Robert McCairns-Kendell, NASA Ex-Coordinator
I believe mankind will expand outwards. We will do like the Mothers, splitting off in all directions, seeking different goals and visions. It is not a matter of destiny but of becoming.
Mankind will be at once united and increasingly diverse. We need to find ways of tolerating diversity even greater than that between a staid New America businessman and the bio-thinking Arcadians or the technoreligious unities.
I believe mindkind has a destiny in the universe. Not mankind, that small group of mammals, but all intelligent beings - the software of Nova, the Trahans, the Mothers, the mysterious Filigree and all other beings that look outwards and wonder. Mindkind will change the face of the universe, and it will create things we can only dream about. But to truly achieve about these wonders we will need to bridge the abyss.
- Robert McCairns-Kendell, Bridging the Abyss
Robert grew up on Armstrong, the largest of the orbital habitats around New America. His parents were influential technocrats, involved in the solar energy business and suborbital transports. As a young boy he devoured the old stories of adventure and exploration, from Jules Verne over Heinlein to the actual descriptions of humanity’s space adventure. He really wanted to be an astronaut, but not of the new kind who mostly fixed broken solar panels or built habitats, but of the old kind: a bold pioneer into the unknown. Unfortunately, all the horizons that could be explored had been explored, he was a pioneer without a frontier. At most he could hope to participate in the occasional visit to the other planets in the system, or even deal with the filigrees.
After graduating from Armstrong University with a double degree in space engineering and project administration he worked for the New America Orbital Administration, ending up in the spacecraft design program. He proved to be a competent administrator, and in 2326 he was appointed Coordinator of the program. He would likely have ended there, a visionary with little to do, unless the Filigrans had made their offer of FTL. Like many other technorats Robert was electrified by the news – this was the chance he had never dared dream about. During the ensuing fierce political debate Robert pushed for accepting the offer, using every ounce of influence he had to make Congress agree with the deal. In the end the FTL side prevailed, and the celebrations in orbit lasted for days.
Congress instituted a new agency to oversee FTL developments, the New America Space Agency (NASA). Most of the NAOA spacecraft design program was moved to NASA, and Robert became coordinator for project Leapfrog, the FTL probe project. After several month of planning, experimentation and construction the Feynmann probe was finished, and June 12 2329 it succeeded in making a higgsram jump over a billion kilometres. Emboldened NASA began to equip an old freight ship (renamed Ramirez, after the great 21st centry American physicist) with the higgsram, and after much testing and political bickering the first manned jump was undertaken in January 2333. April 3 2334 the Ramirez returned from a neighbouring star system: the space age had begun anew.
During this time Robert earned much credit as a skilled administrator, making the different teams work together despite some serious infighting in the upper echelons of NASA. His dedication, enthusiasm and skill made his appointment as NASA coordinator natural in 2334. He began planning for the next step: a visit to the other colonies, and Earth. A true starship, the Edison, was built and sent towards Arcadia, the closest known colony. Robert had personally invested much of his prestige in the expedition, and the crew was dominated by space-enthusiast technorats. In 2337 contact was achieved, a huge triumph for the American space program.
The Arcadians were enthusiastic, and in 2338 a joint expedition went to Sol. The Sol expedition was an amazing failure; at once wildly successful but oddly disappointing as the solarians appeared to be uninterested in contact. Ships were instead sent to other colonies, discovering very different cultures. This was the golden era of NASA.
But somebody also leaked the detailed plans of the higgsram and its theory to the Arcadians in 2343. When this was discovered pandemonium ensued on New America. Robert and a number of other NASA people were accused of having planned the leak. In the ensuing trial nothing could be proved, but the public opinion was strongly against him and his clearly stated views on space were used against him. He was forced to resign. When the first Arcadian expedition arrived he left with it for Arcadia, regarded as a traitor by many Americans.
On Arcadia, he was welcomed as a hero. The Arcadians appreciated his ideas, and he soon became head of the Arcadian starship program on Chloe. While he has had some trouble adapting to Arcadian society (the closeness of animals, the smells, the tunnels…), he fits right in at the orbital shipyards. There he both directs the design and construction of new starships, as well as the exploration effort. Around himself he has gathered engineers, transhumanists, surveyors and diplomats in a major exploration program. Instead of just contacting the other colonies (in itself a worthwhile effort) they are also exploring new worlds, looking for unexpected possibilities. This has definitely borne fruit in form of the encounter with the Mothers.
Personality: Robert is a visionary and enthusiast, not a deliberate leader. Instead he inspires others to take initiative or follow in his footsteps. He believes that mankind’s destiny lies in space, that it is an imperative to explore its farthest reaches. To remain limited by any horizon is to lose something essentially human.
He likes old music from the colony ship era; most modern listeners (especially Arcadians) find it unbearable with its heavy use of electric guitars and enhanced xylophones, but Robert likes to fill his office with it and reproductions of art from the heroic era of space colonisation in the 2020’s.
Plans: Robert has no clear plans himself other than to explore space and learn more, but he might cause much more. Currently, beside his work, he is writing his autobiography. When released it will likely have significant impact across human space. His biography is a potent document expressing his vision, and will likely make many more flock to it. It also fits in perfectly with the ideas of the Shining Engineer Vector; the aliens will likely strengthen their bonds with the expansionists. At the same time it will put him on a direct collision course with the isolationists and every group seeking to direct attention to the current planets and their problems.