4 Vesta

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There are so many benefits to be derived from space exploration and exploitation; why not take what seems to me the only chance of escaping what is otherwise the sure destruction of all that humanity has struggled to achieve for 50,000 years?

—Isaac Asimov

Places in Fenspace
4 Vesta
Planetary characteristics
Orbitsemi-major axis 2.362 AU, eccentricity .089
Diameter530 km
Surface Gravity0.022G outside handwaved chambers
Year1325.85 days
Day5 hours 18 minutes
Mean Temperaturemin -188 °C, max -3 °C outside handwaved chambers
Atmospherenone outside handwaved chambers
Water/Ice Index0% outside handwaved chambers
Population (2013)Unknown
Political AffiliationFenspace Convention
GovernmentRepresentative Democracy (Vesta)
Meritocracy (Novyi Petrovichi)
Direct Democracy (other settlements)
CapitalNovyi Petrovichi
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The brightest asteroid in Earth's sky, Vesta has a reputation of being one of Fenspace's "university towns", where knowledge is prized above the usual indicators of success. However, the Bailey Security Service is also headquartered on Vesta.


Vesta was discovered by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers on March 29, 1807, and named after the Roman virgin goddess of home and hearth. It was the fourth of the first four asteroids to be discovered.

Fans of Issac Asimov, watching the arguments between the Browncoats and Heinleinians over "ownership" of Ganymede in the early days of the Fen Diaspora, acted quickly to establish a claim on Vesta. There they built the first post-secondary educational institutions in space, the Vesta Institute of Biochemistry and the Vesta Institute of Robotics, dedicated to the two fields of study most associated with Professor Asimov.


The second-most-massive body in The Main Belt (after 1 Ceres), Vesta has multi-kilometer-high cliffs near its south pole. This protection from Solar and Jovian radiation and the ease of locating the ridge from space led early Fen settlers to locate Novyi Petrovichi[1] (Vesta's first permanent settlement) there. This settlement has become Vesta's largest city and the home of the Vesta Institutes.

The Belters funded construction of the Vesta Beam, a massive communications laser at Vesta's North Pole, in the early days of Vesta's settlement. This was one of the main communications relay points in Fenspace before the Wizards' Interwave communications hub at 476 Hedwig made long-range lightspeed communications obsolete. It is still used for local communications where a lag of one or two seconds doesn't matter.

In order to keep Vesta's skies as clear as possible[2], a monorail was built to connect the Vesta Beam installation and Novyi Petrovichi. Smaller settlements, including the Bailey Security Service's home base Little Brooklyn on Vesta's equator, have sprung up along the track's course.

NASA launched the Dawn probe to Vesta on September 27, 2007. Their original plan was to have it map Vesta from August 2011 until May 2012, then proceed to Ceres; however, Fen expansion into the Solar System and Soviet Air Force exploration missions in The Main Belt made that plan redundant. Dawn is currently in orbit around Vesta, having been retrofit (by Stellvia Corporation) to serve as a communications relay.


Vesta as a whole is a representative democracy. Any group of one thousand (originally five hundred) residents can choose one of their number to represent them in the Vestan Assembly, but no person may be a member of more than one such group. The Vestan Assembly meets in Novyi Petrovichi and chooses its own Speaker to lead the Assembly.

Novyi Petrovichi itself is a meritocracy. Administrators are selected by examination; anyone is free to take the examination, and successful examinees serve for three-year terms. There is no limit to the number of consecutive terms an administrator may serve, as long as he, she, or it continues to pass the examinations.

Little Brooklyn, the Vesta Beam installation, and the other settlements on Vesta are small enough that they can use various flavours of direct democracy for their day-to-day government. Little Brooklyn employs a Chairperson whose job is to liaise with other governments and set the agenda for the town's weekly meetings, while the staff of the Vesta Beam installation decide everything by referendum.[3]

Vesta and all Vestan settlements have signed the Articles of Convention.


  1. Named after Isaac Asimov's birthplace Petrovichi, not Petrograd / Saint Petersberg
  2. And because the Asimov Fen who founded Novyi Petrovichi respected their favourite author's fear of flying
  3. Or fail to decide; they still can't agree to a formal name for the settlement.

External Links

Virtual Flight Over Asteroid Vesta
Astronomy Picture of the Day, 2012 May 14
Vesta Trek
The equivalent of Google Earth for Vesta.