Monday, May 1, 2017

Future History, Part 1 of 3: The 21st Century


The 21st Century found the Earth in a conflict between capitalistic globalism, reactionary traditionalism, and an increasingly ineffectual liberal minority. The elections of populist conservatives throughout the Western world brought about an economic boom that translated into higher profits for corporations, but little relief for workers and average citizens.

In 2024, a joint effort between NASA, the ESA, and Russia established Gagarin-Shepard Station in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), a replacement for the aging International Space Station. In addition to an expanded research capacity, Gagarin-Shepard was designed as a staging base for planned expeditions to Luna and Mars in the near future. This was followed in 2027 by the establishment of Tiangong, China’s first permanent station in LEO.

In India, huge advances are made in computer engineering and biotechnology. Rudimentary Artificial Intelligence is created, albeit with considerable oversight and almost paranoid monitoring. In addition, the first custom organs are genetically engineered using DNA from the recipient. The Indian Space Research Organization parlays these new technologies to push forward an aggressive orbital presence. The rapid development culminates in 2029 with the establishment of Aditi Station in LEO. It is both larger and more advanced than Gagarin-Shepard or Tiangong and becomes an important hub for many independent, non-Western space missions and research.

Tensions in the Middle East come to a head in 2030 when Iran and Saudi Arabia declare war on each other. Iraq and Syria again become the battleground between the two nations as Shi’a and Sunni Arabs fight each other openly alongside the Iranian and Saudi militaries, respectively. The United States, weary of its two-plus decades of adventurism in the region at the start of the century, steps back from their Saudi allies. The war is bloody and brutal, as the two sides show no mercy to each other.

The Middle Eastern War causes considerable disruption to the world economy due to the interruption of oil production. The resulting crash in the mid-2030s is ended only as the global infrastructure shifts over to Indian designed fusion plants. Powered by fusion power, over a dozen new orbital stations are placed in Earth orbit.

Luna becomes an active space location in 2036 when permanent outposts in lunar orbit are established by United States (Armstrong), the ESA (Aurora), China (Changxi), and a joint effort between Russia and India (Chandrayaan). History is made in 2037 with the establishment of the first permanent Lunar colony, Korolev, by the Russians and Indians. It is followed in 2038 with the establishment of Kennedy, the first permanent American colony. China and the ESA establish Chang’e and Selene in 2042 and 2043, respectively.

While large parts of humanity and the mass media is fascinated by the nascent colonization of the moon, a growing number of populist causes in both the major powers of the world and the other nations whose resources are being exploited by transnational corporate interests begin to become more organized and militant. Central Asian and African revolutions start initially as proxy wars between the great powers but slowly escalate as the great powers follow the slippery slope from advising to full spectrum combat operations.

In the midst of all of this conflict, Brazil serves as a voice of neutrality and sponsors many of the (ultimately failed) peace talks throughout the decade. They found the Ataegina colony in LEO, the first large-scale permanent orbital habitation in 2044. As many of the other orbital powers become belligerents in the upcoming world conflict, Ataegina becomes the haven for apolitical and independent space interests.

Up until 2049, forces of the great powers meticulously avoided direct conflict between each other, hoping to avoid sparking a fight that presented a more existential threat. In 2049, U.S. and Russian special operations forces engaged each other in a protracted firefight in a Central Asian proxy war. This led to a gradual escalation of airstrikes and reinforcement culminating in large force on force engagements in multiple continents and oceans. Alliances were tapped and by the end of the year, all of the world’s great powers were locked into World War III. The wars quickly settled into a conventional stalemate and became a war of attrition. In orbit, Orbital Kill Vehicles wreaked havoc on outposts in LEO and Lunar orbit. Only Brazil’s rigid neutrality kept Ataegina from being damaged.Global total war led to large-scale economic disruptions all over the world, and by 2053, all belligerents signed the Ataegina Treaty, brokered by Brazil, which solidified miniscule gains by each party. Overall, no one is declared a winner of World War III, but all of the great powers are greatly reduced in stature.

As the parties involved to World War III collapse into exhaustion, internal tensions rise within all parties involved. In Europe, the EU collapses as the remaining members of the Union and NATO go their separate ways. While most nations revert to nationalistic independence, the Scandinavian nations form the Scandinavian Union, which begins as a common market and limited political union similar to the EU. As time progresses, the Scandinavian Union found utility in closer ties. Selene, the Lunar holding of the now-defunct ESA, suffers as the individual nations fund only the areas that benefit their citizens. In the United States, the tension between the different regions is far more dramatic and results in a slowly expanding civil war. By the end of 2055, five nations, Cascadia (the west coast), the American Union (The Northeastern and northern Midwest regions), the United Republic of America (The Appalachian and southeastern region), the Republic of Texas and the High Plains Republic (The northern Rocky Mountains and plains west of the Mississippi). Mexico annexes huge portions of southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Texas and Mexico have an immediate and violent rivalry. The Kennedy colony on Luna, with it’s relatively small population, declares its neutrality during the American Civil Wars and eventually signs treaties with all of the remnant factions. Kennedy becomes a fiercely independent and inclusive colony and serves as the Lunar equivalent of a Free City with the attendant diplomatic and espionage activity.

Isolated from the events of the war, Brazil emerges as the most significant world power. Its enhanced military and technological advances lead it to lead the efforts in both space exploration and rebuilding after WWIII. In particular, the Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) makes Lunar travel much faster and allows more minor expeditions to the other planets within the system. Led by Brazil, nations who managed to avoid involvement in the conflict (particularly Indonesia and Mexico) surge forward into gaps filled by the fading powers.

The 2060s, known as “The Brazilian Decade” are generally a boom for multinational industries. Many of the early Earth LEO outposts that survived World War III are quietly retired and their operations moved to Ataegina. Similarly, the invention of the NTR renders the need for the Lunar orbital outposts obsolete, with Chang’e becoming a primary hub for activity. Brazil establishes Abaangui on Luna in 2067 and Mexico establishes Estrella in 2068 at the Earth-Sun L4 point on Asteroid 2010TK7.

Mexican scientists based out of a Los Angeles-based research consortium develop advanced materials technology that allows for stronger spaceship construction as well as the exploration and colonization of the ocean floor. Underwater colonies begin to quickly pop up off the coast of Latin America.

The American Union asserts itself in the latter part of the 21st century, with the establishment of Tycho, the first permanent Martian colony, in 2081. Many other nations start to follow suit, but the economic downturn during the last 15 years of the century cause many of those projects to either be abandoned or reduced in size to temporary outposts.