A paradox of the post-Moon Race era
is that while interest and support of the U.S. public
for space exploration collapsed,
the popularity of space-based science fiction literally
Star Trek, Star Wars,
Close Encounters of Third Kind, ET, and
other such movie and television space adventures have
enjoyed huge success since the early 1970's, when, ironically,
the Apollo project ended without a follow-on program
of lunar development and Mars exploration.
Polls continue to show little
support for an ambitious space program and NASA's budget
has fallen to a quarter of it's high in the 1960s.
Even among many hard-core sci-fi
addicts and Trekkers, the interest in current space
exploration is remarkably low.
A number of reasons for this come
Space travel in Sci-fi is
easy and cheap. The Enterprise can take hundreds
of people to another star as easily as a 747
goes from New York to London.
- An Apollo Moonshot, on the other hand, cost
hundreds of millions of dollars to send three
people to the moon in a small, cramped pod, which
was the only thing leftover from a skyscraper
- It is difficult to picture oneself ever riding
in a small capsule on top of a throwaway missile while
it's easy to imagine walking on the roomy bridge of
The huge costs seemed extravagant
during a period of so much economic and social
turmoil in the US. Sci-Fi adventures cost only
the price of a theater ticket or were free on
The Space Shuttle was disappointingly
expensive and complicated, involving thousands
of support staff to fly only a few times a year.
Hardly the DC-3 of space as promised.
Space Sci-Fi usually involves
faster-than-light travel that makes accessible
a whole galaxy of amazing planets and alien civilizations.
Meanwhile, our unmanned planetary
explorers showed a solar system of cratered, desolate,
and seemingly lifeless worlds with little appeal.
The HobbySpace RLV
Countdown page and NewsSpace
Watch blog follow progress in the development of
lower cost launch systems, especially fully reusable
launch systems. If these are successful, costs of space
access will plummet in the next decade.
The airline industry began in the mid-1920s but several
models of aircraft failed to make passenger service
a profitable business. Not until the introduction of
the DC-3 in the early 1930's could the industry give
up its reliance on mail delivery for profits. The DC-3
offered the required combination of performance, price,
and reliability to make passenger service a true business.
Similarly, the Space Shuttle will one day be seen as
just an early, though necessary, step in the road to
developing a launch vehicle with the required combination
of performance, price, and reliability to make human
spaceflight a true business. And just as a communications
service kept the airlines going, the multi-billion dollar
satellite communications business keeps paying the bills
for space development.
Drastic reductions in the cost of space will finally
allow human expansion into space. See, for example,
Tourism page that lists companies already
taking reservations for rides into space. [See note
This will lead in the following decades and centuries
to a thriving, wildly diverse solar system consisting
of thousands of different societies living on planets,
moons and inside giant artificial space stations.
Contemplating such developments should provide rich
scenarios for Sci-Fi writers and fans. Even without
the discovery of a means to faster-than-light travel
or wormholes, the confines of the solar system could
still allow for an infinite diversity of cultures.
Furthermore, with inevitable genetic manipulation,
as well as machine-human convergence, new humanoid and
android species could arise.
In fact, just about all the Star Trek plots
could be adapted to a solar system based setting.
A Capt. Kirk and his crew representing the Federation
of Planets could cruise in his fusion
powered spaceship, which manages only
sub-light speed but still reaches most places in
the solar system within a few days or weeks.
Thus, the Solar Sci-Fi section is devoted
Science fiction about developments
in our own solar system.
Hard (technically realistic
and plausible) science fiction -
Near term scenarios. Those
between now and the end of the 21st century or
so, are of special interest.
Sept.18.12 - Writing space sci-fi that stays
within generally accepted physics laws, particlular
not allowing faster than light transport, has developed
into a niche genre called "mundane sci-fi":
Changed some links.
Jan.25.05 - Some minor editing.
Dec.2.03 - This e-book The View from Zero:
A Science Fiction Thriller by Thomas Hunter , 2002
is a hard sci-fi novel based on a colonized solar system
Sept.14.03 - Author Spider
Robinson talks about the need for a revival of space
into the past by Spider Robinson - The Globe and Mail
2002: An anime production in the Solar Sci-Fi
May 13, 2002 - Since
this essay was written back in 1999, we've seen Dennis
Tito & Mark Shuttleworth become the first genuine
tourists. The adventure travel agency Space
Adventures, meanwhile, has gotten about 100 people
to put deposits on a sub-orbital trip as soon as a vehicle