Mu Cassiopeia Aa; a seedship colony almost lost because of immunology deficiencies

Image from Steve Bowers
Pandya is the only planet around Mu Cass A; it is also lit by the dim red dwarf companion star

Pandya - Data Panel

StarMu Cassiopeia A
Luminosity0.4 x Sol
Distance from Sol24 ly
CompanionMu Cassiopeia B, red dwarf
luminosity 0.001 x Sol
closest approach 3.3AU
Type Euarean (terraformed)
Diameter 8220 km

A strategy of interstellar colonisation by unmanned seedship, carrying a cargo of human zygotes, artificial wombs and so-called Parental Vecs, was developed shortly before the establishment of the First Federation by Suyra Interstellar Inc., and continued for several centuries. The early targets were Eta Cassiopeiae and GL 892, colonised as Diwali and Uoagranyu respectively. Next on the target list was the lonely planet orbiting Mu Cassiopeiae A, a single Mars-like world in a system emptied of other worlds by the existence of a red dwarf companion in an eccentric orbit.

The seedship Prithvi Mata was launched in 1004 A.T. towards this binary system, using the hybrid magsail amat-fusion system developed for the Dyaush class of vessel. The ship would be accelerated by particle beam to the edge of the Solar System, further accelerated using catalysed fusion to cruising speed. Finally, the magsail would be used as a brake to augment the deceleration process.

This time the frozen zygotes of the colonists were accompanied by an experimental neogen ecology, all completely designed from scratch by former Biotek specialists. Each organism, from the intestinal flora that was to be introduced into the gut of each new-born child-colonist at the destination, to the soil organisms included in the artificial soils they would establish, to the simplified food animals they would eat, was designed to be mutation-proof. The genomes of these neogen organisms were designed to be fail-safe; that is, if any mutation did occur the organism would cease to function.

In this way the designers hoped to establish a colony entirely free from bacterial pathogens and, as no natural viruses were taken on board, free from viral infections too. The colonists were provided with artificial epigenetic immune systems previously designed to resist the diseases prevalent in the old Solar System at the start of the second millennium A.T., but as none of these diseases had been brought on board the Prithvi MataTo the Mu Cass system, these immune systems were never required and began to atrophy. Over time these artificial measures became out of date, as they were never updated with the newer versions available back in Solsys.

The singular world, Pandya, a Euaraean planet with some water ice, was a good candidate for terraforming, and this was commenced soon after the Prithvi Mata arrived in 1118. Meanwhile the colonists lived in large domed habitats connected by rail. Synthetic human parental vecs raised the first couple of generations, gently inculturating the children with a mix of Hinduism and communism inherited from ancient Kerala, blended with Federation corporatism. The Parentals later withdrew from society, acting as consultants to the local government on rare occasions.

The colony worked well until the first manned interstellar ships arrived in 1350 from nearby Penglai (15 ly away), bringing with them the inhabitants of that world and their microbes. Despite the stringent quarantine measures that were standard in the First Federation at that time, some communicable diseases eventually escaped and spread to the domes. Because the Pandyanese had no natural immunity to disease, and the epigenetic immunity systems they did have were inadequate to deal with the unfamiliar Penglaiese diseases, the colonists rapidly fell victim to the pathogens introduced by the interstellar starfarers. 70% of the population died, and the remainder withdrew to a single dome on Bharat Planitia where they rejected further contact. After several decades of research and long-drawn-out consultations with both distant Penglai (involving a thirty-one year round trip for a single message) and the Solar System (a forty-eight year wait), the Penglaiese explorers finally developed an artificial immune treatment suitable for the Pandyan population, but it was many more years before they could persuade the locals to try this treatment.

After the pandemics that occurred on this world the seedship strategy was used much less frequently. Other problems with the seedship strategy became apparent at Diwali, where the synthetic human parentals formed their own civilisation and declined to activate the human zygotes, and at Caph, where the strategy worked too well and almost caused an exponential runaway population explosion. However with suitable safeguards a modified form of the seedship strategy is still used in the Current era, especially on the Periphery.

A repopulated and properly immunised Pandya eventually joined the First Federation, and was later briefly part of the Penglai Empire. During the Version war the world was annexed by the Solar Dominion, and mostly remains loyal to that empire, although a separatist faction loyal to the Uogranyu Free System (UFS), a local independent power, has gained popularity over the millennia.

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Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 07 January 2010.