Here’s an interesting article about scientists proposing one-way Mars trips. I was most struck by this point: They argue that it would be little different from early settlers to North America, who left Europe with little expectation of return.
As I mentioned in a previous post — sign me up. Especially if, as discussed in the article, the Marstronauts might logically be folks near the ends of their lives anyway. But most Spectacle readers weren’t willing to come with me, ha!
The settler analogy got me thinking, though. Historically, most settlers were leaving the old for the new in the hope of something better, not for something known to be, well, worse. But not all settlers in history have been voluntary, either. Australia was a penal colony, and not the only one. There have been sci-fi stories about penal colonies on other planets, asteriods, etc. What if we gave lifers a choice? Or no choice at all?
One the one hand, we might not want a whole planet full of criminals, malcontents, or social misfits.
On the other, Australia turned out all right.
Or is an escape hatch to another planet a bad idea… because it will give us less motivation to protect the planet we have?
— Joni, who is on a space kick lately, probably because she wants to revise her sci-fi YA and has been too busy with other things instead
(David Burnett/Contact Press Images)
I’ve always wanted to see a space shuttle launch in person. I planned cross-country trips for it a couple of times; one I didn’t manage to accomplish and for the other, the launch was so delayed that I spent the time scuba diving instead. So I’ve missed my chances, and I’m very sad that the program is almost over. But here are some great images by Ed Darack in Air & Space Magazine that are better than not seeing it at all.
There’s also a link there to a photo essay about the end of the program (which is where the photo above is from) and its devastating effect on our future space efforts. I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but as someone who grew up with the space program, I think it’s tragic that we can’t give it more of the national budget than, oh, about a thousand other programs that get funding. Where’s the pork for space? And I think it’s incredibly ironic that as sci-fi and dystopias rule the entertainment world at the moment, our actual capacity for sci-fi — or escape from dystopias — moves out of reach.
Did you ever see a shuttle launch in person? What was it like? Will you miss the program or do you think the money is better spent elsewhere?
— Joni, who should have been an astronaut
Got an interest in space, space travel, atmospheric phenomenon, or the astrophysical aspects of sci-fi? You might want to get on my favorite listserv. I get email messages (uh… weekly? biweekly?) regularly from NASA Science News and SpaceWeather.com, and these messages almost always contain links to cool photos of sky stuff (often by amateur astronomers or random folk around the world), or news about space-related discoveries, or interesting theories and artist’s conceptions. They’re full of great fodder for future spec fic.
For instance, a recent SpaceWeather alert reported this cool tidbit, with links to more info and a related iPhone app:
X-37B SIGHTINGS: Amateur satellite watchers have spotted a US Air Force space plane similar in appearance to NASA’s space shuttle circling Earth in a heretofore secret orbit. Known as the “X-37B,” it can be seen in the night sky shining about as brightly as the stars of the Big Dipper.
Check out SpaceWeather online, or just subscribe. Or there are a variety of NASA subscription options, depending on your interests, here. (I only remember signing up for one of these, not both, so I think they share lists, but don’t quote me. And I’ve been on it for years, so that may have changed.)
— Joni, admittedly a space geek
Okay, I’ve got space travel on the brain. And I thought it would be interesting to take a small poll:
1. If you could travel into space for a short while, would you? Why or why not? How much would it be worth to you?
2. If you could go, but only as a one-way trip (say, near the end of your life), would you even consider it?
3. If you had the “Close Encounters” opportunity to go with aliens to their world, would you (under any circumstances you want to name)?
- Joni: yes, a lot, yes, and yes
I’m surprised not to have seen more comment in the spec-fic blogosphere about the president’s NASA plans. The space program is pretty near to my heart and has been since my first episode of (dating myself here) the original Star Trek. I love how our fictional visions of space exploration influence our space exploration and other aspects of “the future” — cell phones and medical scanning devices being two big examples.
Although I have to agree with Obama’s basic premises, I do think a space program of some kind is really important for both technological and psycho-social reasons. But rather than a political discussion here, what I’ve been thinking about is this — do young people today really have much awareness of either the history of space exploration or our current activities? When I was young, any space shot was important enough to stop classes at school so we could tune in on the TV. Now, the shuttle missions and space station seem like background noise that very few notice. Fictional space stories and movies seem to take up WAY more space…. (er, no pun intended) in the common consciousness.
(I’ve just realized a bunch of my posts have a theme — the possible eclipse of real life by larger-than-life fiction. Hmm.)
Anyway, what I meant to ask was: How much do the young readers you encounter know about, or think about, space and space exploration? Is that aspect of sci-fi the stepchild? Is there room for more good, realistic fiction there… or would it fall on deaf eyeballs?
- Joni, who very much hopes she can afford one of those trips into orbit before she dies
Okay, I know nobody is even reading blogs this week, but I didn’t want this to pass by unnoted: an awesome post on Gizmodo about the realities of battles in space. Love it.
– Joni, a former physics major who is driven crazy when books have plot elements that break the laws of the universe as we know it