It had drifted across the cosmos for eons and was now a long way from its origin point on a planet orbiting the star Epsilon Boötis, in the constellation of Boötis as seen from Earth. The ten ton probe entered the system dominated by a G class star some 25,000 light years from the galactic center, in the Orion spiral arm. As it neared Sol, the probe activated its sensors and started listening for signals across the radio bands. Other than the usual inter-solar static, it heard nothing, no sign of any advanced civilization, so it started a telescopic survey. It scanned the rocky moons of the outer gas giant planets, but found little more than the seeds for possible simple organisms.
It crossed the asteroid belt that divided the system, and scanned the rocky worlds closer to the star. The fourth planet looked promising at first, its thin atmosphere contained traces of water vapor, carbon dioxide, but little free oxygen. The dusty soil hid trace deposits of frozen water, and the landscape hinted of ancient river beds. There were dormant remains of life to be found hidden in a wide belt around the world's equator, but nothing to indicate that any intelligent beings had ever lived on the planet, or would ever evolve there. The probe continued inward.
Its high gain telescopes now looked toward the second planet. Unable to see through the dense clouds in the atmosphere in the visible wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, it shifted to the infrared and radio wavelengths. The probe's electronic brain analyzed the data from its sensors and concluded that this world had once hosted intelligent life during the early phases of its star's evolution, but as the sun had inevitably heated up as it traveled along the main sequence, the CO2 and water vapor content of the planet's atmosphere had reached the critical point. Now in a run away greenhouse effect, the second world from the sun was now a virtual hell, too hot to support life of any kind.
The planet closest to the sun was a small rocky world, its rotation locked into step with its orbital period. With one side permanently facing the star, and the other staring at the void of space, whatever atmosphere this planet might have once owned had long ago boiled away. It was as lifeless as the small rocky asteroids between the fourth and fifth planets of the system.
The probe fired its engines and boosted itself into an orbit that took it to the other side of the sun where it would encounter the third planet of the system. There its sensors detected a world filled with life, a world mostly covered by deep oceans of water with an atmosphere containing oxygen, water vapor and carbon dioxide in just the correct proportions.
It fired its engines for one last time and settled into a polar orbit around the world where it could observe the entire planet. For nearly a full orbit around the star it gathered data. The dominant species on the planet had yet to gather into large populations, there were few cities as agriculture had not yet become a dominate force. Most of the world's population were still hunter-gatherers, the specie's total population was about five million beings.
The probe extended its high gain antenna and pointed it back towards its point of origin. It transmitted all of the data it had gathered and then prepared to hibernate. It had calculated that it would take some 10,000 years before the primitive beings would reach the level of development required. The probe was patient, it would wait out the scores of centuries before powering itself back up again.
Earth Polar Orbit
The probe powered up after having slept for many thousands of years. It turned its eyes down toward the Earth and its senors analyzed the spectrum of light reflected though the atmosphere. It detected the increased CO2 and other pollutants from the industrialization of Earth's civilization, and the electromagnetic fields generated by the electric power plants in uses. The probe then listened across the radio spectrum, and it heard the first faint pulses of wireless communication. Nothing on the scale that it was looking for, but it attempted to communicate itself in the same manor of signals that it heard. Nobody returned the communication. The probe reset its clocks and again went silent. It would reawaken again soon to try again.
Nikola Tesla finished the last of the wiring between the laboratory and the 200 foot tall tower behind the building. Tesla was convinced that he was close to perfecting the means of transmitting electrical power world wide without the use of wires, and enabling instant communication between any to points on the globe.
He powered up the apparatus, throwing the huge switches that activated the generating equipment in the laboratory. He engaged the clutch on the wide belt that transmitted power from the large steam engine to the dynamo. Sparks jumped across the brushes to the slip rings that transferred the electrical power from the rotating coils in the machine to the high voltage coil in the room adjacent to the tower. Tesla carefully tuned the circuits in the antenna circuit to match the frequency of the high voltage transformer's resonance. While he didn't yet have another similar station set up to fully test the system, he intended to first demonstrate that this first one was functional. Nikola set the system into transmit mode and pressed the heavy telegraph key that was in series with the main plumbing of the apparatus. Giant sparks leaped across a gap between the oscillation transformer and the antenna circuit, and though the window he could see the air surrounding the tower faintly glow in the night air.
Tesla set the circuits into the receive mode and listened through the headphones clamped against his ears. He expected to hear nothing but the background static of the receiver, for no station yet existed to answer his transmissions. He slowly adjusted the circuits to peak the background noise, and then his ears seemed to deceive him, for he heard something that was clearly not random. Clearly against the background noise came a sequence of tones that seemed to answer his previous call.
Since his apparatus was the only one of its kind yet in existence, the Serbian inventor was convinced he was hearing a call from outer space.
Gordon Cooper orbited the Earth every ninety minutes aboard the space craft Faith Seven. His was the last of the Mercury missions, and would be the longest maned space flight yet for the NASA program. He was currently traveling at 17,547 mph at an altitude of 165.9 statue miles at the highest point of his orbit. His flight had already broken many records for the program, including his sleeping for several orbits.
Now he was busy making observations out the window of his spacecraft, he called out various landmarks beneath him as well as keeping track of the constellations in the sky above him. He was now on his 15th orbit with his observation window pointed towards the northern pole. I can see a green glow towards the north, he reported, not quite like the Aurora, but it's in the right part of the sky for that.
Roger that, ground control radioed back.
What a minute, Cooper replied, There is a dark patch visible inside of the glow, it's moving fast, looks like some kind of space craft, or satellite.
Roger, Gordo, Deke Slayton, the astronaut coordinator for the Mercury project replied, I'll check but we don't think the Russians have anything in orbit near you.
Damn!, Cooper replied, That sucker really flew by! It was huge, must be in a polar orbit judging by its trajectory. It never got close enough to be any danger. I wish I had my camera at the ready, but it moved by too quickly.
Check your CO2 levels, Gordo, Deke radioed back. They look high from down here, we don't want you having any hallucinations.
CO2 levels look within the upper end of normal here, Cooper replied back. I wasn't seeing things.
Astronauts James Newman and Jerry Ross suited up to leave the Shuttle Endeavour for their second EVA activity. The Unity module was floating in position next to the Zarya FGB module. The space walkers would continue the previous day's activities of making all of the required connections. Once finished the ISS would now have have its second module in place, still a long way from completion, but this was only the first of many more shuttle missions required to build the station.
Inside the shuttle, mission specialists Nancy Currie and Sergei Krikalev were directing the operation from inside the shuttle. Commander Robert Cabana and pilot Fredrick Sturckow were at the controls of the spacecraft, ready to maneuver the ship to allow positioning of the grabber arm when required.
Astronaut Currie was also handling the video camera, the feed back to the KSC was being broadcast live on several networks as spacebuffs back on Earth were watching the assembly of the international space station.
With the sun at their backs, the two modules of the ISS were clearly outlined in the camera's field of view. Currie had a good view of the northern pole of the planet from their vantage point at that particular moment when suddenly a large object appeared out of the shadows and was caught on the video field.
What's that?, ground control radioed up.
Didn't see anything, the commander replied, My eyes were on the EVA activity.
Looked like some kind of spacecraft, Currie replied. Do the Russians have anything up here?
Nyet! Krikalev replied, At least nothing that the RKA knows about.
It had laid dormant for decades. Aware that human kind could find it, it had switched into stealth mode, adjusting its orbit higher. The probe still scanned the planet below it, waiting. So far it hadn't detected the signal that it was waiting for, the indication that it wasn't alone anymore.
Suddenly it felt it. The presence was clear. The probe increased the resolution of the sensors, looking for the exact spot where the intelligence had been felt. There, it had located it. It had originated somewhere on the long narrow island just to the east of the large land mass in the northern half of the globe. The contact was still primitive, no maybe immature was the correct way to describe it. It was still too soon to attempt contact. The ancient intelligence locked itself in on the the emanation, it would monitor it and watch it evolve. The orbiting brain had waited over 100 centuries, it could wait a little longer.