There’s a knotty question I never got into with Foreigner, and there’s a reason I’ve always had a time-gap inside the shuttle flights…because while Mother Earth and her satellites behave in a totally sensible way, the ways in which we get to orbit are varied and in technological evolution. So I don’t have a clear answer for how long that flight is in Bren’s time, and while he was the translator for the archive for that technology, he’s a linguist, after all, not an engineer or a physicist.
The station, in fact, has moved. The only way to effectively ‘mothball’ the station was to boost it from LEO (low earth orbit) into geosynchronous orbit, on autopilot, so to speak, which would put it out of reach for the ‘petal sail’ tech the rebels were using to reach the atevi Earth. There may be a short story in this, actually. One is trying to gel, but I have to finish the current book.
Boosting it up—way up—would mean that it could stay in orbit indefinitely—centuries would be no problem. A space station in LEO has to boost itself periodically, and while this could be done robotically, the chance of things going catastrophic would be greater.
Geosynchronous orbit means you need more shielding…but mothballed, far less problem. It also means that while you can observe the planet, you stare at the same spot as the world goes around. When you’re in LEO, you go round the world multiple times a day.
When Phoenix returned initially, not finding the station where they expected, they would have figured out part of what had happened in their absence. Getting aboard the station and getting at records answered other questions. And if they wanted to find out about the planet, their next job was to move the station back into LEO, a delicate job, from which other decisions were possible. But they had no landing craft. Sending a robot down was possible, but they wanted more than that. They wanted to stay safe while figuring out what had happened. And Jase and Yolande were already ‘purposed,’ in a sense.
So that is one of those little background bits that may find its way into the story, or not, but it is one of those things I try to deal with without getting too technical.