Reporting from Pandora, Alison’s reports focus on day-to-day life and the supporting tools utilized by the RDA to carry out its missions. Boyd's distinguished career includes covering geo-political events as well as being embedded in conflict zones.
These are the transmissions sent from Pandora to Earth as a sort of planetary blog.
#1 Transmission-INTRO TRANSMISSIONEdit
Hello, I’m Alison Boyd and this is my first transmission in my exclusive series of blogs from the beautiful moon of Pandora. Although the planet's environment may be toxic to humans, I'm safely reporting within the complex of the Resource Development Administration building. I've been given this exclusive assignment to provide a first-hand look at the impressive developments surrounding the Avatar program.
The RDA works diligently to carefully extract the precious resource only found on Pandora -- Unobtanium. Selling for 20 million dollars a kilo, RDA's mining interest is substantial. Not only is Unobtanium crucial to the economy on earth -- it is crucial to the earth's survival.
How do humans live in the Hell's Gate complex, as it is affectionately called, away from their families on Earth? What are the danger levels involved with mining Unobtanium? And how does the Avatar Program work?
Over the next two months I'll post all of my transmissions here.
The indigenous civilization on Pandora, the Na'vi, call Unobtanium "rock with magic". Found only on Pandora, it is a high-temperature superconducting mineral that we’ve grown dependent upon for powerful energy. The RDA extracts Unobtanium here to use for interstellar and deep space travel, but also for operating the magnetic levitation trains on Earth. How was this highly magnetic mineral created? Researchers believe that billions of years ago, a Mars-sized planet crashed into the still-molten Pandora. I’m not certain how long the RDA will be here mining the Unobtanium, but they’ve invested highly in this project.
As part of my exclusive series on life here on Pandora, today we'll explore RDA's advanced equipment, that make it possible to safely mine Unobtanium. As you know, Unobtanium is urgently needed for a number of scientific and commercial applications, relating to feeding earth's energy demands. But getting this precious resource can be difficult and even dangerous. The RDA has developed specialized tools for these hazardous mining excavations.
The exopack is a lifesaver for humans. The harsh Pandoran atmosphere makes this breathing apparatus mandatory for the men and women working outside the shelter of the Hell's Gate compound. Modified from civilian rebreather technology, the exopack is incredibly lightweight. It filters the atmosphere and allows humans to survive outside the compound, on Pandora, with minimal equipment. As an added precaution, mining personnel are routinely decontaminated before they re-enter Hell's Gate.
The cargo vehicles transport the extracted Unobtanium from the mines back to Hell's Gate for processing. This vehicle is truly a colossal piece of work. The tires alone tower over any human. Its strength is as important as its ability to shield people from the atmospheric toxins. And mining personnel are advised to spend fewer than 20 minutes per day outside the truck cabs.
It is evident in everything I see, that while Pandora is breathtakingly beautiful and Unobtanium is invaluable, the work here requires meticulous attention or your safety is not guaranteed.
#4 LIFE ON PANDORA TRANSMISSIONEdit
Outside of Hell’s Gate, the Pandoran ecosystem contains fauna with amazing attributes. The Mountain Banshee is constantly studied in the bio lab here by Xenobiologists. Banshees were so named because of their signature piercing cry. This is only one of the banshee's many vocalizations and is thought to be a distant call defining territory. Other vocalizations include a warning hiss, which is part of an overall threat display posture, and a short sharp shriek which denotes stress or fear.
The Na'vi bond with a banshee in a dangerous but mandatory rite of passage for all would-be warriors. What's amazing is that a Na'vi can connect to a banshee through a neural interface that allows animal and rider to move effortlessly through the skies. It is not a partnership taken lightly. The banshee will only bond with one Na'vi in its lifetime.
Living in other Pandoran regions are creatures resembling six-legged deer known as Hexapedes. This dark blue, herbivore, with white and yellow stripes is one of the most beautiful and fragile creatures found here.
Although a prime target for any land or aerial predator, the rapid pace of their breeding is the only thing keeping them from extinction on Pandora. An interesting species survival technique.
Insects here are in no way the small bugs we know on Earth. The Hellfire Wasp has a 5-inch wingspan, it's the size of a sparrow. Various wasp species have been found in Pandoran microclimates, including mountain valley stream beds and beaches. You'll find the Hellfire Wasp building small nests in fallen, rotting trees within rainforests and swamplands.
If stung by this dual-stinger insect, the RDA personnel are commonly placed on medical leave. Although rarely lethal to humans, it is believed that an attack from a swarm of Hellfire Wasps would ultimately result in fatality.
#5 HELL'S GATE TRANSMISSIONEdit
Before it got it's nickname, Hell’s Gate was officially called the Resources Development Administration Extra-Solar Colony Zero-one. A name befitting a sprawling complex that stretches for miles.
The security measures are extreme, guarding against the dangerous Pandoran elements outside. The RDA erected a massive pentagonal fence surrounding Hell's Gate, about 3.6 miles in total length. But before one attempts to pass that, a deep and wide moat surrounds the complex. It seems as if nothing could circumvent the defenses of Hell's Gate.
Recreational facilities and the base commissary, commonly known as Hell's Kitchen, are shared, except for the unpressurized section between research labs and the landing zone. This area is mainly used by members of the Avatar program for athletic training and field sports.
#6 AMP SUIT TRANSMISSIONEdit
Not all the machinery used on Pandora originated here. The MK-6 Amplified Mobility Platform, or AMP suit, is a distant relative of the first military suits used on Earth in the mid-21st century. Upgraded, sealed, and pressurized, the AMP Suit was heavily improved for toxic environments and used throughout Pandora.
The power of the AMP Suit lies with the human operator by magnifying the strength and mobility of the driver. Unlike more exotic designs in which weapons were integrated into limbs, the AMP suit is a multi- purpose machine, able to mimic all the abilities of the infantry soldier.This allows a wide range of functions, including the ability to operate a variety of weapons systems.
Because the pilot's arms and legs are synchronized with the AMP Suit's limbs, the pilot affects pressure and direction cues which trigger the suit's motions, executing the intention of the pilot, calculating terrain factors and momentum to perform precise, balanced movements. Force feedback allows the pilot to feel what the suit does. The suit can also be operated in full darkness by a skilled driver.
The AMP Suit is an agile, powerful all-terrain ground combat unit that can defeat most opponents and cut a swathe through both dense jungles and hardened enemy positions. Pilots are protected within the enclosed cab's "Built-in Breathing System". Using the AMP Suit, the driver has the ability to punch through a wall, lift a half ton cargo crate, or rapidly build prefab units without a construction crew.
The suit's weapons are even more lethal than its raw strength. The hip-fired GAU-90 thirty millimeter machine gun can fire 250 explosive rounds per minute. The gun can be slung using an over the-shoulder rifle-sling to free the hands for other tasks. The other non-standard weapon is a combat knife of self- sharpening diamond-hard ceramic. To match the scale of the suit, the blade is over three feet long and cuts through many metals. It takes about two months to learn how to operate the AMP Suit but a lifetime to master it.
#7 AIR WEAPONRY TRANSMISSIONEdit
Although long retired from service on Earth, the Scorpion Gunship is a reliable and invaluable asset here on Pandora. Its mission is to defend the RDA assets against various hostile forces, which include ground and aerial predators.
While airships and weaponry are quite modernized on Earth, Pandora attracts pilots who long for the romantic past of flying "by the seat of their pants". The Scorpion is a very responsive, highly maneuverable, single seat, short-range weapon platform.
Another aircraft that required modification for use on Pandora is the C-21 Dragon Gunship. The Dragon was originally developed for troop insertion, close air support and battle theater coordination roles. Over the years, the Dragon has earned a reputation as an aerial weapon capable of inflicting heavy casualties. Plus, the Dragon's flight deck allows for efficient, single-pilot operation. The pilot's navigation station, or nav-station, receives input from other aerial and ground units as well. The role of the nav-station is truly battle coordination, allowing the pilot to interact with multiple aircraft and ground units.
For a much-needed gunship, the construction of the Dragon was controversial at first. Because it was a one-off, the plant managers couldn't justify the tooling necessary to build it on Pandora. However, the head of security on Pandora lobbied strongly for the vehicle, saying it was necessary to accomplish his mission to secure the RDA assets. A second Dragon airframe was fabricated, but the components necessary to make it operational have not arrived yet.
#8 AIRCRAFT TRANSMISSIONEdit
Today I was given a tour of RDA's primary assault vehicle for nearly all terrain---the GAV JL-723. They call it the Swan because the platform is gyrostabilized so when the it travels over rough terrain, the gunner platform is stabilized. The extended gunner's chair can rise up to 3.6 meters above the vehicle to see over obstructions between the gun and the target, like the long neck of a swan. The gunner must ride high and unprotected, making him a primary target for the enemy and vulnerable to the smallest attack.
The six tires also have little armor protection, but are themselves made from a hybrid polymer blend, with titanium strands woven throughout, which make them very tough to puncture. For the under carriage, they've designed a 1.25-centimeter thick permalloy armor that expands to two-thirds of an in inch beneath the chassis to protect against the shrapnel from mines.
To protect the driver and spotter, a rudimentary roll bar exists, but it's rare that a Swan rolls over due to the stability of its gyroscopic system. Should it ever happen, gunners have learned from experience it is better to release the safety harness and jump clear, if there is enough time.
Another defensive vehicle shown to me was the SA-2 Samson, a twin-turbine V-TOL rotorcraft. An aerial transportation truck designed to carry out mostly non-combat missions. Its weaponry consists of two stub- wing pods configurable for small missile launchers. These stub wing pods can fire either air-to-air or air- to-ground missiles. The Samson is also equipped with manned hydra and 30 caliber guns that are mounted on the side doors.
The Samson has been in use on Earth for decades. Its various trial runs in Antarctica, the Himalayas, and Honduras proved the aircraft could fly well in thin or thick atmospheres or in extreme temperatures with minimal maintenance. So when the R-D-A needed a reliable and sturdy aerial workhorse, they naturally chose the field-tested Samson and hardened its electrical system to prepare it for the rigors of Pandora.
The cargo bay was never pressurized for use on Pandora. Should humans decide to ride in the rear bay, exopacks are required to breathe...and survive.
#9 CREATURE TRANSMISSIONEdit
Pandora boasts a bounty of creatures, but all pale in comparison against the Great Leonopteryx. It is the king of the sky without a single known threat from other creatures on Pandora. The Leonopteryx's features are dramatic, with a wingspan extending more than 80 feet with powerful talons for grasping prey. The few humans lucky enough to survive seeing this creature have all marveled at its iridescent grace and command of the Pandoran skies.
The Leonopteryx shares an important feature with other Pandoran creatures. It has lightweight bone structure made of a biologically produced carbon fiber. This gives all the indigenous creatures incredible strength, which in turn helps them achieve flight through the dense atmosphere. The fierce beauty and nobility of this hawk gives it an honored place in Na'vi culture. There are songs, dance and elaborate carvings symbolizing respect for the Leonopteryx. I've learned that in the Na'vi language, Leonopteryx translates to “the last shadow”. As one survivor put it to me, “if you do see the shadow of the Leonopteryx, it will probably be the last thing you ever see.”
#10 FINAL TRANSMISSIONEdit
The RDA has been very accommodating during my assignment here. It is clear their reach goes beyond Pandora. They are the largest, single, non-governmental organization in the human universe with monopoly rights to all products shipped, derived, or developed from Pandora and any other off-Earth location. Quite an accomplishment for an entity that began as a Silicon Valley start-up in the early 21st century. If the founders of the RDA hadn’t borrowed money from friends and family to begin the company, we wouldn’t be at the center of an emerging energy source today.