Taiga Proxima B
“And finally, we have a report from a forest project that started hundreds of years before any of us were born.”
Everyone in the control center turned their attention away from the head of interdisciplinary science and back to the monitor at the front of the room. A data analyst from the back row made her way to the stage.
She coughed and cleared her throat before addressing the room, the regional directors watching remotely, and the population of three planets.
“We’ve had an incredible response from film studios, academic departments, and even the Interplanetary Plant and Seed Society to acquire any level of access to the raw footage. And that’s just from the initial thirty-second clip. Nothing else has gone public, until now.”
The monitor came to life with a distant view of Alpha Centauri. The computer simulation zoomed away from the twin binary stars to the smaller third star and its one planet in the habitable zone. From there, the camera angle orbited the rocky world with its red dwarf sun in the distance.
“This is Proxima Centauri B four hundred years ago when our first probes surveyed the world and deemed it to be in the habitable zone. Even today, the system lies just out of the reach of our crewed spacecraft. A moon shot environmental organization of the time pooled resources and sent a team of three robotic ships.”
Images of an outdated laser-guided solar sail, a primitive orbital satellite, and a pair of pre-A.I. drones cycled across the monitor. One was a land rover with a back-ho and digging arm, the other was a bladed aerial surveillance device.
“Their plan was to transport the seeds of various endangered conifers and attempt to plant a boreal forest. That’s a winter forest, like the Taiga in Earth’s northern hemisphere. The satellite gathered solar energy and beamed it down to the drones and collected data sent back up. The rover planted for a century before it died and the mission was abandoned. The satellite would continue to beam a status report back every hundred years.”
A gray cloud-covered planet filled the screen.
“Signals take five years to reach us from the ancient transmitter. This compiled orbital pass of the planet three hundred years ago confirmed an atmosphere and made it our closest Earth-like neighbor. Being so far out of range for ships of the time, nothing happened after that. The next two transmissions never came and Proxima was forgotten — until last week.”
The monitor went blank.
“What you are about to see is a time-lapse compression of centuries of tree growth, species evolution, and deliberate forest migration on a planetary scale.”
The room darkened and everyone watched in wonder as giant trees sprouted up from twigs and marched across the surface of a distant world; beckoning and waiting for someone to come and breathe their air.