Looking upwards and outwards

I have taken a short break from Rocket Science here at Mission Control in order to work on some other projects. But everything is still on track for the anthology’s intended launch date. Meanwhile, in the real world there have been a few developments of potential interest.

First, it looks like Fobos-Grunt is dead. It missed the window to Mars, but there were hopes they might be able to send it to a Near Earth Object. But neither Roscosmos nor the ESA have managed sustained communication with it. And bits of it have already started falling back to Earth. It’s a shame the mission failed, though Russia doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to Mars. Since 1962, eleven (including Fobos-Grunt) of their fourteen missions to Mars have failed. Having said that, they were the first to put a lander on Mars, Mars 2 in 1971, but it doesn’t really count as it crashed. Mars 3 the same year was the first real landing but lasted only 14.5 seconds on the surface before contact was lost.

source: universetoday.com

All over the news this week has been the discovery of what might be an Earth-like exoplanet orbiting Kepler-22 587 light-years away. It’s thought the planet, Kepler-22b, is a Super-Earth, and could have a mass 13.8 times greater than the Earth and a surface gravity of 2.4G. It seems the Edenic worlds so beloved of science fiction are likely to remain just that: science fiction. Whether that means we will eventually become a space-based civilisation, adapt the worlds we find to suit us, or adapt ourselves to suit the worlds we find… remains to be seen. All three is perhaps most probable.

While the second piece of news is not really relevant to Rocket Science – those 587 light-years are, at present, an insurmountable barrier. And may well forever remains so. The first, however, is of much more interest. Not only is it possible to speculate about what Fobos-Grunt might have found on Phobos, or perhaps even imagine some form of rescue mission for the malfunctioning probe in LEO; but there’s that rich history of Martian probes to consider. The Reds were the first to land on the Red Planet. What if that had given them legal title to the world? The USSR was also the first to land on Venus. Imagine a future in which the USSR fails on Earth but prospers on Mars and Venus. The only sf novel I can think of which posits a successful space-faring USSR is Fellow Traveler by William Barton and Michael Caopbianco. No doubt there are others. Of course, it’s all alternate history now…

All of which demonstrates that the real world provides inspiration a-plenty for science fiction. There’s little or no need to look to other sf works for ideas. Perhaps that’s what the genre needs to do. Not so much a “back to basics” campaign, as a call for a return to primary sources. Look about you, and write about that in a science-fictional mode.

It may well produce more interesting results.

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