Not Alone: A Sci-Fi Short Story

Ahoy, stargazers! I’ve returned to Austin from a week-long vacation at the land of 10,000 lakes. Just in time to deliver you a new sci-fi short story.

Not Alone is about a freighter pilot who’s down on his luck but won’t give up his dream.

Here’s the blurb:

Not Alone: A Sci-Fi Short StoryDid life ever exist on Mars?

Astrobiologist Ackley Griven once set out to answer that question…and came up with squat.

The mining companies, though? They struck gold on the red planet. Gold and oil.

When accidents in the low mines bring Griv back to Mars with a delivery of mining bots to replace the ones that were inexplicably destroyed in electrical fires, his stale search for Martian life is thrust onto a surprising new trail.

Not Alone is a science fiction short story about space ships, superstition, and one man’s lifelong obsession.

Get Not Alone on Amazon

A sample from the beginning of Not Alone




After paying for the station mechanics to repair a small breach he discovered in the hull of his ship during the journey back from Mars, Griv bounced off his freighter like a man half his age and fifty pounds lighter. A message from Deirdre had synced to his personal inbox when he docked, and though they had bickered bitterly last time they spoke, the prospect of seeing his daughter elated him. Not even the cost of the repairs could get him down just now. It felt like someone in the control room had cranked back the artificial gravity on the space station.

He relished the floating sensation as he strode in worn leather boots through the familiar bustling traffic of pilots, passengers, and supplies on the hangar floor. His equally battered duster—not leather or canvas, but a heavy, breathable synthetic the color of which matched his brown boots—billowed appreciatively behind him.

Near the far end of the hangar, Griv stopped and waited while a young mechanic with a scraggly goatee guided a replacement spacecraft wing through a thick crowd. The wing was supported on a maglev cart. Griv knew the metal floor was lined with magnets so that a single person could move heavy equipment—like that wing— across the hangar. But most civilians had never seen such a thing. A knot of Asian businessmen and their wives—space tourists—whispered and pointed excitedly, and waved the mechanic to a halt.

A geriatric gentleman wearing a green casino visor and fine polished shoes of expensive leather separated himself from the others. With a wide grin plastered on his face, he approached the mechanic. The young man’s expression went blank and he nodded, but Griv noticed his posture stiffen as the tourist ran his hands along the sleek metal surface of the spare wing. A woman handed a small camera to a third man, and sidled up next to old gent. The third man took photos of the couple in two poses, and another when the woman pulled the mechanic into a third shot. The young mechanic’s face softened into a hesitant smile. The old man laughed aloud, then lounged back onto the edge of the maglev cart and jostled the heavy metal wing.

The mechanic’s face went pale. He tore himself away and fumbled with a controller in his hands. The top-heavy wing began to tilt and the mechanic desperately threw his own shoulder under the wing. Griv brushed through the crowd, elbowing the frightened tourists out of the way, and added his own hands to the other end of the wing. The mechanic finally managed to stabilize the maglev cart with one hand on the remote control.

“Thank you,” the mechanic whispered to Griv.

“Damn tourists,” Griv muttered under his breath, winking at the younger man.

The mechanic blanched, then rapidly hurried off in the opposite direction, using the remote to speed the wing to safety, away from the tourists. They hollered apologies as he retreated.

Griv chuckled and shook his head as he walked onward. It was no surprise that the mechanic kept his mouth shut at Griv’s comments, but it rankled him at the same time. The lucrative space tourism trade greased the metaphorical wheels of every space station now, he knew. Near-Earth orbit was the new exotic getaway.

Ridiculous, he thought.

Silence finally came like a thunderclap as he passed from the orderly chaos of the hangar into the narrow corridors of the space station proper. On the High Road—a long, slightly curved foot path that encircled the rotating core of the station—where he had time to think, Griv began to worry what his daughter might say. Could they just have a nice lunch together, or would she bring it up again, all that stuff about his health and how he needed to settle down? She was just like her mother that way. Griv lengthened his stride, knee joints popping from lack of use. He used to be able to do a dozen round trips to Mars with barely a dock-day between them, but the same pace was much harder on his body these days.

He finally stepped off the High Road and turned into the newly constructed greenhouse extension, where Deirdre said she would be. The round entryway door spiraled open with a soft sigh of air, and Griv waded into the thick smell of rich earth, thyme and rosemary and—he wrinkled his nose—cabbage. Vines hanging from a lattice overhead brushed his shoulders as he wandered deeper into the place.

Incredible that they’d set all this up here. The scientist in him, long dormant from lack of use, began to wonder how they’d transported the soil, and what percentage of the water used to grow this lush opulence was recyclable. Was it a drain on the station’s ecosystem? Was growing thyme extravagant, and should they focus more on the staples of the human diet—potatoes and cabbage for instance?

Deirdre would know. The company she worked for, Sustainable Rotation, had been crowing about a sustainable future for humanity in near-Earth orbit for over two decades. They ran nearly a dozen of the so-called Habitation Stations, space stations meant only for civilian use, and reserved for the ultra-rich.

But this was something else entirely.

Griv rarely made it out of his ship, let alone wandered to the experimental side of this station. Remarkable what they’d managed to achieve. Would it reach their goal of full sustainability? And if so, how long would it last? He absent-mindedly cycled through water-use calculations in his head, but was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it, and was that much more impressed with his daughter’s abilities. She was light-years ahead of him as a scientist. Good for her.

“Ackley Griven!” A man’s surprised voice cut through the thick air. “Is that you?”

The prideful glow dampened, and Griv turned to see a group of lab-coated scientists surrounding a man wearing designer jeans with more holes than fabric. The difference in the man’s appearance drew his eyes—he was a full foot shorter than Griv and wore a Henley t-shirt with all three buttons opened at the top to reveal an annoyingly well-muscled chest. His head was as hairless as his chest, and he was missing both eyebrows. Once a genetic disorder called alopecia, full hairlessness was now an affectation of the ultra wealthy.

“Well, I’ll be,” Griv said, extending his hand. “The man himself. I wasn’t sure you’d be here, Sinclair.” He owned this station—he owned nearly a dozen of them. Of course Griv knew Sinclair Axelrod would be here. He was just hoping he wouldn’t be.

“Deirdre,” Sinclair said, mock disapproval in his tone. “You didn’t tell me you were expecting a visitor.”

Griv’s daughter stepped out of the pack of scientists that surrounded Axelrod. Auburn curls framed her lightly freckled face. Soft cheeks cut down to a pointed chin the exact opposite of Griv’s own chin, which in recent years had seemed to merge into his neck. Her face was hard, her green eyes flat and angry. But a big, loving smile spread helplessly over Griv’s face at the sight of her, and his daughter’s face softened as well.

“I didn’t know if he would come,” Deirdre admitted.

“Here I am,” Griv said, spreading his arm magnanimously. “Sinclair, the space tourism industry has been good to you. This garden is like a slice of Eden. Incredible, truly…but we all know who really deserves the credit.”

Deirdre blushed. “Dad, stop.”

“He’s right, of course,” Sinclair said. “You have a naturally green thumb, and a brilliant rational mind.”

“She inherited that one from her old man,” Griv said, tapping his temple with one finger. Deirdre gave him a wry look. “Do you mind if I borrow your head botanist for a little while?”

“By all means. We were just wrapping up.” Sinclair made a motion, and the cluster of lab-coated cretins followed the little bald man away.

Griv held out his elbow. Deirdre took his arm, looking askance as she pressed her tongue against the inside of her cheek

“You’re not mad?” she asked when the others were out of earshot.

“I can’t stay mad at you.”

“You have to admit, you do spend a lot of time on that ship.”

“That’s how I make my living, sweetheart.”

She looked at the floor. “It’s also become your home, which is not healthy. You can’t live on your ship, Dad. Fill out an application and I’ll fast track you into the Habitat program. You’ll get a place to live, a guaranteed basic income…a cabin all to yourself!”

“I’m not taking charity, Dee. Especially not from goddamn Sinclair.”

“It’s not charity. You’d have to work your hours on the farms or in the water sanitation facility, the same as everyone else. And Sinclair has nothing to do with it.”

“You work for him.”

She frowned at her father. “I work for his company. I live for myself. And I care about you.”

Griv sighed heavily. “What’s the difference if I live in a metal box on my ship or a metal box on a station?”

“Other people live on the station, Dad. I worry about you, spending so much time alone.”

“Pfah!” he said. “I see plenty of people, here and on Mars.”

She gave him a dark look. They didn’t talk about his work much. Griv had been a government researcher once, the head of the first team to conduct scientific research on a foreign planet. No research teams worked on Mars these days. All the money for industry on Mars went toward the hunt for new petroleum deposits, and the lucrative gold and platinum mines. Griv used to be get angry when he thought about the potential signs of ancient life those idiots were probably destroying every single day as they greedily sucked the marrow from the bones of their sister planet.

Deirdre put her hands on her father’s arms and looked straight into his face. His heart broke when saw the tears forming in those big glistening greens.

“Dad, I know why you keep going back. You’re hoping something will change. But there’s no life on Mars. We’ve known that for decades now. I can’t deny that there’s got to be sentient life out there somewhere. You taught me to believe what I can see with my own eyes, and I look out at the stars and think that in all that vastness, there have to be others like us somewhere in the universe. But can’t you look elsewhere?”

Griv said nothing, but his heart ached.

“I love you, Dad, but you can’t go on like this. It’s not good for you. I miss you. Even mom misses you, though she’ll never admit it. Stop searching for something where there’s nothing to be found.”

Finish reading Not Alone on Amazon

The July challenge

I want to start writing Translocator 3 on August 1st, the same day The Alien Element (Translocator 2) is published.

That gives me 42 days — the rest of June and  all of July — to do the following on the publishing side:

  • Format and publish a sci fi short story called Not Alone
  • Format and update The Auriga Project with a new cover and updated blurb
  • Format and publish The Alien Element with the cover I revealed yesterday
  • (And do all the associated marketing for this new stuff!)

But more importantly, that’s 42 days to do all this on the writing side:

  • Finish a cowriting project, a sci-fi novel that is halfway done
  • Write 4 post apocalyptic/sci-fi short stories for the collection whose working title is Boys and Their Monsters.

My 2017 goal to publish something new every month will be met if I can do all this in July.

If I keep some of the short stories on the shorter side (3-5k or even less as opposed to my typical 6-10k), this should be no problem. I typically average 1000 words a day. With 42 days, that’s 30k reserved for the novel and 12k left for four short stories. No problem. If I can hit the targets. 😛

I’m going to focus, too, on cutting all distraction out of my productive writing time. I write every day as naturally as breathing, but I tend to be easily distracted. Breaking that habit won’t easy but I know it will worth doing.

Even if I’m late, I can still meet my one story per month goal. This was by design. Let’s say it takes me until mid August to get all that stuff done. Well, so what? I’ll still be left holding four new stories and a novel, enough for the rest of the year and then some. And enough time to write one more book to round out the Translocator Trilogy before the year is up.

* grins maniacally *

* cackles like a cartoon villain *

So that’s my July challenge. Can I do it? Or is it too much? I’m sharing this in the hopes that maybe you guys can help keep me accountable. Cheer from the sidelines every once in a while. Throw tomatoes. I won’t dance, but I’ll throw them back at you.

The Alien Element, new covers, and my sci-fi summer lineup

Yesterday I turned in The Alien Element, the novel I’ve been writing since March. Yep, that’s the title for the project I’ve been calling Translocator 2 these last few months. It finally has a name!

It also has an incredible cover and now that the book is done (except for editing), I’m stoked to be able to share it with you.

Since book one in the series has been out for a while, I decided to have both of the covers redone. Hat tip to Beaulistic Book Services for the fine work. Here are the new covers for The Auriga Project and the upcoming sequel, The Alien Element:

The Alien Element by M.G. Herron

The new cover for The Auriga Project will be available in July. The Alien Element, if all goes according to plan, should come out in early August.

I will also have a new sci-fi short story for you in July called Not Alone, an incredible ebook giveaway to share next week, and unedited snippets from The Alien Element on the blog soon. A whole bunch of great M.G. Herron fiction comes out this summer!

Writing book three in the Translocator Trilogy once seemed like a distant mirage—something I might never reach. Now that I’m 2/3rds of the way through the Trilogy, it looks more like a shade-covered oasis. I’ve got a few smaller projects to wrap up in July, but I cannot WAIT to get back and break ground on book three, hopefully sometime in August.

$0.99 cents on Kindle! The complete Tales of the Republic!

Hey everyone! Big sale this week.

All seven episodes of Tales of the Republic are now available as a complete novel. And until June 22nd, 2017, you can get the ebook for only $0.99 cents!

→ Get your copy here! ←

If you buy the complete novel, you’ll also get all sorts of bonuses:

  • Commissioned character sketches of Ming, Ari, and Po
  • A commissioned sketch of the mech scene in Telerethon Square from Episode 3: Perilous Journey
  • A desktop wallpaper made from the book cover
  • And a deleted scene from the novel that takes place in Episode 4: High Crimes (also related to the mechs, but from a new angle)

I hope you like all the bonuses, and the book. Both the ebook and paperback can be found on Amazon. It’s also in Kindle Unlimited, so you can read free if you’re a subscriber to KU.

Teasers of the bonus art!

Now, let’s talk more about the goodies.

How do you get access to all this awesome art and the deleted scene? Simply purchase the ebook or the print book from Amazon, and find the SECRET LINK in the back of the book. That will take you to a page where you can download all the stuff you see below, but without the blackout bars on them.

Here’s a sneak peak of the loot…



About Tales of the Republic

What’s Tales of the Republic about? I describe it as a sci-fi action thriller. It takes place in a speculative future somewhere in Asia, in a new country called The Republic of Enshi. Here’s the blurb and the cover if you want to learn more about the story itself…

Tales of the Republic, a sci-fi action thrillerThe fate of the Republic of Enshi hinges on a genetically modified miracle—and three unlikely heroes.

Kai Ming, a troubled politician, is entrusted with the country’s only hope of ending the famine that decimated the population. Po Li, a scrappy farm girl, battles to be reunited with her sister after rebel insurgents tear them apart. And Ari Klokov, a soldier, wakes in an underground prison with strange biotech in his head and no memory of the last twelve years.

Thrown together in the chaos and united by a fierce love for their country, Ming, Ari, and Po have to cross the mad riots, outsmart the hawkish Senator Khan, and overcome Felix Hull and his tenacious rebels who wage war in the streets of the blasted city.

Learning to trust each other is a start, but it won’t be enough. Their resistance pits them against ruthless leaders on both sides who harbor designs on the halls of power. Ming, Ari, and Po need to stop them to survive, but every opportunity has a cost–and this one must be paid for in bodies and blood.


And some of my favorite reviews on the complete novel that have come in from early readers…

“Vivid worldbuilding with unexpected twists, great read.” – Amazon Reviewer

“An enjoyable page turner. Character driven sci-fi with a female protagonist and interesting characters.” – Amazon Reviewer

Some history, and a big thanks

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may know that the first two episodes of Tales of the Republic came out in 2014, and 2015—about six months apart. I was dipping my toes into the indie publishing waters, and they were the first two things I ever published.

Episodes 3 – 7 were finally finished earlier this year, and the serialized publication was completed over the past few months.

Episode 7: Killer Cause completes the story, and concludes the events of the riot.

All together, I’m calling this version the “complete novel” because that’s what it is. I didn’t realize it back in 2014, but Episode 1 was really just the beginning of the journey. Now, I’ve come full circle. Tales is the first book I ever started (without knowing it), and I sense a certain pleasing symmetry in the universe knowing that it’s now, at last, complete.

Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way—I really appreciate everyone who has followed along or bought the episodes as this story came into being.

I hope you like it, and that you grab it while it’s only a buck and enjoy a whole bunch of bonus art while you’re there.

One last time… Get the book on Amazon for 99 cents while the sale lasts. It ends on June 22, 2017.

Words complete on Translocator 2!

Yes, it’s true! Yesterday afternoon I typed THE END on Translocator 2. Only two days past my ideal deadline of June 1st.

I drank an Old Fashioned to celebrate.

Here’s the word count tracker at THE END. Originally I thought the story would come to nearly 100k words! I’m relieved it got shorter the closer I got to the end, because I was running out of steam. Oddly enough, I made the same estimation mistake on The Auriga Project. Both books had 10k words chopped off their estimates during the draft—basically as soon as I realized the end was too long and changed up the outline. I haven’t quite figured out why, but I’ve got some theories.


Now, I will give myself about 2 weeks to read through and make revisions. Two weeks, and no more. Then it goes out for editing. Once the edits are in, the book will go to my advanced reader group, and then will be for sale soon after.

So no official date yet. This summer, hopefully.

A few more stats for the word nerds…

First draft by the numbers

88255 total words – my original target was 98k.

90 days total – 14 days outlining and 76 days writing

1,161 average words per writing day – this includes several days I skipped (3-5 days?), and several days when I only managed 500 words. Most days I could hit 1k-2k with a couple hours of effort. My best day was over 3,000 words.

This is the fastest novel I’ve ever written by 6-8 months. I give you a range there because I didn’t keep precise track of my previous books. The Auriga Project (Translocator 1) took about 14 months from start to publication and Tales of the Republic took 2.5 years with a long break in the middle (to write TAP and Scrivener Superpowers).

T2 is the longest novel I’ve ever written by about 3,000 words. (The Auriga Project is about 50,000 words. Tales of the Republic is about 85,000 words.)

I knock on wood as I type this ( *knock knock* ) but hopefully Translocator 2 will also be the novel that has taken the fewest revisions.

Maybe I’ll write up a post on what I learned writing this book. There are so many good lessons, and I should capture them at least for my own benefit, looking back at some undetermined point in the future. But the one thing I want to say now is that my experience with this book so far proves to me how far I have come since I started publishing my fiction 2.5 years ago, in the fall of 2014. I’m a better, more confident storyteller now than I’ve ever been.

Here’s to many more novels to come!


Today is my break. I finished The City and the Stars by Arthur C Clarke and read more from The Atlantis Gene by AG Riddle (I’m about halfway through). I was productive around the house, and hung out with Shelly while sporadic thunderstorms drifted over Austin. A wonderfully slow and relaxing day.

I’ll probably crack into the revisions next. Now that I’ve written this blog, I’m excited about the work again. It’s funny, going back to the beginning is like experiencing the book for the first time. I’ve already forgotten some of what I wrote in the first parts, and I’ll have my editor/reader glasses on now.

How fun. It will be just like reading a new book by another author. Except the author is past Matt. Recent past Matt. What was he thinking? What does he care most about? I guess I’m about to find out.

How Not to Stay in Vegas

I just contributed a snippet to a collaborative fiction project called How Not to Stay in Vegas, a story that started on Facebook, of all places. Well, that’s probably not uncommon. Writers are introverts. They don’t leave their house, do they? I haven’t left my house in two days. Okay, a week. Actually, all my social interaction happens on Facebook. Get off my lawn. Wait, how’d you get inside? Stop messing with the blinds! Oh, god, is that sunlight? It burns my eyes. It burns! It BURNS I TELL YOU

*shoves you out*

*draws blackout curtains*

*withdraws into fortress of solitude*

Okay, you know what, I’ve gotten off track. I just wanted to thank Burt Walker and Jim Goodman for shepherding the experiment, and wish them luck because getting a writers to do anything on time or in an orderly fashion or with other people can be hazardous to your health.lasvegas.jpg

The race with time

I can’t believe it’s the end of May already. It seems as if time itself has raced past me this year.

There’s so much I want to accomplish and do before the year’s end. Books and client projects—and what I guess I’ll lump together and call LIFE STUFF—all competing for my attention. Sometimes different stories even compete for the writing time I have set aside.

But I’m trying to stay focused. Most of my writing time has been devoted to Translocator 2. When I get restless I write these blogs and plan the launch of the Tales of the Republic complete novel—which happens on June 13th by the way. *HINT HINT*

Translocator 2 has until June 17th to fully bake, though. And, I actually feel pretty good about it right now! This is weird for me. I’m taking it this confidence as a trust in the process and the work I have yet to do. Also, it helps that since I rejigged the ending—I’m pretty sure— mostly sure—like nearly 99% sure it’s going to come in significantly shorter than I had expected. This is great. To be blunt, less words = less work.

And that means less time I have to spend on it. Amen.

I’m at 83,000 words with three chapters of grand finale and three chapters of resolution left to go.


I lowered the goal to 94k, but I’m actually thinking, maybe 90k? Maybe less? Either way, I’m just winging it from here.

I am less than a week from WORDS COMPLETE. Home stretch, baby!

After that, I have until June 17 to read through and tidy up. I’ve got to revise a few scenes because their first drafts missed the mark, but mostly just tighten and smooth out the prose, and fix errors and inconsistencies.

After the Tales complete novel launch in June, I’ve been thinking about lining up some snippets from the unedited version of Translocator 2 to share. That will be fun.

Lunar dome concepts

The other thing I needed to research for my book is what a realistic lunar dome would actually look like and be made out of.

You know that Jetson’s style glass dome, straight out of the sci-fi imagination of 1950s America? That’s where I started when I first began to imagine what a lunar dome might look like, and how it all might work.

But technology has improve immensely since the 1950s, and glass domes are not releastic on a moon with no atmosphere and a danger of meteorites, either to live in or maintain. So I went in search of more modern lunar dome concepts.

The newest and most realistic concept I found was on Gizmodo. They propose running moon stuff (i.e. the soil/crust of the moon) through a 3d printer to turn it into a cement-like material. They’d use that stuff (arranged in a cellular structure), plus interior inflatables to hold atmosphere, to build the domes.


According to ESA’s human spaceflight team’s Scott Hovland: “3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth.”

This is great, because it means that we don’t need to carry building supplies up there. We mostly use what the moon provides.

Additional ideas and questions came from Quora user Robert Walker, who wrote more about the specifics and logistics of establishing such a base on the Moon or Mars. He suggests putting the colony in a large caldera or smaller crater, using the natural structure for stability, and raising a dome above it. He wrote an even longer piece here. I haven’t read all of it yet, but it’s very interesting and asks all sorts of questions I never even thought about.

That’s one of the joys of doing this kind of research—I’m introduced to so many new ideas.

And then there’s this idea of setting up a colony on the moon, but beneath the moon’s surface inside of a lava cave, which scientists have posited could be quite large on the moon. So-called “lava caves” were apparently made during the cooling period while the moon’s surface was forming after the impact with Earth that made it.

Unlike Earth, the Moon lacks a thick atmosphere and magnetic field to protect it against cosmic radiation. The absence of an atmospheric buffer also means that the Moon’s surface receives more frequent meteorite impacts and more extremes of temperature.

For example, the Moon’s surface temperature can vary by several hundred degrees C during the course of a lunar day.

Cave opening
(Image copyright: NASA) Cave entrances like this one in Mare Tranquilitatis may open into lava tubes

But housing bases underground, inside lava tubes, could offer shielding against these risks.

The lunar tunnels are expected to be larger than those already discovered on our planet, because of the Moon’s lower gravity. No-one has yet definitively discovered an example on the Moon, but spacecraft have revealed cave entrances called skylights that may open into lava tubes.

Skylights! Holy crap, that’s amazing. There are so many great story seeds in these articles. Writers who have a hard time coming up with story ideas, take heed.

Clearly, the Jetson-style 1950s vision of the future didn’t hold up over time, especially not glass domes, and definitely not on the moon where there’s no atmosphere.

Those finnicky laws of nature, they’re just so rigid.

I’m going to try for something more modern and realistic for the lunar base in Translocator 2. You can let me know, when the book is done, if I’ve achieved it. Again, I don’t know how “realistic” a book about translocators and ancient aliens will come across, but I always try to make sure the science-inspired parts to hold up under scrutiny—to the best of my ability. This kind of research helps.

Nuclear reactors in space

When I hit that wall the other day and decided to rejig the ending of Translocator 2 (my sci-fi thriller novel WIP), a lunar nuclear reactor became important to the plot. I’d planned this from the beginning, but I was hazy on specifics.

Realizing I needed to backfill some of the details in the book, and wanting to make sure that it’s as realistic and technically accurate as a novel about teleportation, ancient aliens, and Mayan ruins can possibly be, I started searching around on the interwebz…

And MY GOD was I happy with what I found.

I already had an idea that NASA uses portable nuclear reactors to power their missions to the moon and Mars—not only do I love reading about NASA missions and have all my life, but nuclear power was also used as a plot point in Andy Weir’s The Martian.

Alas, no Mars or Mars missions in this book. But I found all sorts of fascinating stuff to inspire me.

fission_b_x220.jpgLike this Technology Review article on how NASA stress-tested a lunar nuclear reactor made with two Stirling engines circulating liquid metal back in 2009. Apparently they plan to put people back on the moon in 2020? Does anyone know if that’s still happening?

And this one from The Telegraph about how China wants to send people to the moon to mine Helium-3. I had no idea this was even a thing, or that a powerful isotope was present in the moon’s crust.

This extraordinary substance is the isotope helium-3, invaluable in ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations on Earth, and providing an all-powerful rocket fuel.

It is rare on Earth, being blown away by the solar wind. It is found in Troclotite, a metal of magnesium and iron, again rare but plentiful in the Moon’s crust.

My mind is racing by this point. I can’t possibly use all of this in the book I’m writing. I’m already overwhelmed by the number of threads I must tie together. It’s fascinating to me all the same.

A fully-loaded spaceship’s cargo base could power a quarter of the world for a year. This means that helium-3 has a potential economic value in the order of about £1 billion a ton, making it the Moon’s most valuable commodity except perhaps for astronomy and promoting tourism.

Wow. The idea of people mining the moon, which controls our tides, which influences our weather patterns and ocean life and much more, is absolutely terrifying.

But wait! Here’s more about the radioisotope power systems used by NASA “in numerous long-term missions, from Voyagers 1 and 2 to the Mars rovers”: a brief history on

If you want to know more about the many generations of radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) used by NASA for spacecraft, see their page on RTGs at

VikingSNAP19RTG1Here’s a cool cutaway diagram of a “SNAP-19 RTG used to power NASA’s two Viking landers.”


OK, last thing… from R&D Mag, “Nuclear Reactors to Power Space Exploration”:

Lessons learned from the kiloPower development program are being leveraged to develop a Mega Watt class of reactors termed MegaPower reactors. These concepts all contain intrinsic safety features similar to those in kiloPower, including reactor self-regulation, low reactor core power density and the use of heat pipes for reactor core heat removal. The use of these higher power reactors is for terrestrial applications, such as power in remote locations, or to power larger human planetary colonies. The MegaPower reactor concept produces approximately two megawatts of electric power. The reactor would be attached to an open air Brayton cycle power conversion system. A Brayton power cycle uses air as the working fluid and as the means of ultimate heat removal.

How cool. MegaPower reactors… I like the sound of that.

At a certain point, enough research is enough. I have to finish fixing up the plot, and make a list of stuff to go back and fix. And then I have to get writing the end of this book 🙂 There are about 10 chapters of fast paced action and satisfying resolution left to draft.

I didn’t even get to show you the fun concepts I found for the lunar domes. Another time, perhaps.