The White House is Hoping Science Fiction Can Create a Generation of Space Pioneers

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 - 5:34PM
Science of Sci-Fi
Tuesday, 23 February 2016 - 5:34PM
The White House is Hoping Science Fiction Can Create a Generation of Space Pioneers
< >
The White House is working with some of the nation's greatest futurists to plan for the future of US space travel, and it's hoping that Science Fiction can play a key role in the process. 

Earlier this month, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) helped sponsor an event that saw no less than 70 scientists and engineers gather with entrepreneurs, storytellers, and directors to investigate the potential strategies for 'homesteading in space'. "Homesteading in Space – Inspiring the Nation through Science Fiction." was set up in partnership with the Museum of Science Fiction and the Science and Entertainment Exchange to curate a series of sci-fi stories that the esteemed panel of experts believe could encourage a new generation to seek out careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. In doing so, the White House hopes that they can help create a new wave of people that can help push the boundaries of US Space Travel, with the ultimate goal being a permanent human settlement on another planetary body.

Human settlements in space are a well-traveled path in science fiction, but many stories such as James S.A Corey's 'The Expanse' series and Joe Haldeman's 'The Forever War' end up with a largely negative view on either the outcome or motivation of such an endeavor. The Homesteading in Space program, however, is seeking stories that have a generally more positive outlook on things. Whereas many sci-fi stories suggest human settlements in space will result in/ are the result of large scale conflicts, the experts involved in this program hope to paint a more optimistic vision for the future of space travel.

During the session, the gathering of experts focused on 5 key areas that they see as the core of space homesteading:

- Exploring Space: The methods with which we will send humans to new worlds.

- Prospecting: Creating ways with which we can harvest natural resources from alien bodies like moons and asteroids.

- Manufacturing: Developing techniques to help create infrastructure around these new communities.

- Bioengineering: Using biological resources to create food and other key materials.

- World Building: Overcoming the (huge) challenge of ensuring that space communities are able to thrive in a healthy manner, reducing mental health issues and chances of conflict.

While each task poses a monumental challenge, it's not hard to see how science fiction can help with all of them. The first four have often been achieved in many of our favorite sci-fi stories, but it's the 'World Building' issue where things often fall apart. While not all books suggest the occupation of alien planets for the purposes of war, many often paint a dire picture of these space settlements' outcomes. War, disease and general ruination are frequently thrown around, but many stories tend to agree that life on these alien settlements is at least preferable to what will be left of Earth when we're done with it.

Of course, preserving our own planet is one of many challenges that the White House OSTP has on its plate, but with regards to this particular homesteading mission, they will be focusing on trying to encourage creators and storytellers to incorporate their positive vision of future space travel into their stories, which ironically makes it sound as though we're just one step away from a dystopian world in which the Government controls everything we read and watch. 


Science of Sci-Fi