“You know what the first rule of flyin’ is? Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turnin’ of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta to fall down. Tells you she’s hurting ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.”
— Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity
The goal of Take Back the Sky, in short, is to sway SpaceX, especially CEO Elon Musk, to name the Dragon spacecraft in its first manned flight Serenity, after the ship featured in the television series Firefly and box office follow-up Serenity, and to publicly appear and announce the same at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, where SpaceX is a regular participant.
In 1976, America’s first space shuttle was to be christened the Constitution–until, that is, a dedicated group of Star Trek fans led a successful mail-in campaign to United States President Gerald Ford and the ship was renamed Enterprise (what’s more, in an age before internet communication and social media). It proved to be a popular and fitting name for a spaceship that would carry the hope for a new age of peaceful cooperation between the nations and governments of the world in space.
Thirty-five years later, the space shuttle program, once a proud symbol and testament of a country’s courage and determination, came to an end with no clear plan to replace it. With waning support from the public and from its leaders, it seemed that America had turned its back on the stars for good. Then, NASA announced a radical shift in how it would achieve its mandate despite inadequate funds: the agency would contract the “grunt work” tasks of ferrying astronaut crews and cargo to Low Earth Orbit (the plane of orbit where satellites and space stations fly around our planet) out to competing private companies. These smaller, upstart ventures would be willing to assume the risks associated and dare to try new things to do the same job more efficiently, leaving NASA free to dedicate its resources to pursuing goals beyond the Earth.
Now the agency has made its choice and selected SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft for its Commercial Crew contract. Astronauts will return to space as early as 2017, but this time aboard a private ship. We strongly believe that there would be no more fitting name for that ship than that of another private ship with another brave crew that sought the freedom of the stars: Serenity.
Q: Will that really work?
A: We’re confident that it will. Here’s just a few reasons why:
Whereas the aforementioned Star Trek fans had only print mail to work with, we are blessed with the added advantages of instant communication through modern technology and social media.
As a private company, SpaceX is not under NASA rules or regulations when it comes to how they name their craft. In fact, founder and CEO Elon Musk was quoted as saying that their one and only rule about naming their rockets and spacecraft is that “it has to be cool.”
Elon Musk has already shown that he’s very passionate about science, technology, and “geek culture.” SpaceX’s Falcon9 booster rocket is named after the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, and Elon Musk himself referred to the hypersonic grid fins on the rocket’s latest model as an “x-wing configuration.”
Another fun trivia fact is that Musk had a cameo in the film Iron Man 2. The movie also had several scenes filmed on-location at SpaceX’s rocket facilities in Hawthorne, CA, which Musk himself offered to Marvel Studios for use.
Musk has not as of yet expressed whether or not he’s a fan of Firefly in particular. Gwynne Shotwell, however, President of SpaceX, has stated on occasion that it’s one of her favorite shows of all time, and that it’s a favorite among SpaceX employees.
While it’s a side of them that isn’t often seen, the men and women of NASA are geeks with a sense of humor, as well. During one of the Space Shuttle’s missions, NASA astronauts brought a full set of DVDs of the Firefly series and the film Serenity to add to the library of recreational movies aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where they remain a popular choice of astronauts on break.
And recently American astronaut Steven “Swanny” Swanson, who was also instrumental in bringing the DVD’s to the International Space Station, posted the first ever “selfie” from space to the ISS Instagram account. In the photo, he is clearly seen wearing a Serenity t-shirt!
Other things we have going for us:
- Like the term “enterprise,” “serenity” is an abstract concept, and thus will not directly violate any copyrights.
- We don’t need to raise any funds whatsoever to do this.
- While we wouldn’t turn them away if they were offered, we also do not need any celebrity endorsements.
Q: Speaking of which, have you approached any of the former cast members or crew of Firefly?
A: No, and we do not intend to. Their time is valuable, and they have already put their good names and reputations on the line from time to time as it is by speaking out in high-profile, controversial debates in support of civil liberties. We have no wish to disturb them in order to ask them to further risk their careers and livelihoods over our own little dream, as dear as that dream may be to us. If one of the actors or creators of the show and/or film approaches us or speaks out on behalf of our efforts, we’ll be overjoyed. Until that happens, though, we’re just fine on our own. After all, we’re doing this in part as a tribute to the work they’ve already done.
Q: Seriously, why are you doing this? What’s the point? What good will this do anyone?
A: That’s a valid question. Let’s make sure that we’re clear on a few things, first. Having the first manned private spaceship named Serenity will not:
- Bring the show back on the air
- Get a sequel to the film made
- Usher in a glorious new era of space exploration
So, why go to all this trouble just to change the letters painted on the outside of the capsule? If you think about it, the question that you’re really asking is “Why make a big deal out of space at all? What good does it do us?”
The answer, as Captain Mal himself would tell you, is love.
Sure, for over thirty years, proponents of space exploration have defended the expenses involved by saying that it gives us “technology” — when we say that, though, we really mean “it gives us shiny new toys and handheld devices.” The truth, however, is if we were to land on Mars tomorrow, your life would not change right away. You’d still wake up and, if you’re lucky enough, go to work, come home, go to bed, then do it all over again the next day, because space does not “benefit” us at all…
… space benefits our children! Support for the space program among the public has vanished because our society has become so accustomed to instant gratification and a self-centered “what does this do for me” attitude that almost nobody cares for those future generations anymore.
People didn’t cross the oceans just to “explore.” Pioneers didn’t cross the plains to enrich STEM education back east. And astronauts sure as heck didn’t put their lives on the line “for mankind.” They did it because they wanted a better future for their kids, or for other people’s kids. They did it for the same reason that the Browncoats in Firefly were willing to fight a war against the Alliance despite the fact that they were hopelessly outgunned. They did it because they wanted to give their children a chance to grow up and live their lives on their own patch of the ‘verse, where they could be free to live as they saw fit.
The true “spirit of exploration” is love. It’s loving people enough to live and to sacrifice for them, even though they can’t give back and you’ll never meet them because they haven’t even been born yet! Someone has to stand up for those children; someone has to fight for their future, even though nobody else cares and most people think there’s something wrong with you for trying. If you’re going to fight for such a lost and unpopular cause of love, risking your neck out there “in the black,” then there’s only one group to call:
And that’s what Take Back the Sky is all about!