The UESPA's First Footsteps
There are two major impacts from Zefram Cochrane's achievement that set the future of Earth right there on the spot. The first impact was gaining the attentions of the Vulcans, a friendly extra-terrestrial race and Earth's first interstellar ally. First contact had its own spectrum of effects on humanity. However, the biggest effect from first contact by far was that the event made humanity seem smaller. From Earth's perspective, humanity isn't alone in the universe anymore and there are things out in space bigger than any human. This made most of post-war humanity realise the futility of further conflict when anything that could be fought over paled in comparison to what is out in space. Granted, there was still a sizeable number of humans that ignored first contact and choose to remain with the 'old ways' for some time. But generally, by the first few years of the 22nd Century, these sentiments became isolated to non-existent. Moving on to the second major impact of Cochrane's success, we have the fuelling humanity's ambition. There is no doubt that until 2063, humans were still doubtful of ever recovering from WWIII. Seeing this achievement inspired and reassured most of Western civilisation (and eventually Eastern civilisation too) that rebuilding was possible, and Earth began to move forward as unified entity once again. Although the official United Earth government was still decades away, the iconic name was realised around a year after first contact as a part of the United Earth Space Probe Agency (UESPA). The UESPA was Earth's first unified extrasolar organisation, a merger of whatever remained of previous space exploration organisations.
After foundation, the strongest of Earth's rebuilding governments tasked the UESPA with a number of projects only months after its founding:
- Friendship Project (UESPA-1 to UESPA-5), mandated to design, build and deploy five deep space probes that would seek out new (from the viewpoint of Earth) civilisations
- Valiant Project (UESPA-6), tasked with creating a manned ship of exploration
- Bonaventure Project (XCV-020 and XCV-030), tasked with building two small experimental starships for testing out theories in starship operation
The Friendship Probes
"We the people of Earth greet you in a spirit of peace and humility. As we venture out of our solar system, we hope to earn the trust and friendship of other worlds."
- the standard greeting of a Friendship probe
The UESPA was determined to seek out more alien species to learn about them. Given the slow speeds of Earth ships at the time, a manned mission to complete that objective would be impossible since the nearest possibly-inhabited planets were almost a decade away at Warp 1.1. The Friendship Project produced three large probes that dedicated most of their internal space to either a primitive matter/antimatter reactor (UESPA-1) or two nuclear fusion reactors (based on the same design used aboard Phoenix, dubbed the "Cochrane-type") that worked together in tandem (UESPA-2 and UESPA-3), a humongous and primitive subspace transceiver, a large processing core, and fuel. Friendship 1 (UESPA-1) was designated as the lead ship of the project, loaded with Earth's entire supply of antimatter (which Earth will not be able to mass produce cheaply for another 75 years). Friendship 2 (UESPA-2) and Friendship 3 (UESPA-3) were kept closer to home since they needed to undergo refuelling every 5 years. The other two planned probes (UESPA-4 and UESPA-5) were cancelled in order to free up resources for other projects. Friendship 1 was launched in 2069 after several years of delays, with Friendship 2 and Friendship 3 joining the stars the following year. Starfleet lost contact with Friendship 1 in 2248, whilst the other two probes were retired and preserved in the 2210s.
In a standard Friendship mission, the probe would scan each Minshara type planet (more commonly known as just class M, which is any interstellar body that is suitable for humanoid life) it detected for signs of a life. If industrialisation was detected, the probe would alter course and transmit a standard greeting towards the planet. If a response is received, the probe would then transmit data to aid the planet's inhabitants with understanding human culture and technology with the hopes of persuading the planet to attempt contact with Earth. As far as technological donations, the probes were only designed to aid the planet's inhabitants with constructing communication arrays.
Whilst the probes did gather some concrete statistics on the amount of species that were relatively close to Earth, friendly responses towards the probes were less than stellar. A little over 70% of the confirmed attempts at trying to contact an advanced civilisation were less than friendly.
The Valiant Project was most definitely the most impactful project for Earth during this time. Placing the UESPA-2/3 powertrain of 6 Cochrane-type reactors into a large hull yielded the first Earth spacecraft that could be considered a starship. SS Valiant (UESPA-6) was a game changer upon launch in 2065 under the command of Captain Carlos Tarasco. The ship itself was not much faster than Phoenix, with a maximum sustainable speed of Warp 1.1. Its dimensions and tonnage were similar to that of an old sea-based naval guided-missile destroyer. So Valiant was not fast, nor was it big. But being Earth's first attempt at a starship, many records were set by the ship; it was the first Earth ship to travel to Vulcan, the first Earth spacecraft to use any sort of weapon outside the solar system - a system of four independent laser emitters designed to burn and cut down asteroids, and tragically the first Earth ship to encounter a magnetic space storm that ultimately led to the ship's destruction in 2069. Although because of the disaster, SS Valiant got the distinction to be the first Earth ship to approach the galactic barrier and (barely) leave the galaxy.
In keeping with space organisations before the war, the loss of the ship (or the fact that the circumstances surrounding its loss would not be discovered until 2265 by USS Enterprise) was shrugged off and it did not derail UESPA's ambitions. The crew of Valiant would go down as heroes in Earth's history books.
Even before the success of the first three major UESPA projects were realised, the UESPA had its sights aimed at other possible projects. Pressure from the governments backing the UESPA demanded that the UESPA explore the possibility of deep space colonisation and spatial material exploitation. Both tasks were deemed necessary to allow Earth to rebuild quickly.
Earth has a finite amount of space for its population. Whilst the recent war reduced the population temporarily, it would only be a matter of decades before Earth's population would be too large for any ecosystem to support. So colonisation was a must for human recovery, and UESPA used planetary survey data collected from its probes and SS Valiant to assess potential colony sites. If colonies could be established in the near future, both UESPA aims could be meet together. Achieving what it wants would be no easy task, and it would require functioning spatial infrastructure and an entire fleet of capable ships.
At first, two planets were designated for colonisation by the UESPA; Alpha Centauri and Terra Nova. Alpha Centauri was the obvious choice since the system is only around 4.3 light years away from Earth, compared to almost 20 light years between Earth and Terra Nova. However, the UESPA decided that Terra Nova was to be colonised first.
The strange decision was primarily motivated by symbolism. The UESPA reasoned it could convey a more hard-earned achievement to the public by settling Terra Nova first. The mission did have its fair share of opposition, but a ship specially designed for the mission was always being built by 2066. Loosely based on SS Valiant, SS Conestoga (UESPA-8) was a highly modular colony ship designed to undertake the transit to Terra Nova in a nine-year journey. Most of the hull formation was similar to SS Valiant, although lengthened, and (aforementioned) more modular to allow easy assembly and disassembly. The latter being crucial as the ship itself would serve as the raw materials and shelter needed to get the colony up and running. The old-fashioned 'head' section that was present on Valiant's design was removed in favour of a more modern superstructure that set the design apart. The Warp nacelle pylons were also swept upwards, a feature present on almost all Starfleet cruisers today. The armament was changed from four laser emitters to just one laser emitter and two newly-developed plasma turrets, which would serve as the colony's main planetary defence system. The laser emitter (which was designed to be more of an object clearance tool rather than a weapon) was retained as UESPA figured that Conestoga could make use of its rock-breaking properties to create several small-scale quarries on the planet's surface before the ship landed. In order to complete the large journey in as little time as possible, Conestoga's fusion reactor usage profile was controlled by the period's most precise computers to be more efficient at Warp 1.3 in order to conserve deuterium.
Conestoga was launched in 2067 under the command of Captain Andrew Paul Mitchell, and after trials, left the Earth's solar system in 2069. Proceeding at a speed just over Warp 1, the colony ship arrived at Terra Nova on 23rd June 2078. Upon arrival, the ship conducted viability scans, selective mining using its laser emitter, and eventually entered the atmosphere. Upon landing on the surface, the crew of the ship began to dismantle a large portion of the internal structure for use as the colony's first land shelters. Colony power was originally provided by large batteries for individual buildings, but eventually the ship's fusion reactors were used as a colony-wide power source (something the reactors could sustain for a while due to the significantly-lowered power draw). Heavy water generators were also set up to provide additional fuel. The ships' transceiver was removed and set up as a 'radio' tower on the highest peak of the continent that the Humans (now self-identifying as Novans) settled on. However, soon after establishment, the Novans' relationship with Earth became increasingly strained.
To the UESPA's delight, the success of the mission fostered increased support for colonisation. By 2083, the UESPA was readying SS Nova (UESPA-12) for a mission to reinforce Earth's presence on Terra Nova with a second colony on the planet. The news was not well received by the Novans, and hostilities escalated into threats of violence from the Novans to any ships that approached the planet. Shortly after the threats, all communication was lost with Terra Nova. Due to the risk, SS Nova was assigned to colonise Alpha Centauri instead, and was launched in 2085 under the new name of SS Adventurer. Earth would have to wait until mid-2151 to discover the fate of the colony. United Earth Starfleet cruiser Enterprise (NX-01) found that the colony was destroyed by a meteor strike that rendered the region around the colony toxic. The Novan survivors' descendants were found, and after a brief confrontation, accepted help from Enterprise and the Novans resettled on another area of the planet and began to rebuild with the regular assistance of other long-range Earth ships. As for 2178, Terra Nova is a Federation member world of significant scientific importance.
Whilst the Terra Nova mission did result in disaster, support for space colonisation was already established and overwhelming. SS Adventure began its two-year mission to Alpha Centauri in 2085 to establish what we now know as Earth's largest colony. However. This ship did not dismantle itself on arrival, and within five years, it had returned to Earth and was ready for a new and completely different mission. This was due to the ship being a DY-500-class ship.
Whilst Conestoga was indeed a big step forward for the UESPA, the design was deeply limited in what roles it could perform. Despite being modular for the assembly process, the ship's systems could not adapt if hypothetically the ship had to serve a different function like (for example) research. Whilst these hypothetical issues were being realised in the early 2070s, the UESPA underwent a major restructure into a larger and more organised entity. The UESPA implemented its first modern rank structure and the supporting nations of Earth gave the UESPA more authority in its missions. The UESPA was also tasked with an increasing number of responsibilities, which included colonial management, defence, exploration, research, and transportation. In effect, the UESPA was developing more into the Starfleet of today at an increasing rate. The new responsibilities and the inherently-needed flexibility required the UESPA to field a large fleet of the most versatile ships Earth could produce.
A project to design, develop and build a class of multi-mission ships began in late 2070. After a series of discussions between the two parties, the UESPA worked together with descendants of the old pre-WWIII US-Russian company Dyson-Yoyodyne's founders to form a new company in February 2071 - Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems (YPS). By that year, it became apparent that the current powerplant of UESPA ships was also inadequate. YPS was tasked with developing an evolutionary reactor design based of Cochrane's decade-old reactor. At the same time, UESPA and YPS designers worked together to develop a ship to use the reactor.
Likely due to YPS's influence, the resulting DY-500 looked strikingly similar to Dyson-Yoyodyne's old DY-series of sleeper ships. The designation "DY" was reused as a 'tip of the hat'. The design included no visible nacelles, instead having a single "midline" nacelle internally - a design feature was later partially implemented on various United Earth Stellar Navy ships in the 2150s. SS Yoyodyne (UESPA-10) rolled off the assembly in late-2075, fitted with two of YPS's new Yoyodyne-type pulse nuclear fusion reactors. Shortly after the public reveal, the UESPA announced that it had the intention of licensing the design to civilians. The move was to help secure more interest and funding for the organisation, as well as help Earth embrace space. Sensation grew as many wannabe businessmen and women tried to secure large loans to start their own shipyard business for civilian DY-500 production. Obviously, this was largely impossible due to Earth's still recovering state. Seeing that this could be the only road to Earth's long-term recovery, the richest governments of Earth decided that they would build nationalised shipyards and later lease them out so that this new and potentially great market could come to fruition. Whilst these shipyards were being constructed, the UESPA ordered and constructed the next nine ships, UESPA-11 to UESPA-19, themselves. Starting in late-2079, the first civilian-built DY-500 was laid down in Canada. Production continued until 2099. During this time, the shipbuilding, colonisation and space transportation markets rocketed and as the scientists that pushed for the space agenda in the late-2050s hoped for, Earth was well on its way to recovering economically. More and more jobs were being created and trade was beginning to expand outside the solar system. For the first time in history, DY-500 allowed civilians themselves to explore space and settle colonies as long as they are within good standing with the UESPA and seek their approval.
In UESPA service, the DY-500 gave the large organisation a taste of the future starships it needed. They were flexible, and allowed for a rotation of duties depending on what is required once one of the ships completes a mission and returns home. The UESPA also gained experience with interacting with civilian needs and wants, operating a multi-ship fleet, and constructing a large class of similar-designed ships. Obviously more ships would be needed, and the new civilian market that is rebuilding the governments that fund the UESPA would need to be expanded. To that end in 2083, the UESPA recommended that a new organisation should be founded with the goal of facilitating the transportation of goods (especially products of mining) from Earth's colonies to Earth itself, and conducting trade with other species. After assessing the viability of such an organisation, the UESPA span off its transportation duties to the newly formed Earth Cargo Service (ECS) in 2084. As for DY-500 itself, most of the ships had long lifespans and eventually a successor, DY-732-class of 2102, was developed.
Generally, the 2060s and 70s are looked at as being two very successful decades where the UESPA sets the stage for Earth's recovery and begins to expand outside the solar system for the first time. Whilst that assessment is overall accurate, it is important not to forget that ambition and technological breakthrough do not come without a cost. Earth kept pushing the boundaries for 20 years and suffered some tragedies and setbacks in that time.
Whilst both Valiant and Conestoga showed that remarkable progress was made by Earth only a handful of years after first contact, Earth was already beginning to show signs that it had overextended itself. Sheer ambition pushed the boundaries too far in almost every aspect, which accumulated in the tragedy of SS Voyager only months after the launch of SS Conestoga.
SS Voyager (UESPA-9) was to be Earth's pioneering explorer of the 2060s. A Valiant on steroids. Based on the frame of SS Conestoga, the ship had almost every experimental UESPA technology at the time cramped inside whilst bearing the same immature reaction system as the two previous pioneers. The uncontrolled strain of the advanced systems overloaded one of the ship's six reactors and the ship explodes in high orbit over Earth, killing all 70 crewmembers.
The destruction of Voyager brought about a huge shock to the UESPA and the general public since this was first witnessed destruction of an Earth starship. Thankfully, the event did not derail Earth's starship program overall. However, progress in developing advanced starships would be slowed in the decades after the event. Even the NX-class project of next century would feel the effects of this tragedy - the Vulcan High Command took advantage by citing recklessness and earlier failures (a direct reference to Voyager) when they attempted to slow Earth's deep space mission until humanity was deemed 'ready'.