The Hollywood Reporter is noting that the SyFy Channel is returning to space adventure programming, largely abandoned with the end of “Battlestar Galactica,” with a six hour miniseries to air starting in November, “Ascension.”
The show has an odd premise in that it depicts an interstellar voyage being launched in 1963.
“Part Battlestar and part Downton Abbey, Ascension takes place on a century-long space shuttle journey, where hundreds of men, women and children left Earth behind at the start of the Cold War. Nearly 50 years after their covert 1963 mission launched with the intention of colonizing a new world, a young woman is mysteriously murdered, prompting the population to question the nature of the mission as they near the point of no return.”
Reading between the lines, the show is suggesting a “generation ship” approach to interstellar travel in which the original voyagers live and die on board a ship headed to another star system with their descendents finally arriving to colonize a new world. Depicting such a thing happening in the early 1960s is a breathtaking idea to say the least.
Remember that the most sophisticated space missions of the time consisted of Mercury low Earth orbit flights with single astronauts. Apollo missions to the moon were more than five years away. The techniques to detect exosolar planets were decades away. Sending hundreds of people light years across interstellar space in that time period would be like trying to do a moon shot in the 18th or 19th centuries. In a word, impossible.
However, there are two possible ways that the show could try to pull it off.
One is to allege that the United States has access to alien technology as a result of the reported UFO crash at Roswell in the late 1940s stashed away at the mysterious base at Area 51. That begs the question as to why said technology was not used for more public space missions, such as the Apollo flights to the moon.
The other possibility is something called Orion, a late 1950s project that would use the propulsive force of nuclear bombs to send huge space craft across space. The project envisioned battleship sized spacecraft being sent to Mars and the Outer Planets at speeds far in excess of anything else imaginable. The British Interplanetary Society suggested a similar approach called Daedalus using nuclear fusion in the 1970s.Orion was cancelled in 1964.
It will be interesting, therefore, to see if “Ascension” succeeds in suspending disbelief and making early interstellar voyages seem plausible.