Flaviu Rogojan
lives and works in Cluj, Romania

Mining Venture,2021
Speculative sci-fi text & Dye transfer on Paper
various dimensions

Off World Colonies
08. 10. 2021 ‒ 14. 11. 2021
at Indecis Artist Run Space, Timișoara, Romania

The mining venture follows asteroid miners on their mission to extract the material that makes up the outermost commons. Set in a Dyson sphere world, the sci-fi story revolves around the uncertain future of a hastily built megastructure of concrete embankment blocks, called Stabilopods, arranged in a sphere around the star to protect the habitable orbital layer from interstellar dangers. As the knowledge of orbital engineering faded away in time, the original purpose of the interstellar-scale public infrastructure is lost, and the peculiar shaped concrete asteroids become a valuable resource in a world of maximum power consumption.

As civilization expanded energy demands long enough, there came a time when it demanded the total energy output of the Sun. The biosphere expanded from just one planet to a collection of structures travelling on indepenedent orbits around the star. When they built up the dyson shell megastructure, with its concentric rings of solar sails, orbital swarms of habitable satellite real estate, and vast cables strung in a web all across the hollow dome, they achieved the ideal power efficiency to finally call themselves a Kardashev type II civilisation. The shell however became vulnerable to impacts from cosmic bodies, such as comets, meteoroids, and material in space that was previously being deflected by the Sun's bow shock. The heliosphere, and any protection it provided, ceased to exist.

In the quest to maximum power consumption this was a small price to pay, as collisions were thought to be rare and localised. Small radiation shields offered the first line of protection, and solar system comets were by that time all tracked and mined. The only source of danger was interstellar space. The vast space between stars is by all accounts and measurements empty, and all calculations proved minimal risk. By the end of the construction phase, after blocking 85% of the star's output, it suddenly became clear that protection was still needed. A second shell was hastily build to engulf the first. The spherical arrangement of stabilopod barriers encompassed the massive habitable world and became known as the outermost commons.

After the completion of the dyson shell many prosperous years followed and expansion was no longer needed. The maximum theoretical amount of power output of the star had already been achieved. For a while growth stopped being the core driving force of civilization, thus redistribution and optimization dominated many centuries of thought. The years added up to many ups and downs, civilization downfalls and rebirths, displacements and climate catastrophes, and by now the knowledge of the origins of the shells and knowledge of megastructure engineering is mostly lost to time.

New measurements and calculations of interstellar space density again show the cosmos to be practically empty and non-threatening. The stabilopod shell then serves no clear purpose. The most prevailing theories at the time are that ancient civilizations started building the second shell as a foundation for an unfinished, even greater megastructure; or that the shell served ancient religious purpose.

Nonetheless, the outermost commons are now being auctioned off and dismantled. Illegal mining of the man-made concrete asteroids has already been a profitable trade for centuries, although it was limited to very few brave souls who dare to venture out in the dangerous dyke. But with wide scale investment the new resource to be mined breaks the ancient balance of recycle and reuse and, for the first time since the shells were completed, proves a challenge to the degrowth economy and culture. The rediscovery and reinvention of asteroid mining is a haunting first step towards the great change that awaits world.