Martian returns home: Native-born astronaut spent 185 days on Red Planet

WORCESTER, July 20, 2069 — Worcester’s first native-born astronaut was welcomed back to her hometown yesterday with a parade and the Key to the City. Dr. Riham Ahmadi, a veterinarian, was crew member on the recent Ares 11 mission, which returned from Mars after a 22-month voyage.

The parade, featuring Unum-sponsored hovercrafts and antique internal-combustion-engined cars from the late 2010s, left the campus of WPI on Salisbury Street, and proceeded south on Main Street to City Hall.

“This is truly a great day for the city of Worcester,” said Massachusetts Gov. Amy Collins during a speech on the steps facing City Hall/Commerce Bank Plaza. “As our nation’s space program moves forward, Dr. Riham Ahmadi adds her name to the list of astronauts who light our way with their courage and scientific integrity.”

As the governor, Congressman Paul Tyson-Burgess, family members, and spectators looked on, third-term Mayor Shanique DeTorres presented Dr. Ahmadi the Petty Memorial Key to the City.

Check out more What if … Worcester and other Sun Serials here

Non-Starter Home: ‘Smart’ house tangles data, holds College Hill family hostage

WORCESTER, Jan. 7, 2046 — A young family living on Worcester’s College Hill is what they describe as “trapped by their home,” unable to move out because the essential bioinformatic data stored within is non-transferable.

Steve and Rosa Wingartner met at the College of the Holy Cross, and married soon after graduation. They decided to stay in Worcester as Mrs. Wingartner attended the Deval Patrick Law School at Worcester State University.

“All our friends joked that we were doing the old-fashioned thing,” said Mrs. Wingartner with a laugh. “Less than a year after graduating from college, we were married and had purchased a house.”

More What if … Worcester

The house they purchased was a medium-sized ranch off of College Street. “It was a flip job, everything inside was brand new, and the price was too good to beat,” said Mr. Wingartner. To sweeten the deal, Juniper Construction had added a basic-level bioinformatic — or “bi-fo” — panel to the home.

What if … Worcester: Dateline 2076 — City hosts Olympic games as new format spreads benefits, burdens around the globe

“The new initiative is made possible through recent developments in automation and sub-orbital flight, which have deeply slashed travel time and cost. ‘Transportation breakthroughs, host city expenses, and crowd security made us rethink why everyone has to be gathered in one place,” said Olympics 2076 Committee Chairman Peter Theroux. “That was 20th-century thinking. Now traveling from Worcester to Johannesburg is as easy, and almost as cheap as, taking a short car ride.’ ”

What if … Worcester: Dateline 2044 — Delivery drone crash tests school’s new safety dome

Editor’s note: This is the third installment of our newest series What if … Worcester, what we hope to be a fascinating, imaginative and often reality-based window into the coming decades and centuries in and around the City of Seven Hills.

TUESDAY, Sept. 6, 2044 — An Amazon-operated delivery drone botched an emergency landing yesterday, almost hitting the Perkins Farm Primary School Playground. The drone skidded off the school’s recently installed safety dome and crashed to the sidewalk below. The drone was about the size of a trash barrel and weighed 23 kilograms (50 pounds). No one was injured.

The incident occurred about 2:15 p.m. as students were outside the former Roosevelt Elementary, but on the other side of the building, awaiting pickup.

WhatIfWorcesterFinal

Parents within the dome report hearing a series of muffled thumps from above but not seeing anything. Outside, witnesses heard the thumps, and saw a delivery drone attempting to land on the curved surface. “It wobbled for a minute, as if it wasn’t sure if it was going to land or launch again, but by then gravity took over. It slid right down the dome and smashed onto the sidewalk,” said John Ayim, who was walking to pick up his daughter.

Police taped off the area on Grafton Street around the broken machine. About 30 minutes later, a white unmarked van pulled up. Three men in unlabeled khaki jumpsuits took photos, meticulously collected every last bit of debris, and placed them into containers. Then the van drove in the direction of the General Electric Turnpike on-ramp.

What if … Worcester: Dateline 2047 — 2Jane starts school at Gateway Elementary

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of our newest series What if … Worcester, what we hope to be a fascinating, imaginative and often reality-based window into the coming decades and centuries in and around the City of Seven Hills.

THURSDAY, Aug. 22, 2047 — Six-year-old 2Jane MacConnell started elementary school yesterday, marking a milestone in cloning technology.

2Jane is a clone of Jane MacConnell, who was killed eight years ago in a human-driven car accident. Jane was 10 years old and the only child of Drs. Hunter and Ella MacConnell of Worcester.

After the accident, the MacConnells worked with biotech startup CloLabs in Westborough. It was just the seventh successful (neonate living beyond 30 days) cloning procedure in the United States. The scientific and legal process was documented in the reality web series, “Jane and Jane Again.”

WhatIfWorcesterFinal

Now, six years later, 2Jane is about to enter Gateway Elementary School, where her donor attended years ago. Will it be unsettling for teachers to see the same girl, physically at least, who was once their student?

“We had to have some counseling with our teachers over the summer,” said principal Veseka Sopa. “Many of them remember Jane when she was a student here, remember her as a bright, curious child. When 2Jane comes, we’ve emphasized this is the same Jane, not her sister, not a different person, but the same little girl, but with different memories.

“It’s going to take some adapting. But we’re teachers, and teachers are great at adapting.”

What if … Worcester: Dateline 2076 — City hosts Olympic games as new format spreads benefits, burdens around the globe

Editor’s note: Today Worcester Sun is proud to introduce our newest contributor and series. B.J. Hill is a talented, Worcester-based creative writer and journalist with an eye toward the future. In What if … Worcester, he combines all of those things into one fascinating, imaginative and often reality-based package that opens a window into the coming decades and centuries in and around the City of Seven Hills.


FRIDAY, AUG. 7, 2076 – During the Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies this evening, the city of Worcester will open its arms to the world — sort of.

Debuting a new cost-cutting Olympic format, Worcester, the host city, will hold the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony and just a handful of events. The remaining events will be held by other cities around the world.

Impelling the change was the harsh truth that eight out of the last 10 Olympics were net losses for their host cities. After the most recent Brazzaville/Kinshasa Olympics, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo briefly went to war over an unpaid $6.7 billion tab. The last Games to indisputably net a profit for the host country were the 2020 Olympics in Old Tokyo.

WhatIfWorcesterFinal

In previous Games, all-new venues, hotels and public transportation had to be constructed, as mandated by the once-powerful International Olympic Committee. But after years of financial loss, charges of corruption and general antipathy, the host cities now have an upper hand in negotiations, and they’re finding it in their best interest to share risk and profits with other modestly sized cities.

“The days of mega-scale Olympics are over,” announced Worcester City Planner Mary Diang at a press conference earlier this week. “Worcester is pioneering the new era of the Games. This new, smaller, multi-city format led us to work closely with municipalities and organizations around the world to provide the best experience; our teamwork and cooperation fit perfectly with the Olympic spirit.”