Last Night An Astronaut Saved My Life
September 24, 2012 by Zoe
We’ve been running a series of events at the fantastic Superhuman exhibition this month at the Wellcome Collection. With the help of a scientist and an illustrator, we ask our audience to design their own superhuman in response to a futuristic scenario.
So far we’ve produced eight fantastical, bizarre and in some cases hilarious stories that we’ll be posting over the next week. Here’s the fifth installment. We hope you enjoy the products of our audience’s collective imagination, and perhaps can join us for the last event in the series on 26 September from 2-5pm.
We asked our storytellers to ponder the following scenario:
The year is 2050. Virgin Galactic are planning a manned mission to Gliese 581c, 192 trillion km or 23 light years away, the closest habitable planet to Earth in another solar system. With a nuclear-powered spacecraft the trip will take 50 years, and the astronauts will need to cope with an extended period of living in isolation and in zero gravity.
You are in charge of Virgin Galactic’s astronaut development lab, and have a range of genetic, neurological, and anatomical modifications at your disposal. Choose three enhancements that will make your astronaut a perfect fit for this challenging mission.
After pondering the difficulties of deep space travel, and the obstacles our astronauts could face, they decided to give their crew the ability to communicate telepathically (always handy), empathetic and loyal dispositions (to avoid squabbles and bickers in close confinement during their long, claustrophobic journey), and – most originally – the ability to live in a continually circling life cycle that transforms aged astronauts back into babies, like the deep sea animal hydra.
The Plot: The astronauts are put into hypersleep for the duration of their long journey to Gliese. While asleep, technology on earth progresses, and another ship is sent to Gliese which is even faster than their own ship – and thus can arrive there first. The ship’s computer is supposed to wake them and alert them to the change of plans, and send them home – but the ship’s motherboard malfunctions. As a result, they continue on their journey to Gliese, where – unbeknownst to them – the second ship has already arrived. The human population – which is neither telepathic nor life-cycling – has already established a colony on Gilese, a very rowdy and very noisy party destination: Space Ibiza. The Gilesians who already lived there are exhausted and upset by the noise, utterly despairing at their lot – and very resentful of the human colony. War could ensue if they don’t turn the noise down. The life-cycling astronauts use their telepathic powers to pump imaginary music into the venue, keeping both the 24-hour-party-people and the aliens happy.
Storytellers: Tom Preston, Hiliary Jenkins, Cat Lee, Laura Bradley, Eva Szatmari, Elizabeth Torosyan, Massis Torosyan, Caroline Ovola.
Scientist: Ed Bracey, PhD student in sensory neuroscience at University College London.
Illustrator: Rachel Emily Taylor (http://rachelemilytaylor.com/)