manifested itself in the minds of the crew in all five ships. There was a small gravity chamber to acclimate the crew for when arrival day was near, however it has since been destroyed in a fearful rage by the crew.
The potency of the barophobia is extreme. The crew drifts about in a fantasy-like existence, floating around the supply ships happily at times. However, dark, disturbing conversations take place amongst them about what happens when the ship arrives and a gravity-exerting planet will be close to them. The captain said:
"Fear not, I am the captain. Though I cannot plot my own course, I can over-ride any landing commands issued remotely by a computer. I can definitely keep us from landing on the planet."
The exact cause of the barophobia, the degree of the phobia's potency as well as prevalence all remain unexplained. Though speculation about the relatively new advent of increased human longevity and its effect on the human psyche (especially on an extended space flight) are much debated.
When the colonists on the destination planet excitedly made contact with the arriving colony/supply ships they were mortified to hear that:
"We, the supply crew, have no intention of following-through with the re-supply mission, nor do we plan to cooperate in any facility. Furthermore, we do not plan to step one foot on your planet."
After spending incalculable amounts of fuel, resources and time, the supply ships' crew's crippling fear of gravity is jeopardizing the mission's directive as well as endangering the lives of the colonists who are planet-side and in dire need of the supplies.
It is at this point that the colonists on the planet realize that their lives and even the future of the colony itself is at stake. There were no contingency plans for such a seemingly absurd turn of events, but something must be done. They try to formulate a set of protocols to weigh the options.
Question: What protocol could be brought to bear to save the fledgling planet colonists? They need the supplies to survive, but the supply crew refuses to help due to extreme barophobia. The supply crew refuses to land on the planet.
Question Rephrased: To reduce the "story-based" dimension, you may boil the question down to: What protocol could be brought to bear on a supply ship that is not cooperating with colony supply? (But bear in mind that barophobia is the cause of their lack of cooperation).
- Success metric: survival of the planet colony
- Timeline: 5 years max (the supplies are direly needed, some colonists will die after 1 year)
- Planet's military: Non-existent (they are fledgling in nearly every aspect)
- Planet's Ships: Non-existent (they bought a one-way ticket. Their original ship has been converted to a building in which they find refuge from the planet's atmosphere)
- Prevalence of Phobia: Everyone, all supply ship space farers are super barophobic.