ARTC: Could you say something about the new “Silver Star” graphics that are up on the ARTC web site?
RNB: Well, Daniel was kind enough to post a graphic of the “Star” a while back, but it was pretty rough looking. It was a bitmap grab of an AutoCad file, and the resolution was pretty low. The new graphics are JPEGs. They’re not perfect, but they’re certainly more readable. I like them a lot better.
ARTC: You mentioned an AutoCad file. What’s the source for the drawing?
RNB: It’s sheet 1 of the top-level assembly drawing for the Barnes Model 1012 — which, of course, the first “Silver Star” was. Barnes built twenty-six of the type, under a contract from the Department of Extraterrestrial Justice, which designated them as “Ness”-class cruisers, named for — no big surprise — Elliott Ness. The “Star” was line number four in the series.
ARTC: Was the 1012 considered a deep-space craft at the time?
RNB: Not really. The 1012’s, operating from the Earth’s surface, were capable of making a dry-tanks landing on Luna. Operations to Mars or Venus, along a reasonably fast trajectory, required either in-orbit refueling or an assisted launch — usually from the Pikes Peak catapult. The Kilimanjaro linear accelerator wasn’t built until the type had pretty much been retired.
ARTC: You called this “the first ‘Silver Star’.”
RNB: Line number 4 was lost after a crash-landing in the Martian high desert, east of Solis Lacus City. [See: “The Enemy of the People”] Marshal A.R. Rammer was diverted from his landing approach into a hot pursuit of a smuggler. The smuggler was shot down but the “Star” suffered debris-strike damage and had to make a glide-landing herself.
ARTC: The ship wasn’t salvaged?
RNB: It was uneconomical. The hull was broken up and the reactor carcass was boosted to the Atomic Graveyard at Earth’s Lagrange 1 point.
ARTC: There was some controversy about that entire operation, wasn’t there?
RNB: Oh, considerable! The smuggler in question was the legendary “Rex” Gorbachev, who had been a thorn in the side of the Martian Colonial Administration’s Department of Health Education, Enhancement and Enforcement for years. A federal board of inquiry determined afterward that the DeeHee’s had exceeded their authority in several places.
ARTC: I believe the final report said — Let me see. “Unlawful orders…” “Reckless endangerment…” “Destruction of government property…”
RNB: And to cap it all, Gorbachev got away!
ARTC: Very little blame seems to have attached to Marshal Rammer or his cadet / co-pilot.
RNB: He was assigned partial responsibility for the loss of his rocket, but the Board also specifically noted that the DHEEE agent in charge — one Ludo Raynor — had misled the marshal into believing he was operating under combat conditions. On the other side of the equation, Rammer _did_ manage to capture Gorbachev and bring him out of the deep Martian desert, dragging his injured cadet after him, and handed the smuggler over to the Martian authorities.
ARTC: Who lost him.
RNB: If Gorbachev had effected his escape ten minutes earlier, considerably more blame would have been laid on Rammer. However, Rammer had formally passed custody to Agent Raynor before Gorbachev broke free, knocked out Rammer, Raynor and Raynor’s partner, then stole their canal-skimmer and disappeared to God knows where. (Chuckles)
ARTC: Quite an exploit!
RNB: (Laughs) One of the reasons Gorbachev is a legend in the saga of How the Solar System Was Won.
ARTC: What happened to Agent Raynor?
RNB: Well, we know his partner was demoted three grades — which probably ended up saving her life in ’89. Raynor was busted completely out of the service and the historical record loses track of him there. If he stayed on Mars — The Martian Rebellion wasn’t a particularly bloody event, as revolutions go, but very few senior-grade DeeHees survived the fall of the Colonial Administration.
ARTC: Anyway — “Silver Star 2”?
RNB: Is the second graphic, the completely new one. With the expansion of operations beyond Mars, the Department of XT Justice had commissioned a more capable class of rocketship —
ARTC: Also from Barnes Aircraft?
RNB: Barnes was, at that time, the premier space vehicle designer and manufacturer in the United States, which is to say in the world. Like Boeing or Douglas in the Age of Aviation. They got a jump on everyone with their first nuclear-powered spacecraft project — which you can see a stylized depiction of in the drawing’s data block, by the way — and never looked back. The new design was the Model 1014 —
ARTC: The “Bonaparte” class?
RNB: Named after an early head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I believe. And — yes — he was a distant relative of the Emperor.
ARTC: It’s — beefy-looking.
RNB: Compared to a 1012, yes. Fifty percent higher maximum gross liftoff weight. A reactor with a third more output than the 1012’s old AP451. The 1014’s could also accept external mass tankage and tolerate much higher catapult launch loads. Regular patrol operations into the Asteroid Belt, which was opening up to colonization and industrialization then, would have been impossible without the 1014’s. This is truly The Rocket That Tamed the Belt. [See: “The Planetoid of Doom” and “Murder by Meteor”]
ARTC: And gave Saturn a ring?
RNB: I would place most of the responsibility for the destruction of Iapetus on Colonel LeMay and the Space Force Cruiser “Azrael.” [See: “The Angel of Destruction”] But 1014’s — “Silver Star 2” among them — did make occasional forays as far as Saturn. And even farther.
ARTC: And played a part in humanity’s first contact with extrasolar aliens?
RNB: I’m sorry. I’m not at liberty to discuss that.