In the modern world, it is crucial for any military to control Space, to gain access to services such as reconnaissance, communication, and geopositioning. To better coordinate these efforts, the United States decided to put them under the control of a dedicated branch of their military. This isn’t just what happened in the real world in 2019, this is also the premise of the 2020 TV series “Space Force”.
The comedy, starring Steve Carell and John Malkovich, premiered on Netflix on 29 May 2020, to mixed reviews. Many have criticized the series for having missed potential despite the stellar cast, or for having opted for workplace comedy instead of going for sharp political satire. This criticism may be perfectly valid, but something particularly important for us spaceflight enthusiasts has to be pointed out.
Outer space is often considered as a place enshrouded in mystery, almost mythological. However, for many people it’s an everyday job. Their occupation is to coordinate rocket launches, design manned spacecraft, or control distant space probes. Many of us strive to become some of them, and with the ongoing space economy boom fulfilling such a dream will become more and more common. As humanity becomes a multi-planetary species, as we all hope, having something to do with spaceflight will be something normal, as today is having taken a plane.
Today, a place like a mission control center only appears in a science fiction work, where it’s probably functional to the plot. But in the future, when a mission control center (or whatever will take its place) will be something everyone is familiar with, it will probably appear in TV shows and movies completely unrelated to spaceflight. Granted, it probably won’t be common to see movies about a love story developing between the Flight Dynamics Officer and the Flight Activities Officer, but it won’t be strange either.
I think Space Force is important because it has done just that. It’s a workplace comedy where characters screw up and where silly situations arise. Yes, it’s set in the spaceflight branch of the US Armed Forces, but for a spaceflight enthusiast, such a background seems pretty normal. Going forward, the same will be true for an increasing number of people. The series also shows how close we are to such normality being achieved. The show doesn’t need an Epstein drive or some other almost magical technical breakthrough to depict normal people working in spaceflight. The technology we currently have is enough, and it’s shown with decent realism (for a comedy, of course). We can reasonably hope this will keep becoming the norm in the real world as well.
Space Force has set a precedent. In the past, spaceflight was something to dream about. In the future, spaceflight will be something to work with. Already in the present, spaceflight is something to use as a setting for a comedy. If you think about it, it’s a decent leap forward.