“Stella,” implored the captain, “the next time a computer technician working on the ship asks you for a date will you please at least be pleasant when you decline or at least throw him off the ship, then and there, before he has a chance to mess with the systems.” The look this remark earned from the First Officer would have curdled milk and she responded. “Captain, dearest, you only have to endure the usual messages. You should hear the ones he programmed for when I turn on the shower or turn off the lights in my bedroom. If I ever catch the revolting nerd he will be the one needing a full diagnostic.”
Stefan took his place at the controls and pulled up the information on the world they were approaching. Nabia was the 7th planet of the Thuban system. The old astronomical name for the star was Alpha Draconis, at the time of the building of the Egyptian pyramids it had been the northern pole star. It was 303 light years from earth and was a large bright white star putting out nearly 300 times the light of Earth's sun. The planets in the system wove in intricate orbits due to the presence of a dim red dwarf companion star in the system. The main star and its companion orbited around a common centre every 51 days. Unmanned probes had identified Nabia as bearing intelligent life and had established communications with the dominant species using robotic landers. This was to be the first direct contact mission to the planet.
In a mock Scottish accent the computer announced, “Engineer on the bridge, the engines cannae handle it captain.” Stefan turned and grimaced at the bearded figure of Alex 'Scottie' MacFarlane, “One day you will have to tell me what you did to annoy that computer tech. I really have to hope it was not anything to do with a date. How are the engines, really?”. Alex rolled his eyes and thought over his reply for a few seconds. “They CAN handle it captain. But if I ever lay my hands on that joker he will need a new face to laugh on the other side of.”
Stefan asked Stella to take them into orbit while he started the involved process of waking the robotic lander on the surface to download the information it had gathered. All they had at the moment was the barest information the AI lander had transmitted using its ansible.
While given sufficient energy and by manipulating time and space using the Maclean Hyperspace Drive (see reference http://ozlandbard.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/hs-101-by-sven-pertelson.html ) they could send vessels many light years across the galaxy, as yet long distance communications were slow and laborious. Matched sub-atomic particles within the lander's ansible and back on Earth were tied together at the quantum level and provided instantaneous communication, but at a price. That price was bandwidth. Each bit of information took a week to send. An 8 bit character with a start bit, two stop bits and, a parity bit took twelve weeks to receive. Only the most basic information was reported in a 3 character message which was repeated over and over again with an 8 bit checksum until it was sure that the information was correct.
At this stage all they knew was that Nabia was inhabited by at least one intelligent carbon based lifeform. Their civilization was pre-industrial. The atmosphere, climate and gravity were within unassisted human survival limits. No extremely dangerous pathogens had been detected. Lastly the Nabians had no objection to contact. Stefan needed to study the detailed information the AI had used to compile this briefest of reports before they announced their arrival and made a descent to the planet.