United Nations Interstellar Press
Tuesday, April 25, 2158
Saravlovsk (UNIP) - A small passenger ship, the Magic Carpet Ride was holed by a small asteroid near Mikhailovka yesterday, killing at least 44 people and injuring nearly 100 others, rescuers said.
"Most of the dead were students travelling from Mikhailovka to Wuhan to take an examination for government jobs," said Yevgeny Alexseyev, governor of the spaceport town Saravlovsk on Mikhailovka.
The bodies of 44 people have been recovered so far, Alexseyev said. At least 17 others are believed to be missing, and the death toll could rise. About 400 people were aboard the Magic Carpet Ride, said rescuers.
The Magic Carpet Ride belonged to Kaladorn Space Transport Corp. It was hit by an undetected asteroid, approximately 15 meters across, blasting out a section of one of the passenger compartments. Collatoral damage extended to other parts of the ship.
Rescue operations occurred within hours due to the fortuitous chance that two ESU destroyers, the Helsinki and Kopeysk, were patrolling nearby. These destroyers were able to evacuate the majority of the passengers before local rescue ships arrived a couple hours later.
"Space travel is always a hazard," said Quincy Lee, the ESU Planetary Protection Officer at Mikhailovka. "While the local government astronomers and Navy have charted and catalogued thousands of asteroids in each system," she continued, "there always remain a very few that go unnoticed."
For these unknown asteroids, space ships carry space debris detection systems, designed to detect any nearby and potentially ship-damaging foreign objects. The detection system would automatically engage evasive maneuvers for the ship if something were approaching.
"The system apparently was not maintained very well and probably malfunctioned. But further investigation is needed to find out exactly what happened," said Lee.
The crippled ship is being slowly towed back to Saravlovsk port where investigators will go over it with detailed care. In the meantime, survivors have been taken ahead and their families notified.