Star spangled glamour: the mission to make space travel cooler than ever before

TECH RADAR, AUGUST 2017

In all of human history, never have the faraway wonders of the galaxy felt closer to us than they do today, thanks to the ongoing advances in spacefaring technologies that science continues to make. Why, then, should there be any need to make space travel cool and sexy?
First, let’s be clear about what we mean by sexy. Simply put: sexy sells. Whether it’s soft drinks, skateboards, or hair straighteners, being able to make the idea of something in some way attractive is what makes people want to buy into it.
So when we talk about the prospect of space exploration, that’s clearly something you can’t go and pick up from the supermarket, or order through an online store.
For the majority of the public, space doesn’t matter much beyond being a romantic backdrop for a kiss under the stars.
So why should space matter to them?
As consumers of a news culture that’s almost perpetually dominated by the strife and strains of a world that seems hell-bent on self destruction, be it economically, politically, or literally, it would be easy to give up on the possibilities of space travel and focus instead on solving the problems that surround us.
But if we don’t continue our efforts to venture into space, experts believe we’re in trouble. Stephen Hawking said it himself, we need to colonise another planet within 100 years or we’re doomed.
Considering that we are living through a time when the US government has cut significant funds from NASA’s budget, it may never be more important than it is right now to stoke the fires of the public’s imagination when it comes to venturing into space.
The right stories can inspire the next generation of astronauts, spacecraft designers, scientists and astrophysicists to take up the responsibility of space exploration. And with NASA’s bold new plan to get people to Mars by 2030, along with commercially-owned space companies promising to take space tourists to the moon within the next decade, there really is more reason to be excited than ever.
The challenge is in proving to people they need to learn more about space – whether to inspire them to one day work at NASA or to consider buying a ticket to the ionosphere from Elon Musk or Richard Branson. But how do we drum up interest when it seems so out of reach? With science-fiction.