Could classic sci-fi really have influenced the Trump administration’s new moon-based plan for preparing to send manned missions to Mars?

Just as the race to space (and eventually the moon too) involved several countries and corporations in the 1950s and ’60s, so too is the race now on to safely send a manned mission to the Red Planet. In early October 2017, US Vice-president Mike Pence announced that the country will be working towards establishing a colony on the moon in order to “build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond.”

The Science Fiction Based Around Mars

Red Planet. Source: Alchetron, the Free Social Encyclopedia.

For decades, Mars and its possibility of supporting life have driven countless fantasy stories, particularly in the movie department. In fact, some of the biggest box office failures had plots revolving around travel to or life on the Red Planet. For instance, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), Mars Needs Moms (2011) and the Val Kilmer film Red Planet (2000) were all terribly received by their audiences.

However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, one of the most critically acclaimed films of the past decade having to do with existence on Mars was The Martian, adapted from the novel by Andy Weir to the big screen in 2015. By the way, Andy Weir’s fiction novel releases are rather timely.

Artemis. Source: Sciencefiction.com.

His latest book Artemis includes a unique element: a futuristic human-built city on the moon. With this year’s refreshed interest in the moon, Artemis has a great chance of becoming a hit.

So obviously man’s scientific endeavours and curiosity have influenced pop culture. But has the pop culture of the past now, in turn, influenced our scientific future? Perhaps it has.

In the 1960s, during the golden era of Hollywood as well as science fiction, many TV shows also included futuristic Mars travel in certain scripts. An interesting TV plot from that decade may shine some light on that recently released concept for the United States’ travel to Mars.

The Time Tunnel and Other Fantastical Lunar Bases of the 1960s

The Time Tunnel Duo – Doug and Tony. Source: The 100th Planet.

The old sci-fi TV series to closely predict NASA’s future plans was The Time Tunnel, a live-action show lasting a mere single season on the air. It was created and produced by Irwin Allen. He was the creator of three other more successful sci-fi series during that decade as well as the director/producer of the film The Towering Inferno (1974).

The main running theme of the show was two men trapped in time, the maze of past and future ages. They were thrust back in time via a secret underground, government-funded complex. And the purpose of this complex was to experiment with and perfect the Time Tunnel. (The Time Tunnel was an expansive machine that could transport objects, animals, and even people anywhere in time and space.)

“One Way to the Moon” Finale. Source: Say Hello Spaceman.

It was in the second episode ever aired (September 16, 1966), “One Way to the Moon.” In it, the main duo find themselves materialising on a rocket approximately ten years in the future, and the craft is initially headed for Mars. If it were to reach Mars it would be the first successful mission to do so.

But because of the additional weight of two adult men, the ship is going to need more fuel than it has. The captain of the ship is extremely concerned as to how they got aboard and why they were there. (Other nations would stop at practically nothing to be first to Mars.) So they land on the moon for just that purpose: to refuel.

Destination Moon. Source: Retrorockets.wordpress.com.

A surplus of fuel is stored in a lunar warehouse. This was meant precisely for interplanetary travel. If a mission might not be able to reach its destination for any reason due to a lack of fuel, the spacecraft could stop off at their local lunar “filling station” as it were. This was a rather simple yet convenient concept.

In other sci-fi of the ’60s, such as in the juvenile-geared British series Captain Scarlet, futuristic lunar bases were depicted as large, well-manned stations as opposed to a solitary warehouse.

What the Future Could Look Like

A Proposed Moon Base Concept. Source: Slate.

America is not alone in its race to the little Red Planet. According to some sources, the push for furthering China’s 2020 Mars mission, BEIJING (AFP), has already begun. Besides the goal of Mars itself on its plate, China also has big plans for the moon. The Chinese have been wanting to set up a lunar community of their own.

Current laws set in place make space-based scientific partnerships or assistance between the U.S. and China practically impossible. Meanwhile, numerous minds throughout the world are brainstorming, considering both old and new proposals for lunar colonisation. But there is one thing we can take for a fact which is that sometime in the (hopefully) near future, humanity will be raising homes on the moon.

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