by Chris Tobias
“Well… here I am.” — Jubal Early, Firefly “Objects in Space”
Yes, here we are. Another year is behind us, and a new year lies ahead.
If you haven’t already, it’s a pretty safe bet that over the next several days you’ll be bombarded with all manner of retrospective pieces about the year that was 2014. That’s appropriate, of course. It was quite a year, with more than its fair share of highs and lows. Those who have been following developments in the space industry are probably familiar with more than a few of them: ISS missions and their commercial resupply flights, ESA’s Rosetta, the disastrous Antares launch and the tragic Virgin Galactic crash, the unveiling of SpaceX’s DragonV2, the awarding of NASA’s Commercial Crew contracts, etc. While it’s always good to take a moment or two to look back on where you’ve been and see how far you’ve come, we’d like to keep the focus of this first post of the New Year on what lies ahead for Take Back the Sky in 2015.
OUR TIME IS NOW
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the motion picture Serenity, the movie that was the realization of a dream for Joss Whedon and the fulfillment of Browncoats’ wishes the world over in that it provided a measure of closure to the story that was begun in the television series Firefly while laying the groundwork for future adventures of Serenity and her crew. That fact alone should be reason enough to believe that 2015 is the perfect time for those of us who want to convince SpaceX that their first manned Dragon capsule should bear the name Serenity to step up our efforts, both to recruit still more Browncoats to our cause and to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX of its worthiness. But nostalgia for the film’s tenth anniversary is hardly the only thing that will be motivating us this year.
Consider the timeline for the first flight of the manned Dragon itself. Last year NASA finally made the announcement that it had officially awarded SpaceX (and Boeing) the Commercial Crew contract. So now the thing we’ve all suspected would happen all along has finally come to pass, and we can expect that if everything goes according to the plans they’ve outlined, SpaceX will be ready to launch its first crewed Dragon sometime in 2017. If the Dragon V2 is going to break atmo in 2017, then surely SpaceX won’t wait until the eleventh hour to choose a name for the ship that will make that flight. It’s been common practice for NASA and other space agencies around the world to plan and prepare for manned missions no less than a year in advance, and we have no reason to think that this will be any different. Therefore, it’s pretty safe to assume they’ll announce the name by the end of 2016 at the latest. That may seem like a long way off when we’re set to begin the first full week of the first month of the New Year, but we all know that in the grand scheme of things, it won’t be long at all before we’ll be talking about the year that was 2015. That means if there’s any convincing to be done that the best name for the first manned Dragon is Serenity, it’s going to have to happen in the next twelve months. Otherwise we might find that our efforts were too little, too late.
Yes, 2015 could be Take Back the Sky’s very own Serenity Valley, and in the Browncoat tradition, if we look to do the impossible it’s not going to be enough for us simply to hold our ground. So what’s the plan? Well, since it’s the New Year, we think a few resolutions might be in order.
RESOLUTION #1: MORE EMPHASIS ON THE LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN
Our best chance for success still lies with our letter writing campaign. The Star Trek fans convinced NASA to name the first Space Shuttle Enterprise by sending thousands upon thousands of letters calling for the ship to be christened with that name. If we Browncoats want to see a Dragon named Serenity, it’s imperative that we do the same. In this Internet age, we’ve all become so reliant on electronic communication and social media (he writes, fully aware of the irony, on the online blog) that it has now become our default method of calling for change or championing a worthy cause. But even in the 21st century, nothing quite conveys one’s emotional investment like taking the time to craft a genuine, ink-on-paper letter and send it on its way, and we’re certain that Elon Musk, Gwynne Shotwell and the fine folk at SpaceX will take that fact into consideration when they receive letters asking them to name their first manned Dragon Serenity.
RESOLUTION #2: MORE “LEAVES ON THE WIND”
Not everyone thinks of himself as a wordsmith, we know. But for them as might find themselves at a loss for words, our “Leaf on the Wind” campaign is the perfect way to get involved. We’ve already spent a good deal of time explaining the whys and wherefores of shipping leaves off to SpaceX, so we’ll spare you yet another recap. (If you still need to be brought up to speed, you’ll find everything you need to know here.) What is worth repeating, though, is that this campaign is a very simple way to make a clear statement that we believe when the world watches that first crewed Dragon soar, she should be called Serenity, and we’ve even had feedback from folk who’ve sent leaves and received correspondence from SpaceX acknowledging that they’ve “been getting a lot of them.” The downside to this campaign, of course, is that not everyone has access to leaves year round, but hey, it’s always summer somewhere, and those of us who are currently experiencing the leafless winds of winter can still cut our own leaves out of colored paper!
If every Browncoat in America (not to mention those in other nations around the world) were to send just one letter or one leaf this year, imagine how many individual pieces of mail SpaceX would receive calling for a manned Dragon named Serenity in 2015!
RESOLUTION #3: AMP UP THE ONLINE PETITION
Even if a letter or leaf sent through the mail is still the most effective way to get SpaceX’s attention, it doesn’t mean we’re completely ignoring the advantages that the Internet and social media do afford us. We are grateful for the many loyal supporters we’ve had the pleasure to interact with on Facebook and Twitter, but as we’ve said many times before, liking and re-tweeting do not really bring us any closer to our goal. If those who support us online want to play a role in convincing SpaceX to name their Dragon Serenity, they need to make sure they sign our online petition. The one true advantage to the online petition is that we (and our supporters) can see in real time how many of their fellow Browncoats and space enthusiasts have joined in the cause. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword, because it can sometimes be very frustrating when that number doesn’t climb as fast as we’d like. (In a little more than two years, we’ve accrued just over two thousand signatures on our petition, whereas a petition calling on the US government to deport Justin Bieber to Canada amassed nearly three hundred thousand signatures in less than a year’s time!) Nonetheless, if everyone who reads this today signs the petition and then shares it with like-minded friends or a Browncoats or SEDS group in their local community, perhaps we can finally get the online petition to go for hard-burn in 2015!
RESOLUTION #4: SPREAD THE WORD AT AS MANY CONS AS POSSIBLE
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (though if it did, we have one on staff) to figure out that our petition makes the greatest jumps in signatures during and immediately following our appearances at cons. The outreach work we do at cons is very valuable, not only because we’re able to collect signatures for the petition and letters to SpaceX, but also because it’s a great way to spread the word about what we’re trying to accomplish while at the same time helping to renew enthusiasm about space exploration and the commercial space industry. And besides, we think it’s all kinds of fun to interact with fellow science-fiction fans, discussing (and sometimes debating) the merits of various sci-fi franchises and space missions and sharing ideas, costumes and more than a few laughs. We have made some lasting friendships while on the road at cons, and we treasure those times.
Our inaugural year was a good year on the con circuit. We presented our panel “One Small Step for Fans: Browncoats in Space” at Wizard World Philadelphia, the Pittsburgh Comicon and the West Virginia Pop Culture Con, and had tables on the convention floor at those cons as well. Last year we didn’t present any panels, but we did make a return trip to the Pittsburgh Comicon for more tabling, and for the first time a group of new recruits volunteered to table for us at the TrekTrax con (now known as Treklanta) in Atlanta. After two years of covering just two states per year, though, we believe it’s imperative this year that we work much harder to get the word out in person. To that end, it’s our goal (if not a resolution) to attend cons this year in the Eastern, Midwestern and Western United States, presenting an updated panel whenever possible and meeting and greeting as many Browncoats as we can at tables on the convention floor. Of course we have some specific cons in mind, and in keeping with our belief that 2015 is the year to “go big,” we’re targeting some major events, but we’re going to have to play things close to the vest until we can confirm we’ll be in attendance. We’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date as our 2015 convention schedule takes shape though, so watch for announcements here as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
RESOLUTION #5: CAN’T STOP THE SIGNAL
If there’s one change for 2015 that we look to implement immediately, it’s the frequency with which we post updates on this blog. If we’re looking to you, the Browncoats, for help, then we owe it to you to keep a steady flow of information coming your way. Last year we averaged two blog posts a month, but this year we conjure that should increase to at least two blog posts a week. And we promise that not every post will be about taking action (and they won’t all be as long as this one). We want this site to become the kind of blog that Browncoats and space enthusiasts want to read, and we want our supporters to feel a part of what we’re doing. So we look to offer fresh content that challenges, inspires and entertains. Like Malcolm Reynolds, we aim to misbehave, and we want to be able to say, “They won’t see this coming.”
So there it is. That’s the plan. We hope you’re on board with us, and that together we’ll do the impossible one more time this year.
Here’s to making history in 2015…