(Short story I am writing for an anthology book)
‘Orbit is circularized around Gilgamesh. We’re on target to pass directly over the automated mining facility,’ said Kefira.
‘We lost some time and used more fuel than normal stopping at the ship. We need to get the cargo loaded and return to Ellium before we miss the departure window,’ Tripp said. ‘How’s the mining transfer look Nic?’
‘Surface launch trajectory looks good. We should intercept in twenty-two minutes. Closest approach at 200 meters after the rocket meets us in orbit. Launch in two minutes.’
The ice covered surface of Gilgamesh rolled below. Nic could see geothermal vents shooting plumes of mineral rich water vapor into space. Nic had been reading about this newest automated facility. The mining robots down below were harvesting the valuable minerals, separating it from the water. The facility even used the water it removed to create rocket fuel to launch the minerals into orbit. Its efficiency was what make the journey profitable.
Nic watched for the largest patch of vents as it came over the horizon. That was the location.
‘Coming up.’ Nic announced.
He remotely triggered the launch of the rocket from the automated mining facility. A small light could be seen leaving the surface of the moon. It flew an arcing trajectory ahead and below them, growing in size as it came closer. The rocket accelerated to match their orbital speed and circularized into the same orbit, precisely at the moment they arrived at the rendezvous point. Its engine shut down, just ahead of their spaceplane, and appeared to stand still in front of them. The payload module separated from the rocket and the two drifted apart slowly.
‘Moving in,’ said Tripp. The space plane eased forward toward the module.
‘Bay doors open, ready to receive,’ responded Nic.
Nic grabbed the payload with the robotic arm and pulled it inside.
‘Module is aboard.’ Nic called out. ‘Give me a moment to program the booster’s de-orbit and return to the facility.’
‘Course for return to Ellium is plotted,’ Kefira said as she punched a few more keys.
‘I’m ready to get back home.’ said Tripp.