They all wanna see Buck Rogers and that’s us!
“I’ll tell you, being involved in human space flight, it is an emotional endeavour. I think it brings in the highest highs and the lowest lows” – Ellen Ochoa.
As SF literature has consistently featured the marvel of manned space flight, movies have repeatedly revealed how dangerous and downright foolhardy such spacebound ventures can be. So with a revival of manned space exploration announced by NASA back in 2004, not surprisingly, scientists greeted the news with disdain, knowing all-too-well what dangers will lie in store for the new wave of unsuspecting space invaders.
Just look at the record of celluloid space flight: an embarrassing catalogue of disaster, danger, bad news and overacting. It is most notable that the most optimistic predictions of one of science’s greatest visionaries: Arthur C. Clarke fell short when it came to the enlightening subject of humankind’s journey to the stars. No doubt his predictions of humans landing on Mars – by 1994, and then by 2010 – were severely offset by the Apollo 13 crisis, and the Challenger and Columbia disasters.
Who would be a Space Hero?
You have to ask yourself: if given the chance – knowing how far unmanned space probes have already travelled and how much data they have accumulated, while manned space missions will be way too costly – would you still want to venture into space?
The latter stages of the Apollo space program yielded very little of scientific value to our knowledge of space, so – bearing in mind that clearly defined objectives should be set out well in advance – what use/benefits would these new missions strive to achieve?
“This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it” – H.A.L. 9000.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) featured the first manned mission to Jupiter, but the Discovery was at the mercy of the shifty computer: HAL 9000. There is no more lonely, frightening experience than being stuck outside your own ship (without helmet) and trying to reason with a machine that refuses to open the pod bay doors…
A year later, the movie Marooned told the story of three astronauts trapped in orbit when they lose control of their vessel. A fourth man goes up in an untried craft to try and rescue them; it gained an Oscar for its special effects.
“You know, when Apollo 17 landed on the Moon, people were calling up the networks and bitching because reruns of I Love Lucy were cancelled. Reruns, for Christ’s sake!” – Dr. James Kelloway.
Capricorn One (1978) was a taut and compelling conspiracy thriller about a hoax manned mission to Mars. Just before launch, the three-man crew are advised to evacuate their rocketship and informed that they had faulty equipment. In order to save the space program (especially its funding), the reluctant astronauts have to act out the Martian landing at a remote studio in the desert. But then they realise that in order to make this phoney show convincing, they will have to be bumped off, so they make good their escape. Despite going separate ways, they are hunted down by mysterious pursuers in black…
See how dangerous it is? Especially when you consider that none of these guys even got off the ground for cryin’ out loud!
“We just put Sir Isaac Newton in the driver’s seat” – Jim Lovell.
Eventually we come to the movie: Apollo 13 (1995), based on the actual drama that unfolded in 1971. Interestingly, for the synopsis, refer to Marooned; however, in this case, there was no rescue vessel. Jim Lovell and his crew-mates – along with Mission Control – had to work out how they would make it back in one piece.
You’d think that having the legendary Intergalactic Hero Kevin Bacon onboard would be enough to ensure boundless good fortune for any mission, but no, they had to be lumbered with Bill Paxton, the only movie star to be killed off by both Predator and Alien…
Before this far-reaching, but near-missing, Post blasts off into the hyperspace of the Blogosphere, it should be said that in the forthcoming SF thriller: Interstellar a wormhole will be tested to find out if the next stage of space travel can be reached. Considering how none of the above examples made it through without any major difficulties, all that can be said here is:
“Good luck with that!”