An Enigmatic adventure

Note: This region has closed.

SS Enigmatic is a relatively new role-play venue within Second Life which also offers the opportunity for the adventurous to explore. It’s something of a post-apocalyptic scenario, set in the near future (2073)  following the Earth being rendered uninhabitable as a result of a NEO (near-Earth object), too large to have been diverted from its orbital track, having impacted with the planet. Those who survived the extinction level event now live aboard a gigantic space station, the Enigmatic, occupying Lunar orbit.

Space Station Enigmatic

Enigmatic was never designed to sustain such a large population of refugees over so long a period of time, and in the 30 years since the destruction of the Earth, and despite an operational presence on the surface of the Moon (the resources of which were used to construct the station), it is falling into disrepair – and perhaps its inhabitants are falling into anarchy. While the station has a command structure and attempts are being made to establish a greater presence on the surface of the Moon, many of the people living in the station are more concerned with entertaining themselves in the station’s clubs and gaming halls. Not that they are invulnerable to the general failings of the station.So much so that when injury occurs, it is often easier to simply replace the injured or damaged parts with cyborg replacements rather than using organic means and more familiar surgery.

Looking out over the station

A further reason for the station’s disrepair is due to the presence of an uncommunicative race of aliens. Where they came from is unknown, nor is their intent – although some feel they are a form of intergalactic scavenger. With their own mothership now a wreck on the Lunar surface, they have declared what amounts to war on the station and the human outposts on the Moon. In this, both sides seem evenly pitted, and neither has – so far – gained the upper hand.

The presence of the aliens has caused a rapid, if basic arming of the station, with equipment being pressed into use aboard ships and a handful of fighters being available to fight-off the incursion attempts by the aliens. Even so, being outside the station or away from defended areas on the surface of the Moon can invite attack. In retaliation, humans have attempted to enter the crippled alien mothership in the hope of stopping the aliens in their attempts to destroy the Enigmatic and surface installations – but the attempts have not ended well…

Lunar installation

As a role-play / entertainment venue, SS Enigmatic is in its early days, which potentially makes this the ideal time to join-up and help get things moving, if role-play is your interest. The station itself is big, very big, and the lunar installations make an interesting visit. At the arrivals area, you can pick up a freebie space suit, weapon, combat HUD and assorted cards providing background on the role-play, the station and a lot more.

Photo Competition

As well as the role-play, the station has two clubs, a bowling alley and mall open to players and visitors alike. The organisers are also promoting an artist-in-residence exhibition, and to encourage further interest, a photograph competition. The rules for the latter are straightforward, as posted in the Enigmatic blog:

From now until Oct 7, 2012 the SS Enigmatic will be holding a photo contest. All images must be taken on the SS Enigmatic Sim. Images may or may not include avatars. A variety of styles of shots is encouraged, scenery, action, romance (keep it clean!) depicting life and the environment on the sim. The winner will be awarded L$5000 Linden dollars.

Please see more contest information and photo submission location at , the contest rules page on this blog, or contact Sonrisa Seminario in world for more information.

Entrants should note that under the terms of competition, all entries become the property of the SS Enigmatic organisers, and may be used in promotional material related to the region (but will not be re-sold). Entrants retain the IP to their submissions and the right to use them as they wish.

Thoughts and Feedback

SS Enigmatic is an interesting idea that combines several facets designed to both encourage role-play and general exploration. Players are currently being sought and those interested should contact Sonrisa Seminario or Staryie Furyo (if interested in renting one of the residences or mall space). Available roles cover civilian and military positions on the station, although everyone starts as a civilian. There is even room for intrigue and espionage as alien sympathizers or spies. Players can be human or cyborg, and cyborg avatars are for sale in the arrivals area.

Exploring the station can be fun – although if I were to have one criticism at all, it is in the over-use of glow / full bright in areas of the station’s interior, which can easily white-out detail.

Piloting a fighter

Combat with the alien ships can be frenetic, and I do recommend that when flying a fighter / engaging the alien ships, you consider turning off lighting & shadows, etc., as these can significantly slow viewer response down and make hitting targets a bit of a pain. All combat is unmetered, although a free HUD is supplied for those wishing to use it.

Overall, an interesting and fun place to visit – just make sure you wear a spacesuit when outside of the station and that you carry a weapon! For the former, I used my own outfit (Jackie Graves’ brilliant Gravity outfit), although airlocks appear keyed to the use of the supplied suits. The particle gun is recommended, as the aliens can be quite persistent in their attacks! Those looking for a new role-play / combat environment with a sci-fi theme should certainly give SS Enigmatic a look.

Breaching the mothership

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Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin,
Though the plains are dusty

Keep that rover movin’

Rocks and wind and cold nights
Crossing that ol’ crater
On your way to Glenelg now, in style.
All things you’re doin’,
Sampling, scraping, dating
Will help our understanding of Mars.

(With apologies to Ned Washington!)

Over the course of the last several days, NASA has completed initial calibration and characterisation of Curiosity’s robot arm and initial testing of several of the turret-mounted scientific instruments.

These tests have included discovering the arm’s range and accuracy of movement in the low Martian gravity and temperature environs, as well as commissioning the turret-mounted Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) which is designed to determine the elemental composition of a target rock. Both are now all but cleared for science operations, although some further tests are planned.

On September 11th, Sol 36, the arm went through a series of “reach tests” using MAHLI to ensure that the arm can accurately position equipment over inlet ports on the rover’s body for the transfer of materials gathered from the surface of Mars.

Open wide! The CheMin sample inlet port, imaged by MAHLI on Sol 36. The 3.5cm (1.4 in) diameter  mesh-covered funnel will be used to supply Martian “fines” to the CheMin spectrometers for analysis

The Canadian-made APXS has previously been used to gather atmospheric readings, but the tests performed on September 10th, Sol 35, marked its first use on a solid target, using a calibration target mounted on the rover. The results showed APXS to be in excellent health. “The spectrum peaks are so narrow, we’re getting excellent resolution, just as good as we saw in tests on Earth under ideal conditions,” Ralf Gellert, the principal investigator for APXS reported. “The good news is that we can now make high-resolution measurements even at high noon to support quick decisions about whether a sample is worthwhile for further investigations.” This latter point is important, as X-ray detectors best work cold, and so was thought that APXS might find the midday periods of a Martian Sol a little too warm to produce reliable results.

APXS imaged by the 34mm Navcam on Sol 32 (September 7th), during initial visual check-outs of the arm and turret systems. This image confirmed APXS was not caked with dust blown up by the Descent Stage motors during Curiosity’s arrival on Mars.

After its initial check-outs, MAHLI was further tested in its ability to produce 3D images of surface objects, again using the calibration target mounted on the front of the rover. MAHLI is the second imaging system Curiosity carries that is capable of producing colour 3D images, the other being the Mastcam system, which was tested prior to the rover departing Bradbury Landing. Both systems produce 3D images through accurate positioning of the cameras, either by manoeuvring the robot arm (for MAHLI) or the entire rover (for Mastcam).

Transit of Phobos

Earlier this year, I covered the Transit of Venus, an astronomical event only visible from Earth every 105 or 121 years. Mars has similar events, which include transits of the Earth across the face of the Sun and, more particularly, transits of its own small moons, Phobos and Deimos. Transits of Phobos occur twice every Martian year, and on Sol 37 (September 12th), Curiosity’s Mastcam was used to capture images of a Phobos transit. The full-resolution images from this are liable to take a few days to download and be processed, but the plan is to produce a movie of the transit from the images captured.

A raw (unprocessed) low-resolution image of the transit of Phobos – the 11km wide moon, some 6,000km above the surface of the planet can just be seen on the edge of the solar disk

Next Stop: Glenelg – or a rock

With the arm characterisation tests now all but complete, Curiosity was ordered to resume its drive towards Glenelg, an area of Gale Crater some 400 metres from Bradbury Landing. The drive commenced on Sol 38 (September 13th), when the rover completed a drive of 32 metres, a further increment in the daily distance covered as confidence is gained in Curiosity’s autonomous driving capabilities. Even so, it will still be another few weeks before the rover arrives at Glenelg, and the drive may again be interrupted if a suitable rock candidate is identified for direct in situ testing of APXS and MAHLI. If deemed suitable, the rock may also be used to test the rover’s turret-mounted drill, although testing of this may be held-over until Glenelg is reached towards the middle of October.

David Oh from the MSL team provides a superb summary for the week, and insight into working as a part of the Curiosity team.

Curiosity reports in this blog

Mission Trivia

Curiosity has now driven142 metres (466 feet) since its arrival on Mars.

Images courtesy of NASA / JPL.