Love in Outer Space
September 23, 2012 by Zoe
We’ve been running a series of events at the Wellcome Collection’s fantastic Superhuman exhibition this month. With the help of a scientist and an illustrator, our audience were asked 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 fourth installment. We hope you enjoy the products of our audience’s collective imagination and can join us for the last event in the series on 26 September from 2-5pm.
We asked our guest storytellers to picture the following:
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 turning the situation over in their minds, and discussing the current state of research into longevity and the potential for extending lifespan in worms, flies and humans with our guest scientist Eugene Schuster, our storytellers decided to give our astronaut the following three enhancements: an exoskeleton, so it would be shielded from DNA-damaging cosmic rays; a 200-year long lifespan, so it would live to see the trip there and back; and heightened serotonin levels, to cope with the isolation and loneliness of outer space. We, the hosts of the workshop, decided to be generous and let our Virgin Galactic directors staff their ship with several astronauts, as a practical measure. This way, each astronaut would be able to sleep while the others took over guiding the ship to its destination.
The Plot: On their way to Gliese 581c, the astronauts are hyper-sleeping in shifts. The ship and its astronauts makes it to their destination without incident. There, they find aliens, who perceive the exoskeletoned astronauts to be deeply attractive. Love ensues, and a baby – an alien-human hybrid – is born.
Storytellers: Brian Jacobs, Samuel John Morris, Jodie Lam, Laura Alexandra Abbott, and Jenny Jaffe.
Scientist: Eugene Schuster, MRC Career Development Fellow at UCL in the Institute of Healthy Ageing.
Illustrator: Thomas Dowse (www.thomasdowse.com)