Monday, 14 March 2022

The Ethical Issues Concerning The Athanor Mining Laser Firing Sequence


'What if this thing were used where life already exists..?'

Question asked by the media during the Upwell Consortium press conference announcing the Athanor-class refinery station during YC119

A while ago I docked in one of our Athanors in the Gamis system to prepare for a mining operation the following morning, so for the first time ever I would be present when an Athanor fired its mining laser in order to perform the controlled break-up of the 'moon chunk' that it had spent several days tractoring off the surface.

This is a novelty to me as I am a casual miner, almost a hobbyist. I don't even really do anything with the ore that I mine - I sell it to the alliance through their buyback scheme or dump it on the open market. Sometimes I might even build something with it out of curiosity.

I've never checked the specs for the Athanor laser and determined just how powerful it actually is, but one must assume at least equivalency with the Doomsday weapons in a Titan, because we're talking about the ability to almost-instantly shatter a chunk of moon crust that will mass several million tons. It would take a fleet of Ventures months to do what the laser does in a few seconds.

I was in the control room for the operation. The mining boss simply pushes a button and then the station does everything else automatically, which is probably safer than allowing humans, especially capsuleers, any interference in the 'signal path'.

The laser takes a few seconds to charge up, which, if you're a capsuleer with implants that enhance your perception of the world around you, means you can detect the various vibrations and noises that the station starts producing during the charging process that are infrasonic and ultrasonic and just beyond a baseliner's awareness. It can be unnerving if you're not expecting it. Then the lights dim slightly as all the station's power is diverted to the laser that would be called a weapon if it was used against something other than inert rock.

Then there is a blinding flash from the laser and all that energy hits the rock and turns it into a ball of fire. It's visceral, all that power, the power of a sun generated right here in the station.

The rock shatters into thousands of pieces, the smallest pieces vaporised, the bigger chunks rapidly cool in the hard vac and become ISK symbols.

But then it's not over! The laser shifts modes and fires pulses at the moon, cannon shots no less, causing a new moon chunk to become available to be tractored off the surface.   

The cycle repeats. 

The ISK must flow... 

The process is amazing to watch; it's fascinating and even enjoyable.

But it's also pure environmental terrorism. I mean, what's stopping some rogue capsuleer group from putting one of these above a terrestrial and ransoming the entire planet? OK, I know, there has to be a Moon Mining Beacon and you have to be above a barren moon to establish one of those beacons. But those are bureaucratic regulations.

In this age of 'Emergent Threats', of Drifters, Triglavians, Trig-sympathiser groups (for whom God will reserve special judgement), Matari and Fed and State militant groups, Amarrian heretics, isn't it only a matter of time before somebody tries this? If I've thought of it...

If you think I'm talking dreck, may I remind you of what happened last year with the Kahah III Atrocity? A Titan in highsec using an illegal cyno..?

Need I say more..?

OK enough of the apocalyptic doom-mongering. Here are some more Athanor Mining Laser Shot shots from our Athanor in Syndicate. The fireworks!

That is a terrible weapon right there...