Key Worlds refers to Earth and its original colonies after their establishment by the late 22nd Century. This is the smallest section of Human Space, and is comprised of Earth, Luna, and Mars. These worlds host the UCG Senate, XENO Institute, and the PALM Security Council and Headquarters.
In the 21st Century, humanity discovered several habitable planets within the Orion Spur, and used findings from research into solar dynamics to invent crude solar energy to more efficiently sustain life on Earth. Colonisation efforts start on Luna and Mars. Development of automated machinery increased global production, and the stabilisation of bulk trading between the East and West increased imports and exports to more quickly advance construction projects at a larger scale. The creation of graphrete - a fusion of ultrathin sheets of graphene - produced a lighter and stronger metal than steel, and allowed for the growth of megacities across the planet. Artificial intelligence and robotics began to assist various professional fields, finding new methods to improve medical care for the increasing population, and eventually being used commercially in a limited capacity.
During this time, political tensions rise between the East and West, which erupt into the Third World War. More advanced artificial intelligence is implemented into military efforts, and new combat technologies are developed on both sides during the war. At the end of WWIII, Mars became the first fully-established colony, with Luna not earning its independence from Earth until 2180. Faster-than-light travel is achieved through the first nuclear fusion reactors. Starship construction begins in orbit around Mars, while Earth's governments agreed to unify and create the United Colonial Governments, as well as setting up the Planetary and Lunar Military to defend these new colonies. The Key Worlds became connected with space lanes for trade and travel, though ships were often attacked on these routes. Expansion into the Orion Arm led to the colonisation of more planets - marking the sectioning of Human Space into three territories.
In early 2278, UCG Senate representatives from the Expanded Colonies called for independence, which leads to political splinter groups resigning from the UCG and withdrawing to the Expansion Region of Human Space. With the formation of a shadow government that began uprisings against the UCG, PALM sends a strike fleet to invade Gliese and put down the insurrection. As the remaining Expanded Colonies ally with the new shadow government, the UCG debates starting another war. Many Prosperous Colonies mobilise their PALM forces, and in October 2279, the UCG enters a five-year conflict with the Expanded Colonies. Near the end of the war, PALM learned that the shadow government had possession of planet-cracking missiles they planned to launch at Earth as a last resort. In 2283, a ceasefire was declared between the two governmental bodies, and the Colony Wars came to an end.
The Xeno-scientific Exploration Non-profit Organisation (XENO) would later be established on Earth to explore options for further colonisation. While space exploration was no longer a priority for the UCG after the war, XENO remained successful in discovering resource-rich worlds on the edge of Human Space. Mining efforts on these new colonies began in the early 24th Century. Microbial life was discovered on Europa which, while not a colony, served as a PALM outpost during XENO's search for life. In 2320, public interest in finding sentient life in the galaxy had diminished, as humanity entered its Golden Age.
In 2030, foundations for a base on the moon were established around the Northern pole, near underground water ice. Scientists and engineers in the first research crew experimented with plant growth and powered the base with hydrogen fuel cells. The moon base supplied an orbital depot for refueling ships on missions to Mars and the rest of the solar system, which would later become the Luna Waypoint. In 2315, its role shifted as a checkpoint for starships travelling within the Key Worlds.
With the invention of nuclear fusion reactors for starships, PALM contractors arrived on the moon to begin mining Helium3 and exporting it to Earth to produce cheap and clean energy for space travel. Other lunar materials were used for the construction of settlements and cities on the surface. The colony was eventually named Luna upon gaining its independence from Earth, and has since become a hub for economic activity and technological developments, such as the first space elevator.
By 2052, the first Martian cities and towns are built North of the first polar base, in the Valles Marineris. After years of investigation and exploration of the Martian surface, the UCG designated the Valles Marineris as the best place for human civilisation to thrive on the Red Planet. Seven years later, construction of the capital city of Opportunity, located at the heart of the valley, is complete. Other cities, towns, and districts are named after humanity's rovers and robotic explorers. PALM also completes their exploration efforts into the Echus Chasma crater nearby, with the PALM Mars Military Complex established in 2071. Mars won the race to become Earth's first colony, which provided a positive step away from the recent war for those on Earth. By 2114, the Valles Marineris was fully settled by Martian colonists.
Next week, we will explore the Prosperous Colonies of the 24th Century...