In the 1990s we had what I consider the two best space related TV shows ever produced: Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5. TNG showed humans as explorers, evolved beings trying to move forward peacefully. It was a beautiful picture, something to aim for. Babylon 5 was more realistic: we still have problems and it’ll be a struggle, but we can do it. Babylon 5: In the beginning, one of the movies of the franchise, has some of the most realistic space battles. I read they got NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to do the math for them.
And then space died.
It was a slow and painful death. The spinoff of B5 lasted half a season. Star Trek managed to go on for much longer, but the quality went down until Enterprise was cancelled before a proper ending. And then we have Firefly… possibly the last big attempt at depicting humans living in space. It suffered the same fate as B5’s spinoff.
These developments are not just about fiction. Space exploration has been disappointing us for the last 30 years or so. We never went back to the moon. We never went to Mars. The International Space Station is amazing, but it’s not the space habitats we used to dream about. NASA cancelled the Space Shuttle program. The Hubble telescope was almost decommissioned. We stopped dreaming…
Well, not everybody stopped dreaming. And in a world where making a difference is becoming easier every day, some people have enough resources to do it even when it comes to something as expensive and crazy as space. People like Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), and my favorite, Elon Musk (SpaceX):
In 2009 we saw the return of Star Trek with J. J. Abrams reboot. It’s not a good Star Trek movie but it is a good action movie, that happens in space, in the future, a future where humans have expanded throughout the galaxy and created a peaceful federation of planets. And this year we had another Star Trek movie for which I would say the previous statement applies as well. They are fun… but what really excites me is this:
potentially realistic depictions of space…
Maybe we are looking up again… hopefully… we’ll start dreaming again soon.