Opening of the first free area on the Moon.
The free area is connected to the moon base Vegas. It is covered by an immaterial dome, but otherwise the area is open to space like earth's surface. Earth-like atmospheric conditions are created by technical means without employing a solid dome, massive shields or side walls.
The free area comprises a circle of five kilometers. The atmosphere is three kilometers high. But only the lower 100 meters are habitable. Beyond that the layered containment system begins. The system provides a pressure of 0.7 bar at ground level and an oxygen partial pressure which allows unlimited abidance without additional life support.
A combination of transparent shields and active measures keeps the atmosphere inside and protects against radiation. Actually, the area is not completely open to space. It is covered by multiple layers of transparent grating struts to which electromagnetic near field projectors are attached restricting the movement of atmospheric molecules to the inside. Major components in the sky are rendered invisible using metamaterials for optical wavelengths. For security reasons, there is also a passive protective shell made of transparent ceramics.
Thus, the free area is not really different from other transparent domes. Yet, its effect is highly impressive. Leaving Vegas through the new free area exit, you walk down the grand staircase into a green park under a dark blue sky as on Earth. This is a spectacular difference to most of the lunar surface which is dominated by hard vacuum, deadly radiation, and toxic particulates.
The free area is continuously expanded over time. A 100 years later with the extension to 10 kilometers the protective dome is omitted, since the other measures have proven to be very reliable.
The free area becomes a popular destination for locals and for tourists. The possibility to dwell under an open sky makes Vegas very attractive. For a long time Vegas is the headquarters of the Solar Coalition. For many people Vegas is the capital of the solar system, although the system is never really united. Free areas contribute significantly to making people feel at home in interplanetary space during earth's isolation.
During the System War in the 26th century Coalition troops land in the free area of Vegas. The containment system is partially destroyed. But emergency measures prevent a catastrophic decompression. The advantage of landing in the free area is that Coalition forces can operate under normal atmospheric conditions just like former paratroopers. This tactic allows dropping a unusually large number of ground troops for space combat. They overrun the defending troops. Earth's forces have to pull back from the moon after Vegas has been taken.
At the beginning of the 28th century over a billion people lives in interplanetary space. There are many free spaces with a total area of over 200 square kilometers on Moon, Mars and other airless celestial bodies. The interplanetary population shrinks during the Kisor war and many free areas are abandoned in order to save the maintenance cost. In the final phase of the war the Vegas / Luna metropolitan area is a military target due to its industrial capacity. The free area of Vegas suffers severe damage during early attacks on lunar infrastructure. It is finally destroyed.
Military forces of the inner system bombard a vulcanoid asteroid and then steer the body into the sun. Officially a test. But many observers suspect an out-of-control experiment with outlawed technology.
Mukhagni is a small asteroid inside Mercury's orbit. Sensors show several 100 megaton antimatter explosions at its position in short order. The event causes a system wide outrage. There is no official explanation. Two days later, combat units of the Magadha Sangha Federation/Venus begin firing at Mukhagni from great distance. Military units approach Mukhagni on expensive max delta-V courses from all directions under sustained firing.
The news agencies of the solar system broadcast live. State of the art telescopes have a 20 meters resolution over interplanetary distances. They can clearly show the effects of the bombardment on the asteroid. But the telescopes fail to reveal the reason for these excessive military measures.
A few days later freighters from Venus and Mercury transport additional ordnance to Mukhagni. Commercial mass drivers in Mercury's orbit support the bombardment. Soon, it becomes clear that the mass drivers strive to reduce the asteroid's kinetic energy and angular momentum in order to change its orbit towards the sun.
After several weeks, Mukhagni's orbit becomes elliptical and the asteroid approaches the Sun. The attacks stop at a distance of ten million kilometers. The kinetic component of the bombardment by mass drivers from Venus and Mercury continues until the orbit finally falls below the Roche-limit where the asteroid breaks apart. Fragments of the asteroid finally fall into the sun.
The official explanation is a combat exercise, which was supposed to neutralize a kinetic threat (the asteroid) with simultaneous suppressive fire. A test by the Magadha Sangha Federation to protect the population of the inner system in response to the Umvelinqangi incident a few years earlier. However, this does not explain the initial antimatter detonations.
Actually, Mukhagni was a research facility of Ratha-Musala (the development office) of Ayatashatru (the interplanetary intelligence service) of the Magadha-Sangha (a federation of wealthy Venus habitats). Contrary to the official statement, a secret research project on the asteroid got out of control. The initial amat-detonations were intended to sterilize the asteroid and eliminate the problem. But this did not yield the expected result. The people responsible for the operation saw no other possibility than to plunge the asteroid into the sun (under enormous effort and sustained suppressive fire).
Of course, the public suspects illegal AI research as happened during the Newplace conspiracy 100 years earlier. Then, the asymptotic development of a gestalt-AI had to be suppressed by a spherical wave of antimatter explosions. In the case of Mukhagni, Ratha-Musala had obviously taken precautions and had installed heavy explosive devices as an emergency measure. This was a lesson from the Newplace experience. Ratha-Musala also had the wisdom to detonate the explosives. But that was apparently not enough. Whatever there was at Mukhagni, it was so powerful that it could withstand even concentrated attacks from several heavy cruisers, their missiles and attack drones.
But what can be more dangerous than the Newplace AI? There are hints at superior technology. Did an asymptotic AI develope new technologies in a very short time? Or did Ratha-Musala have access to extrasolar technology so early?
According to another theory, Ratha-Musala experimented with Kessler-Viroidae (discovered by Zipi Kessler, 2478). Supposedly they accidentally activated the disassembler genes of these anorganic viruses (see Massara plague, 2746). If this were true, then the purpose of the nuclear bombardment would have been to sterilize the fragments ejected by kinetic impacts. Correlations between kinetic and nuclear firing sequences support this theory.
The fact that solar powers conduct secret and sometimes forbidden research projects with outlawed technologies is not surprising. They often use small remote asteroids for this purpose. Asteroids provide more cover from the ubiquitous telescopes than space stations. Over the centuries, several such activities have been uncovered. Mostly by chance, misfortune or by the lack of care on the part of the operators. A restricted area without military activities is a clear sign of secret activities, though not necessarily of illegal projects or banned technologies.
Ratha-Musala had chosen a volcanoid close to the sun for their research facility on purpose. They also installed antimatter explosives as a precaution. Obviously, they were aware of the risks (that actually speaks against the Kessler-Viroidae theory). Whatever the research topic was, one can assume that it was illegal.
In all the history of the interplanetary civilization, only few secret projects get such a high media attention.