by Chris Tobias
The evening of Friday, January 15 was a somewhat unique one for Take Back the Sky. Our tabling experience at “21+ Rocket Science Night” at the Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh marked the first time our #SpaceXSerenityCrew made an appearance at an event that focused on the hard science of spaceflight instead of the fantasy and conjecture of science-fiction. After appearing at over a half-dozen sci-fi and comic cons, it was an interesting change of pace to talk space with a crowd that tended to be more familiar with SpaceX than it was with Firefly.
In just four hours’ time, we collected several pages of signatures on a hard-copy version of our current petition, as well as a number of form letters and postcards to SpaceX calling for a Crew Dragon named Serenity. We also talked at length with attendees about SpaceX’s January 17 launch of a Falcon 9 to deploy the Jason-3 satellite, a launch which would see another attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage at sea on a drone-piloted barge. (Of course we now know that mission was a success, while the outcome of the landing attempt could be described as “close, but still no wobbly-headed doll.”)
One of the really fun aspects of the evening was “selling” the name Serenity to folk who aren’t Browncoats (or at least aren’t yet anyway). I found myself emphasizing the fact that the name does not call to mind any ideas of aggression, conquest or domination, and instead evokes thoughts of peace, harmony and oneness with the ‘verse. Interestingly, one woman used that very argument as a reason not to sign our petition, saying that she adamantly refused to attach such a beautiful name to a machine that private industry would use for profit at the expense of the Earth’s people. Of course, I respectfully disagreed with her assessment of SpaceX’s intentions, and told her she might feel differently if she did a bit of reading about Elon Musk and why he founded SpaceX and then watched Firefly so she could see for herself exactly what Serenity and her crew stood for. Come to think of it, I found that I ended most of the evening’s conversations with the recommendation that people watch Firefly and Serenity, so in that regard our tabling efforts may have done as much to promote Joss Whedon’s show and movie as they did to promote the idea of a real spaceship named after the one Whedon created!
Of course, there were still a few Browncoats in attendance, and it was a lot of fun to see their eyes light up when they realized who we were and why we were there. We especially enjoyed talking to Courtney, a twenty-something Browncoat who is originally from Pittsburgh but is now serving in the US Air Force and is stationed in South Dakota. She enthusiastically signed our petition and wrote a postcard to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell in support of the name Serenity, and then told us she planned to tell all her “fellow nerds at the base” in South Dakota about Take Back the Sky and what we’re trying to do. She also invited us to come visit her and her friends at this year’s SoDak Con in June. It’s that kind of enthusiasm that makes us confident that we can succeed. Heck, if every Browncoat had Courtney’s attitude, no power in the ‘verse could stop us! If you’re reading this Courtney, thanks for your service, keep flying and stay shiny. And if we make it out to SoDak Con, we’ll be sure to look you up.
To be honest, the only real downside to the evening was that it was over way too soon. We can’t thank the Carnegie Science Center enough for their hospitality, and we hope to be able to return for their “21+ Sci-Fi Night” on April 15.
Peace, love and rockets…