This is their story.
In the year 2028, Princess Twilight Sparkle commissioned the establishment of the Canterlot Academy of Sciences (C.A.S.). The mission of the CAS was simple - bringing together brilliant students from all over Equestria to work towards the betterment of ponykind. Their tools were both the old and the new - magic, and science. Eleven years later, the first rudimentary magic engines were off the drawing board and into the real world. The magic engine, a marriage of the old tool and the new, would change the world forever, and teach ponies everywhere that the sky was no longer the limit. The final frontier was calling, and the pull of exploration and adventure was simply too strong for a naturally curious, and far too long idle, race to resist.
By 2049, crude, rickety pony vessels with minimal power, cramped quarters and limited range carried crews of hardy pioneers to chart the local space around their planet. It was not a place for the faint of heart - many were never heard from again. Those who returned brought knowledge, understanding, and a desire to make the pony presence in space more permanent. In 2058 - exactly thirty years after the establishment of the CAS, A small weather station that ponies hoped to use to ease global weather patterns and assist planetside pegasi in their duties was dubbed "New Cloudsdale" (later to be known as Cloudsdale 2). It wasn't much, but ships could now resupply without returning through the atmosphere, and ponies could maintain a less transient existence among the stars.
The space station was more than ponies bargained for, in a good way. It just so happened that the Equestrian sector was conveniently located right at the center of a popular trade route between a number of heavily populated sectors. First contact between ponies and beings not of their world happened right on the deck of C2, in the presence of the crown princesses themselves. Many spacefaring alien races who were eager to have a port of call in such a convenient location established relations with Equestria in return for use of C2's modest facilities, and the station soon became an intergalactic rest stop. For a quarter of a century, New Cloudsdale flourished.
Then things went wrong.
Nopony really knows what happened - the theory is a malfunction in the station's reactor core - cycling of the magic energy ceased, which caused it to go chaotic. A leak that just happened to occur at the same time was enough for the now chaotic power to escape, and the resulting soliton wave enveloped the station. When it was over, there was nothing left except for a misshapen rip in space, a quantum singularity, that's still hanging there today. Nopony knows, and for 12 years thereafter, politicians battled over whether or not the uncertainty of space was really worth the risk. Time passed, technology became more reliable, and Canterlot finally decided to start again.
Cloudsdale 3 took three years to build, but it was a product of what ponies know now versus what they didn't know then. It was larger, sturdier, and far more versatile - a true port in the sea of stars, with ample facilities for research, education, recreation, and daily living, alongside its original goal of achieving global weather control. It was now possible for a pony to be born and live out their whole life in space. The age of the zero-g nag, with space legs for all, was born.
Cloudsdale 3 has been in consistent operation for 23 years, and in that time, intermingling with aliens who've come to stay has become commonplace. The Royal Canterlot space navy is small, but more than enough to defend the solar system from harm.
Equestria remains at peace. But for how long?
Everypony's Got a Role
Equestrians traveled to the stars with the same mentality they've done everything else since Hearthswarming began - together. An individual pony can strive to be whatever they want to be of course, but the tribes are all prized in one way or another for their niches, which are as follows:
- Unicorns - Magic engines run on magic. The point of the devices is to bring magic to the masses, but while an engine can manipulate the power, it cannot create the power. You need a unicorn for that. Thus, Unicorns are prized for their role as operators, technicians, and engineers. While you don't technically need one to be on your ship every day, you're much safer with a unicorn engineer watching your regulators.
- Pegasi - What good are wings in space? Plenty good, when you think about the alternative of swimming around in EVA environments using only your hooves. Pegasi are the keepers of Equestrian weather, and one of the goals of the space project has always been to assist planetside pegasi in controlling global weather patterns. Who better to spearhead that effort from orbit than another pegasus? Drop suits all have wing pockets, whether you yourself have wings or not. Pegasi are known for their natural knack as navigators, pilots, and cartographers. More power to the starship with a pegasus at her helm. The only downside is that some pegasi get a little tired of being stuck in pressurized corridors all the time - longing to stretch their wings and do as nature intended them to do. You'll see a lot of them relaxing in the "sky" above Cloudsdale 3's observation deck.
- Earth Ponies - If you've got a unicorn to your left, and a pegasus to your right - you want an earth pony front and center. Earth ponies are the steadfast, hardworking glue that holds the tribes together. More versatile for diverse roles then their brethren, a sufficiently trained earth pony can fill any position on your starship with reasonable efficiency, and they've always got your back. Cloudsdale 3's "Sweet Apple Arbor" is a product of earth pony ingenuity. Ever heard the phrase 'No farms, no food?' Try 'No earth ponies, no food.' Earth ponies are best known for their role as laborers for their physical prowess, security personnel for their stoicism, and commanders due to their natural knack for organizing others.
What's in a Name?
Technically it may be Earth, but walking around the station, you'll usually hear both pony and alien alike referring to the planet below as 'Equestria'. Why? Equestria is not a unified planet with a single world government, but the dominant technological species by far is the pony. When alien dignitaries come to visit, it's the twin princesses at Canterlot they're coming to see. When vessels are encountered in space, they are almost always run by pony tech, and crewed mostly by ponies. The quadrant has come to dub Cloudsdale 3's home as the 'Equestrian Sector'. For all intents and purposes, folks know of the pony homeworld as the Planet Equestria.
There is at least one other planet in the Equestrian solar system that is inhabitable. It's not all that different in climate and is still largely unexplored, but there is a small pony colony taking shape there, and private vessels have found a lucrative opportunity in ferrying personnel and supplies. What secrets does this new world hold? As the MUCK develops, so to shall exploration continue.
Beautiful but terrifying, the rip in space that shimmers with the memories of lost friends is still there, as a constant reminder of past failures. What is it? Some theorize a portal to another sector of space...another quadrant...perhaps another galaxy or even dimension, or even multiple locales that are always changing. To date nopony has dared to fly into it, but there are always small science vessels conducting research at its perimeter. The other question they should be asking is what might come out.
Other Equestrian Races
Just because ponies are the dominant species, does not mean the others have gone away! Zero-g griffons, diamond dog laborers, donkey shopkeepers, and burly yak security guards are not an uncommon occurrence in space. Younger dragons pop up from time to time too, but they usually mature into creatures that are too absorbed with the instinctual creation of planetside hordes to stay around long. Changelings....are there any changelings on C3? How would you know if there were, and to what end?
Where are they now?
A considerable amount of time has passed since the MLP cannon. Several generations of ponies have come and gone. Sadly, most of the ponies we all knew and loved have since gone to their place among the twinkling stars, but it was a time of peace and for the most part they lived long, fulfilling lives. A few however, who are particularly long-lived, remain.
- Princess Celestia and Princess Luna - What's another hundred years to the nigh-immortal, first royal sisters of Canterlot? The princesses still hold their court to this day, and they're none the worse for wear. They're more than a little used to being around for so long, after all. Cloudsdale 3 has a station commander, but it is still under the control of the planetside government, and it is still the princesses dignitaries are coming to see. Some constants forever endure.
- Princess Cadance - While not as accustomed to longevity as her Canterlot counterparts, Mi Amor Cadenza still maintains her rule over the Crystal Empire, which has now been free for so long, memories of its sordid past are all but erased. Her wisdom and influence have grown, but the crown weighs a little heavier on her brow than it used to. Her lover was, after all, a mortal unicorn. Cadance never remarried and has no suitors - she cares deeply for her subjects and her friends, but the romance in her heart is locked away for brighter times.
- Twilight Sparkle - The Princess of Frienship, ever diligent, remains a guiding light for ponykind. Twilight is still the headmaster of CAS, and remains at the forefront of advancement for her race. Other great minds have come along to share the reigns and there will always be new friends, but if any member of the royal house has felt the sting of years, it would be Twilight. While still technically homed in Ponyville, Twilight spends a lot of her time in Canterlot at CAS, and strives to keep herself as busy as she can. Her first friends - the ones who welcomed her to Ponyville, shared the Elements of Harmony with her, and stood by her side as she found her true calling, went one by one to their rests, always leaving her behind. She still visits them, and when nopony is looking, she still speaks to them and in her own way, seeks their counsel. Long life is an honor, a duty, and a curse. Twilight goes on.
- Spike - Now a large adult dragon, Spike made his home in the mountains between Ponyville and Canterlot. Losing Rarity tore his heart to shreds, but time heals all wounds, and eventually a mate of his own kind that he could share his years with patched it back together again. He'll never forget where he's been, and he'll never allow Twilight to give in to despair. Once a friend, always a friend. Spike has risen to prominence in the dragon community and speaks for his race to ponykind, since he is so welcome among them. His horde contains more mementos than any dragon on the face of the planet.
- Discord - Discord is experiencing his first century in a long time that he didn't spend as a block of stone. What's a draconequus to do with idle time? He really hasn't changed much - still the trickster and prone to going too far on occasion, his meddling always has a greater purpose, and he's taken his show on the road. When a lesson needs to be learned, Discord is there to find the most outlandish, roundabout way to teach it. A friend to the royal house, ponies who grew up not knowing him in his darker days now don't run away when they see him coming, and that, among all things, warms his heart. Twilight may have lost friends, but Discord has only gained them, and woe betide any smartass alien who tries to change that. In a true display of irony, Discord has been charged with protecting the Tree of Harmony, which the elements were returned to until such day as they may be needed again - in effect, that makes him, of all creatures, the keeper of the artifacts that were once his bane. Don't ask him about that locket around his neck -- he's not going to tell you that it has a picture of himself and Fluttershy in it.
- Lord Tirek/King Sombra - Forever is a long time, and Cerebus has got nothing but time on its paws.
- Queen Chrysalis - How long does a changeling hive queen live? Is Chrysalis still around? One thing's for sure - her minions are still out there, and if she isn't at their head, her descendant surely is. It's been a long time, and they've been too quiet. Their shadow still looms over the history books, and one wonders if they'll stay a footnote forever.
Timeline of Major Events
2028 - Establishment of the Canterlot Academy of Sciences. Dawn of the Equestrian Technological Renaissance.
2039 - Development of the first magic engines.
2049 - Launching of the first extraterrestrial pony vessels.
2053-2058 - Construction of Cloudsdale 2.
2058 - Cloudsdale 2 comes online.
2083 - Cloudsdale 2 lost.
2083 - 2095 - Ponies debate the worthiness of space exploration.
2095 - 2098 - Construction of Cloudsdale 3.
2098 - 2121 - Operation of Cloudsdale 3. Dawn of the Age of the zero-g nag.
The stage is set. The pieces are moving. Destiny awaits.
Be sure to check out the Pony Tech page to learn more about how technology shaped Equestrian history!