The Slingshot crews were in charge of shooting gigantic ice rocks, and hydrogen encased in water ice toward the Earth, from various points in the outer solar system. Their aim was so precise, that the gigantic chunks would end up orbiting the earth, waiting to be picked up by the ice ships. This provided plenty of fuel and water for The Station at very inexpensive prices.

Slingshot crews were serving multiple functions, and they were assisted by a myriad of intelligent machines. The sling shots were constructed by binding together very long nanotubes, by the millions, into a mile-long “rubber band”. Computers and mechanical devices to control the gigantic cable are intertwined into the fibers, so that the rubber bands do not need to be attached to anything and is a self-contained system.

The gigantic cable slingshot machines are autonomous robots that know how to sling any rock, by utilizing their powerful hydrogen thrusters, so that it will reach the Earth with little likelihood of smashing to bits before it ever reaches there.  Jon’s slingshot crew would decide which comet or astroid field would be next and what strategy to deploy. Meanwhile, they researched and mined other precious material that they would eventually return with to Earth.

The ice rocks were constructed by special machines that attached themselves to comets and asteroids. The machines were designed to detect water, hydrogen and other valuable resources, extract the material, and dispense of it in the form of gigantic ice-rocks. Some of the material was saved for local use. Machines were designed with self-repair in mind.

Jon’s crew consisted of 17 humans, 23 very intelligent androids, and over 100 special-purpose robots. The craft reached its destination by traveling from Earth, accelerating at one-G from low-Earth orbit where the ship was constructed. At slightly more than 1/2 way to its current destination, the craft began to decelerate down at the same, one-G, rate. Ceiling and floor would exchange places, while the crew momentarily floated from one to the other. A computer program ensured that all went as smoothly as possible for the humans.

The ship utilized solar and fusion power to generated the large amounts of energy required to fuel its 19 ultra-modern, ultra-efficient ion rocket engines. These new ion engines were very light, because they were made atom-by-atom, and molecule-by-molecule from the latest, strongest, lightest composite nano-materials.

The engine’s magnets were the most powerful, yet the lightest ever built. Ion engines performance had improved several hundreds of times since their initial introduction in the late 20th century.

In addition to the ion engine’s, Jon’s Solar System-class ship was equipped with a solar sail. The solar sail, along with whipping around the giant planets, was another way to accelerate the ship beyond the one-G rate for relatively short periods of time. The more power generated from external energy sources, the better!

Most of the material to be brought back to Earth, along with a good chunk of a percentage of the ice and hydrogen, would be deployed for the next-generation, outer-space class ships. These new ships will dwarf Jon’s ship in both size and capabilities. Some of the ships were designed to reach prolonged acceleration rates of up to five-G and would be used to send machines only.

These next-generation machines will eventually explore the nearby stars, well in advance of the arrival of the humans in their one-G ships. All of the ships will be built in Earth’s orbit, several thousand miles from The Station, and communications satellites.

Jon and his crew were all candidates for one of the human star ships. By the time the first ships were to be completed and ready for launch, slingshot crews like Jon’s would no longer be needed, because the systems are expected to become completely autonomous within the next five years – well ahead of the launch dates.

It was a good thing that Jon and his crew all had had special DNA upgrades that would give them another few hundred years of life in high-radiation space. It was a good thing that the new materials were expected to block a good deal more of that radiation, although there was still no possible way of blocking all of it. In addition, Jon and his crew had bodies that were well-trained in fairly long three-G acceleration spurts, giving them a tremendous advantage over the vast majority of human crews.

Jon’s girlfriend remained on the Earth, but Jon had a replicant android with him instead. Mary could communicate with Jon through the android/cyber-bot interface. The android’s skin was cloned from a few dozen of Mary’s own skin stem cells. The android’s brain was initialized with Mary’s brain patterns, so that it contained all of Mary’s memories and life experiences. Mary had a Jon-bot of her own, back at home in New Los Angeles. The bot’s neural networks would update their patterns everytime that their host interfaced with them.

The unmanned and manned ships will reach speeds of over 600 million miles-per-hour, but some of the unmanned ships will achieve 97% of light speed, before decelerating to begin preparations for the humans and cyborgs.

The machines will construct a livable space station ahead of the people who will inhabit it. This “first” station will be built from materials mined from our own solar system on a remote, roaming planetoid, recently discovered just 3 light-years away from our home planet Earth. The rock is about 2000 kilometers in diameter, full of useful, raw materials, and traveling away from our system. It will be converted into a giant, roaming space station for humans and machines to utilize as a stepping-stone to the stars.

By the time Jon’s crew reaches the planetoid, it will already have been converted into a gigantic, livable, 1G space station. They will rest and work at the station for about two months before heading out again.

At each milestone on their journey, they are guaranteed living quarters, built by the machines that travel well ahead of them, along the way. New fuel supplies await them. They will first utilize hydrogen fuel upon leaving each milestone, to first kick into high-gear, before switching to ion drive. The straight hydrogen pulse allows them to achieve around 3G for about 5 straight hours, a force well within their enhanced bodies’ limits.

Each station is moving about twice the speed of the previous “station”, so that not as much energy is wasted, just to stop, and rest. Each station has velocity, but little acceleration.

The machines know what they are doing. They build while orbiting around rock planets, asteroids, or planetoids, whenever they can. They constantly grab up water, hydrogen, and many other elements to generate whatever they need, and to create a life support system. Replicated machines simply continue on to the next construction sight. Humans will tend to colonize these spots, as some of the ships will stop permanently, splitting off from the convoy.

Some of the other stations will be moving along at fairly high speeds (.1 to .5 of the speed of light), but not accelerating, so they must spin to achieve 1G for the humans. The space stations will act a good deal like space ships, in a giant orbit around our sun and half a dozen other neighboring stars, only they will not utilize fuel for thrust, except to maneuver. The machines will construct them while traveling away from the earth at high speeds, but no longer accelerating, or decelerating.

Newer technologies will allow for faster and much improved flight. Neutrinos now rush out of the back of the ion, and plasma hybrid drives. The newer machines will eventually catch up and take over construction from the outdated machines of decades and centuries ago Earth time. Satellites and data now whiz along together around the sun and it’s neighbors, in all directions. Electro-magnetic waves of all possible frequencies make up the spokes. Data can take years, but there is a pipeline of continuous data updates throughout the system. Eventually, quantum data helps somewhat, but progress was disappointing in that area.

Old technology, and some humans will eventually return to our system and may be studied or upgraded. More than thousand years will have passed on Earth, and Jon will have become pure machine by then.

In the beginning, technology flow will mostly be from Earth to the space pioneers. Technology and information exchanges will take place more and more bi-directionally, as the populations move off the home planet Earth. Over time, the Earth will gain as much or more knowledge from it’s colonies.

Mars will have become another biosphere and filled with people, should the machine, Jon ever decide to return.

At each stage, the machines and then the cyborgs, like Jon, will lead the way and pave the way for the other humans. Eventually, they will harness the power of entire stars and perhaps learn to warp space.

Eventually, many of the humans and machines merge so that the humans may survive on fewer recourses, and withstand longer, and faster, and more dangerous journeys.

It was beginning to look a lot like the humans and their machines might beat extinction for a little while longer now. There would be warp drive soon! The engine required the power of a couple dozen stars.

The machine, Jon, wanted to go! Now machines could build ships as gigantic spheres. Human bodies could be produced and live on the inside. Jon would be one of them! They would live and re-live their previous lives, along with many of the “what ifs?” at will, partially in a virtual world and partially in reality.  It was as if Jon had become his own, personal god!

Meanwhile, back on Earth, there were still fairly ordinary humans, living ordinary lives of only 120 years, or so.  As ordinary humans, these people were highly intelligent, but they were largely highly dependent upon the machines and more advanced humans for their survival.  They would all be considered wealthy, by early 21st century standards, but they lived as primatives. compared to the rest of the world.

“At least they were happy”, Jon thought.  Jon considered himself to be quite happy and he enjoyed the entertainment of ordinary humans from time-to-time.  Many wrote interesting music and poetry.  Others were tremendous dancers, painters, other types of artists, actors, and comedians.  Some tried to be scientists, but they simply could not keep up with the current state-of-the-art science and technology, unless they installed digital interfaces and added comlementary processors to their brains. Some worked on the police force to assist with human and human/cyborg legal disputes.

Jon wondered what had happened to Mary.  “Oh!”, he thought, as the data automatically flowed into his consciousness.  She had remained in New Los Angeles, until about three years ago, when she had died on a routine, commercial flight to the Earth’s moon base.  Now, the data was flowing around the Earth and the neighboring stars at near light speed, in all directions.  The data was transmitted like spokes inside of a gigantic sphere of near-light-speed satellites racing around the systems at near-light-speed.  Some data could be years old, and other data only hours or minutes.  The quality and amount of data coming from the colonies was on the verge of passing that of the Earth – at least this far out in space.

Jon’s human replica began to cry, as the Mary android sat there, stuck in less-and-less accurate simulation.  Jon reached over, and shut her off.