The reports from the Alpha Centauri probe were extremely promising. The garden world, the third planet of Alpha Centauri A, was somewhat larger and colder than Earth, but its lower density gave it almost 1g of gravity and its atmosphere was very Earth-like. The world was certainly extremely habitable by humans.
It had been expected that at least one of the ramrobots would discover an Earth-like world and so preparations for humanity's first extrasolar colonisation project were well under way by the time the reports began to arrive. Even so it took almost a further decade to tailor the colonisation equipment to the known details of the target system, and to train the most able candidates in the diverse skills needed to establish a colony so remote from civilisation. The choice of composition of the crew was a matter of hot debate, but the final selections reflected the reality of Eurasian dominance. The project was officially under UNSA direction, however, and great care was taken to include at least one citizen of each of the UN's 135 member states.
The colonyship Tsiolkovsky itself was the largest vehicle ever built, an engineering project to rival the beanstalks. The vessel carried two thousand colonists (most in coldsleep), as well as the many thousands of animals, plants, embryos and seeds needed to set up a full ecosystem on arrival. The ship carried a sophisticated factory, several fusion reactors for the colony, emergency industrial and farming equipment, in-system cutters, landing craft, and many other items; the payload mass was almost half a million tonnes. The Tsiolkovsky arrived in the Alpha Centauri system early in 2146 and the first planetfall was on made 22 March of that year.
By the end of the century colonies had been sent to Tau Ceti, Delta Pavonis, Eta Cassiopei and DM+56 2996. The assembly work had moved to the Belt by the second half of the century. At first, Earth and cis-Lunar groups dominated all these efforts, with only token numbers of colonists from Mars and the Belt (still frontiers themselves). The colonist balance shifted towards Martians, Belters and Lunans as the century progressed; these groups dominated the crew of the final colonyship of the century, that to DM+56 2966.
Archipelago: 1 | 2 3 | 4 5 6 | Now
The future of Ad Astra