Just prior to the Arete mission’s arrival back in the Sol system, SHEO spotted something that sent human society into chaos. On January 17th, 2091 –almost 60 years since the discovery of Vulcan– the observatory sent home an extremely washed-out image of an Earth-sized planet emerging from the far side of Alpha Centauri A. A probe, cobbled together from spare parts of the Ambassador fleet, was sent to the system at breakneck speed, arriving in orbit in March of 2098. Elpis was christened for the Greek spirit of hope, as it bore the high hopes of the human species for an extrasolar home at long last.
Elpis discovered another life-filled planet, not tidally locked like Vulcan but with a day/night cycle akin to that of Earth. Orange-yellow autotrophs thrived both on the scattered landmasses and in the vast oceans, accompanied by strange fauna that often blurred the definitions of animal and fungus. Elpis’ lander trio, Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, provided copious data that would eventually be crucial to the success of the manned Caerus mission.