Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Voyage to the Stars Blogathon

Thanks to John over at Hitchcock's World for sponsoring this out of this world blogathon. I hope John doesn't mind, but the only way I can make a space mission work is to scrap the idea of interstellar travel in lieu of interplanetary travel. The only way interstellar travel would be feasible would be if it were a long term, slow moving space voyage--something similar to the new SyFy show, 'Ascension' (or how 'Ascension' was supposed to be), in which a spaceship with its own ecosystem carries generations of people for tens of thousands of years. Then perhaps after 160,000 years or so, we would arrive somewhere fun. Who knows? Thus, the mission I would embark on would be a mission to terraform and colonize Mars. The team I have recruited is listed below. You can see more about the rules and my reasoning behind this decision at the end of this post. 
Tom Hanks in 'Apollo 13'

There is a quote from the 2009 'Star Trek' film that embodies Jim Lovell. Spock explained to Kirk the true purpose of the Kobayashi Maru test. "The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain." 

Lovell (and the fictionalized version of him) experienced that same fear, but still managed to keep control of himself and his crew. Lovell was smart, capable, and level-headed--everything you would want in a mission commander. Lovell kept his crew on task and never gave in to any drama. He had one goal-- to get his crew home safely. It certainly didn't hurt that Lovell was also an experienced pilot who could successfully fly a damaged tin can through space that had as much power as a coffee maker. As my mom would say, "they don't make 'em like that anymore." That's why Jim Lovell, as portrayed by a young Tom Hanks, would be my mission commander. 

PILOT - William Xu 
Daniel Wu in 'Europa Report'

Similar to Lovell in 'Apollo 13,' Commander Xu was also an incredibly competent mission commander/pilot hybrid, which seems to be a common redundancy on fictional space ships. It makes sense that a mission commander also knows how to pilot the ship. As both a commander and a pilot, Xu would be my choice as our ship's pilot. SPOILER: Lest we forget, Xu also sacrificed himself for the good of the ship. (Xu unbuckled himself from his seat to remove the water shield to reduce the speed of impact, which saved the ship, but led to his untimely demise.)   

EDITED: My original choice was Dr. Ian Malcolm from 'Jurassic Park.' I think I accidentally confused two characters played by Jeff Goldblum. Since Ian Malcolm is not technically an astronaut I am supplementing this with the correct choice of David Levinson from 'Independence Day,' who did travel in space in an alien craft. 
Science Officer - David Levinson
Jeff Goldblum in 'Independence Day'
What can be said about David Levinson. He's a cable repairman who graduated from MIT. He alone was able to figure out that the aliens had buried a countdown in our satellite transmissions and most importantly figured out how to defeat them. He was also a fantastic co-pilot for Captain Steve Hiller (Will Smith). 
SCIENCE OFFICER - Dr. Ian Malcolm 
Jeff Goldblum in 'Jurassic Park'

In the original 'Jurassic Park,' chaotician/mathematician Ian Malcolm was the smartest guy in the room (even among a group of scientists who had managed to genetically engineer dinosaurs). Not only would Malcolm be able to manage the scientific principles of space travel, but he would also remind the crew of their ethical obligations. It was Malcolm who confronted John Hammond in the best scene (in my opinion) in the movie.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: If I may... Um, I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here, it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now [bangs on the table] you're selling it, you wanna sell it. Well... 
John Hammond: I don't think you're giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody's ever done before... 
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.
ENGINEER - Ryan Stone
Sandra Bullock in 'Gravity'

I've heard people give poor Ryan Stone a lot of crap for being such an inexperienced astronaut. Admittedly, I thought it was a little odd that a novice with only 6 months of NASA experience could go on a space mission, but I think director Alfonso Cuaron wanted to reiterate that Stone really didn't know what she was doing, but somehow managed to figure things out anyway. And isn't that incredible? Space travel is dangerous and unpredictable. My crew needs someone like Stone who can really think on her feet. 

Hugh Jackman in 'The Fountain'

Tom Creo was more of a mystical astronaut, but an astronaut nonetheless. If you've seen 'The Fountain' than you know that it's both weird and lovely, as are all Aronofsky films. I've chose Creo as my navigator because if Creo could navigate a star system in a big sphere with a tree in in, then he could probably navigate a proper spaceship. 

GEOLOGIST - Commander Doyle
Wes Bentley in 'Interstellar' 

SPOILERS:  Commander Doyle didn't really get enough time to shine, but he had enough sense to try to avoid the planet with the big black hole near it. I don't know, but that seems to make sense to me. So in that regard he was smarter than both Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway) and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). I've added a geologist to my crew list because I think we would need one if we were going to terraform an alien world. It doesn't hurt that Doyle is played by Wes Bentley. In fact, most of the men on my list are hot. I wonder why that is? Hmmm, I'm sensing my own bias.

SHIP'S DOCTOR - Dr. Gordon
Viola Davis in 'Solaris'

Dr. Gordon was not known for her bedside manner, but she was perhaps the smartest person on the Solaris research station. She didn't allow her emotions to cloud her judgement and knew when it was time to go. I think we need an on board doctor who is smart, capable, and pragmatic. Space travel is difficult and arduous, so Doctor Gordon would be a welcomed addition. It doesn't hurt that I absolutely adore Viola Davis.

SHIP'S MEDIC - Bishop 
Lance Henrickson in 'Aliens'

Every doctor needs a medical team. Bishop would be the perfect medic because he could be programmed with whatever knowledge you would want him to have. It doesn't hurt that he was pinpoint accurate, as was evidenced in the knife game he played with Hudson (Bill Paxton) in 'Aliens.' It certainly doesn't hurt that he could be ripped in half and still survive. So if someone needs to be sent on a suicide mission...

MISSION CONTROL - Commander Bowman
Carrie Anne Moss in 'Red Planet'

There really aren't that many mission controllers in the realm of scifi films, which is unfortunate. A few of my top choices have already been taken and I can't chose two characters from the same film. So I choose Commander Bowman from 'Red Planet.' Bowman could think on her feet when needed and she was tough. Bowman was also completely dedicated to bringing her crew back to the ship safely. Technically she was a mission commander, not a mission controller, but if I had my way, Bowman would be on the ground in mission control taking charge behind the scenes. 

The rules
1.) Assemble a diverse team of astronauts for an interstellar expedition. 
2.) Use characters who are "astronauts" in some sense of that word.
3.) Humans from our solar system only.
4.) Same character in the same role cannot be chosen for another crew. 
5.) Cannot use two characters from the same film.
6.) Include a banner in your post.
7.) Deadline is December 31, 2014. So there is still time to join!

Interplanetary Travel Versus Interstellar Travel
Manned light speed travel is theoretically impossible for various reasons. The primary three reasons are energy, insterstellar dust and gas, and distance: 
i.) The energy required to propel a spacecraft at these speeds is enormous and likely unviable, ii.) Interstellar dust and gas would likely cause extensive damage to any manmade vessel traveling at such high speeds, and lastly, iii.) The distance between solar systems is too vast. 
For example, it would take about 187 years just to get to our own sun and 160,000+ years to get to the nearest star systems Proxima Centuri and Alpha Centuri. And Proxima Centuri isn't all that promising since it's a red drawf and about 500 less bright than our own sun. Alpha Centuri has one confirmed planet, but there are no guarantees that the planet is habitable.
With regard to wormholes, there are also no guarantees that a wormhole would lead somewhere you actually wanted to go and traveling through a wormhole would most likely destroy any man made ship.  


  1. I think that's fair enough reasoning. I actually considered making this about a mission to Mars but settled on an interstellar objective because of the film this was supposed to tie in with.

    I liked that you actually found someone from Interstellar but also a less obvious choice. I figured it would happen sooner or later but I would have exoected it to be Brand or Cooper that get picked. That's a pleasant surprise.

    I really like that new banner, with the retro-looking astronaut watching Gravity. I'll have to add that one to the list of banners to choose from.

    1. Oh thank you John! I was hoping it would be fine. Please feel free to use the banner. I enjoyed the blogathon. It really caused me to think.

  2. Bishop - smart choice!
    And Doyle was smart enough to think the planet near the big black hole was a bad idea.

    1. I loved the character of Bishop! Yes, I remember Doyle thinking that was a bad idea...yep he was right!

  3. You've assembled a great team. Love the choice of Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, an inspired one to say the least. I've been putting off doing my own team for a few weeks, now. I need to get cracking on it. Thanks for lighting a fire under me. Thanks also for the explanation of interplanetary vs. interstellar travel.

    1. Ha, you know I just realized that I cheated with Ian Malcolm. He's always been on my list, but he's not an astronaut. I think I was getting his character confused with the one in 'Independence Day.'

  4. This is so clever! I am well impressed with the whole concept. When do you blast off?


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