By the middle of the 21st century, “for all mankind” has officially become “to the highest bidder.” Corporate lobbying has successfully enabled the exploration of space to also become the exploitation of space, and rather than fight the inexorable force of human greed, the United Nations simply decided to simply get in on the act. The United Nations Space Resource Directorate (UNSRD), backed by all of the major spacefaring powers, was created to oversee the allocation of resources beyond Earth and served to legitimize the whole venture– and, of course, collect a healthy cut of the revenue.
The focus of the UNSRD’s efforts, at the moment, is the moon. The advent of affordable fusion power has awakened humanity from its fossil fuel nightmare, but the new engines of progress still require fuel, and the fuel for those engines is helium-3. Extremely rare on Earth and highly expensive to produce artificially, the most plentiful source of helium-3 that can be accessed relatively easily is on the moon. Plentiful and easy access, of course, being relative terms– it still requires processing around 150 tons of lunar regolith to obtain one gram of helium-3, and in order to do that, it requires setting up large-scale mining operations on the moon. Still, if the obstacles can be overcome, it promises to be quite lucrative.
The Nakazawa Corporation has received one of those lucrative mining contracts. The company’s deputy CTO, Gary Ahmed, originally headed up the team– before he was indicted on embezzlement and corruption charges, convicted, and sent to federal prison. With time running short before the contract expires (and jealous competitors lobbying for no mercy from UNSRD) the board of directors puts together a hand-picked team of the company’s own best prospects as well as a number of well-qualified outside contractors to try to salvage the project.