(Image: Sending a Wave)
On March 31, the UK Firefly and Serenity podcast Sending a Wave announced that it was coming to an end after twelve years of keeping Browncoats around the world up-to-date on all the latest conjurings in the Firefly fandom throughout the ‘verse. Sending a Wave will always be very special to all of us here at Take Back the Sky, because the podcast was the first media outlet to interview Jeff and me (way back in the 2012) about our efforts to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity. Not only did our interview on Sending a Wave spread the news of what we were doing to a worldwide audience, it also gave our campaign a level of legitimacy in the Browncoat community that it hadn’t had previously. This was especially crucial to the success of our first online petition to SpaceX, which ended up with thousands of signatures from every continent except Antarctica, accompanied by comments in multiple languages.
About a year later we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Scott, co-creator and host of Sending a Wave, in person at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con in June of 2013. At the con that weekend, Wendy interviewed me again about my work as the event coordinator of Pittsburgh’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity screenings, and together we attended the Firefly panel that featured Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres. Wendy is a lovely woman who is tremendously knowledgeable about science-fiction and the film industry and an absolutely fascinating person to talk to. One of my favorite things about Wendy, both as a podcast host and as a friend, is that her “BS-meter” is finely-tuned, and she’s not afraid to call anyone out if their story has the odor of a fabrication or a retcon. (If you don’t believe me, you can hear her give me a much-needed history lesson upon our first meeting in Sending a Wave Episode 93: The One with Dragons!)
When I heard about the end of Sending a Wave, I contacted Wendy to ask her if it would be okay if I achieved some closure of sorts by bringing things full circle and interviewing her about what had been great run of a groundbreaking Firefly and Serenity podcast. She graciously agreed, and on April 28 we spent nearly three hours on Skype talking about everything from the podcast itself to geek culture, science-fiction of all kinds, Joss Whedon, CSTS, the current state of the film industry and even American and European politics. As you can guess, that conversation meandered in many different directions. The following is a transcript of questions Wendy answered that were specific to Sending a Wave:
Since 2012, we at Take Back the Sky have been leading a grassroots effort to convince SpaceX to name the first of its manned space capsules after Serenity, the fictional spaceship from Joss Whedon’s science-fiction television series Firefly and feature film Serenity. Despite the fact that we’ve devoted a lot of space as of late (yes, the pun is intended) to covering the many launches that SpaceX has completed so far this year, we still think it’s important that we not lose sight of our raison d’être. To that end, here are ten good reasons why we believe the first manned SpaceX Dragon should be named Serenity…
For nearly four years now you’ve been listening to us tell you all the reasons why Serenity is the perfect name for the next manned US spacecraft. If you’re a Browncoat, you probably didn’t take much convincing, but even those who aren’t big fans of the series Firefly or the film Serenity would most likely still agree that the name Serenity embodies the ideals of 21st-century space exploration, which is certainly built more upon a foundation of peace and cooperation than the space race of the Cold War era was.
But some of you may still be asking yourselves, “Why are they so fixated on SpaceX?” After all, it was NASA who chose the name Enterprise at the urging of tens of thousands of letter-writing Star Trek fans, and NASA is still the driving force (and paying customer) behind the Commercial Crew Project. Besides, if what we read in the press is to be believed, NASA wants Boeing’s CST-100, not SpaceX’s Dragon 2, to be the first manned US spacecraft to break atmo since the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched into the black for the final time (on this very date four years ago).
Given the fact that SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon has already completed six successful resupply missions to the International Space Station and Boeing’s CST-100 has yet to leave the launch pad, I’m sure there is a lot of room for debate as to which ship will be ready to make the trip first. But we’ll save that debate for another time. Suffice it to say that we believe that when the chips finally hit the table, it’s going to be SpaceX’s Dragon v2 that’ll be ready to answer the call.
But that’s not the only reason why we’re focusing our efforts on SpaceX instead of NASA or Boeing. It’s also because we believe that SpaceX, unlike the others, cares about the relationship between pop culture and the space industry. In short, Elon Musk, Gwynne Shotwell and the vast majority of their employees at SpaceX are our kind of people. And that’s not just some vibe we’re getting. You only need look at their track record to see exactly what we’re talking about.
If someone offered you a free ride into space, would you go?
Like a lot of people who enthusiastically support manned spaceflight, I was a bit dismayed by the results of a recent survey conducted by Monmouth University, in which 1,000 adults were asked at random in a telephone interview whether or not they’d take a free ride into space if it were offered to them. I was shocked to read that just 28% of Americans surveyed (roughly 1 in 4) said they’d want to take that free ride on a rocket ship.
As a high school teacher who teaches Advanced Placement German courses to juniors and seniors, I’m always looking for thought-provoking essay topics to assign for students’ journals, and this seemed to me like a good opportunity to assign an essay that would challenge my students to develop and express their own opinions (in German) about this very timely and interesting topic, while at the same time conducting my own little survey to gauge their interest in going into the black.
So, I asked my 20 Advanced Placement German students, 11 high school seniors and nine high school juniors, all ages 16-18, the following question (translated from German): “If someone gave you the chance to travel into space on a rocket free of charge, would you go? Why or why not?” Though it was not part of the prompt for the essay, I explained to the students that this would not be a one-way trip like Mars One, but rather an opportunity to visit space and return to tell the tale, provided that everything about the trip remained nominal from launch to recovery. Students were required to explain their position on the topic in an essay of two pages or more, which they wrote in their essay journals. Once again, I would be surprised by the results, though this time for a very different reason. Continue Reading