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

Throughout human history, the remote wonders of the galaxy have never felt closer to us than today, thanks to the constant advancements in space technologies that science continues to make. Then why would it be necessary 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, the idea that something is attractive in one way or another is what people want to buy.

So when we talk about the prospect of exploring the space, that is clearly something that you cannot pick up at the supermarket or order through an online store.

For the majority of the public, the space does not matter much except that it is a romantic backdrop for a kiss under the stars. So why should space be important to them?

We recently saw this with Elon Musk ' s unveiling of the official SpaceX space suit. It is nothing like the bulky suits of the past, but a cool, sleek appearance that would not seem out of place in a movie. In fact, it seems very close to the suits worn in Pacific Rim.

In a post on Instagram, Musk summarized the challenges of making space sexy, pointing out that "it was incredibly difficult to balance aesthetics and function. [It's] easy to do separately. "

However, it is essential to get this balance right for the future of space travel: it is not just about function, but about a much larger reason.

Why space is important

As consumers of a news culture that is almost constantly dominated by the struggles and tensions of a world that seems to be killing itself, either economically, politically or literally, it would be easy to renounce the possibilities of space travel and focus in instead of solving the problems that surround us.

But if we do not continue our efforts to enter space, experts believe we are in trouble. Stephen Hawking said it himself, we have to be doomed.

Given that we are living in a time when the US government is living, it may never be more important than it is now to spark the imagination of the public when it comes to venturing into space.

The right stories can inspire the next generation of astronauts, spacecraft designers, scientists, and astrophysicists to take responsibility for space exploration. And with NASA's daring new plan, along with commercial space companies that promise to bring space tourists to the moon in the coming decade, there is really more reason to be excited than ever.

An illustration of what NASA ' s Mars 2020 rover would look like, scheduled for 2020. Its mission is to search for signs of habitable conditions on Mars (Image credit: NASA)

The challenge is to prove to people they need to learn more about space – to inspire them to work at NASA one day or to buy an Elon Musk or Richard Branson ionosphere ticket . But how do we drum interest when it seems out of reach? With science fiction of course.

The role of science fiction

Science fiction itself is a huge genre that includes many forms of speculative fiction, from space travel to time travel, making it a difficult subject to capture for focused discussions.

More often than not, it offers fiction based on scientifically based facts or emerging theory. There is a lot of room left for creative licensing when it comes to speculating about the science and technology of the future – that's why some stories cross the line between science fiction and fantasy, and why you hear some people talk about ' hard sci-fi & # 39 ;, which is a subgenre characterized by a rigorous attention to scientific detail, rather than indulging in too many speculative flights.

The Fifth Element mixed science fiction with fantasy (image assignment: Sony Pictures)

Science fiction has an important role to play in igniting interest in space, as it appears to be not only possible, but attractive, stylish and sexy, and this offers endless fruitful opportunities for the creative industry to explore ideas about what the future can mean for the human race, especially with regard to our relationship with space.

I often start with what's new and now make my own interpolations of what that technology will look like in the future.

Dave Dorman

We spoke with science fiction and fantasy illustrator, whose work can be found in the pages about Star Wars and Alien comics, about the role that scifi makers can play.

"I find it useful to use reference photos ' s and articles / news stories about the latest technologies," he told us. "The science fiction images that I make often reflect current technology, machines, computers, robotics and other technical developments," he explained.

"I often start with what's new and then make my own interpolations of what that technology will look like in the future.

"I hope that the fans who see my work, as well as the great images made by other illustrators, painters, computer effects and the rest, will be inspired to be the scientists, technicians and visionaries for our collective future, just like Bradbury, Asimov, Sturgeon and Heinlein were for the generation that were influential in running the space race in the mid-20th century. "

Living the high life on Mars

The Martian, based on the hit novel by Andy Weir, became a blockbuster hit with more than $ 663 million worldwide in 2015 and became one of the best sci-fi films ever made. But it was not only popular with regular film audiences. It was also like a special treat, due to its accuracy. That is no surprise to make the scenes, science and technology look as real as possible.

What The Martian did so well was to preserve scientific integrity (of course, the science that it presents still meets) during a narrative journey that was able to defend the interests of an audience hungry for entertainment. With Matt Damon in the lead, it not only made speculative space sexy, it (most of the time) made real space exciting – which is an even greater artistic achievement.

Matt Damon is stranded on Mars in The Martian (image credit: Fox Movies)

The marsman is not even a rarity at the counter. Alfonso Cuarón ' s is a movie in a similar style and although some of the science it presents is not entirely accurate, it still offers an experience of space that feels real-world, with two glamorous leads in Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Christopher Nolan's Interstellar followed a similar path, and before that, Moon, Apollo 13, and so on, came all the way back to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

What these films prove is that it is possible to combine authentic science with a little artistic license and still make space space exciting and relevant for the contemporary public.

As with The Martian, the reason why these films were hits to the public is partly due to the fact that their makers have involved real-world experts. In a few decades, Kubrick shipped from the heart of NASA 2001: A Space Odyssey and Christopher Nolan when he was developing Interstellar.

Everyone in the room wants to know who you are wearing

And yet science fiction is not compulsory for science if it wants to make space.

The Fifth Element presents an inspiring vision for the near future that is catwalks that are sexy and punctuated with real weaknesses.

Luc Besson ' s The Fifth Element is a great example of a visually stunning space opera that tends to be fantasy, yet retains an earthly sensibility, while its protagonist with cabins wins contest tickets for a cruise ship vacation in space. And who knows, maybe it will look like 50 years from now.

With a superstar fashion designer who beautifies the look and feel of the movie's characters, The Fifth Element presents an inspiring vision of the near future that is catwalks that are sexy and punctuated with real weaknesses.

Jean Paul Gaultier designed the costumes for Luc Besson's space opera The Fifth Element (Photo: Sony Pictures)

More recently, the surprise hit and game changer for Marvel Studios, Guardians of the Galaxy, exploded on cinema screens with an extremely stylized look, rooted in the story of an orphan boy from the earth who grew up on the criminal fringes of the cosmos.

Speaking about the creative process behind Guardians, writer-director James Gunn ' s said that his film is "more about yellow and blue and teal and orange, but I also wanted the ante with the pulp elements."

"So we listen a lot to the pulp-roman colors from the fifties / sixties and that look from Flash Gordon – both the version from the eighties and the earlier comics. Really address this pulp feeling and bring it alive in a clear, large, colorful way was important. "

A still from Valerian and the Thousand and one city planets (Image credit: STX Entertainment)

Guardians 2 grabbed the same ball and walked even further back in April and now Lucer ' s Valerian and the city of a thousand planets have arrived in cinemas, sci-fi chic with a star-studded style (yes, Rihanna is in it) and a dazzling palette of alien sights and sounds.

Street cred in space

No matter how superficial it sounds, if we have learned something from the success of sci-fi blockbusters, it is that style that is definitely for sale.

Branson uses the commercial appeal of a fashion brand to normalize the idea of ​​buying a ticket to the moon.

The fly-on-the-wall images of space flights from NASA that the public sees through YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat is dominated by extensive space suits and large dials on neutral space ships.

It is therefore logical that style conscious Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic have registered with Y-3 (the ten-year partnership between designer Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas) design and make the "flight suits for our future astronauts and pilots […] items of clothing worn by our operational and maintenance teams and our hosting employees. "

Branson clearly uses the commercial appeal of a fashion brand to normalize the idea of ​​buying a ticket to the moon by aligning it with high-street fashion. It even has a fashion bible GQ talk about it. The space meets the inner city – and vice versa.

Although it is not just commercial companies that use signals from the worlds of sci-fi and fashion to determine what space travel and exploration will look like in the future. Realizing that it has an image problem, NASA has recently collaborated with Reebok to create what looks better in The Fifth Element than on the ISS.

Reebok has reworked Sigourney Weaver ' s classic hi-top sneakers from Aliens (image credit: Reebok)

This indicates an interesting move for both NASA and Reebok. The sports design brand that is not new to the design of the space, has made it to replicate the shoes Sigourney & apos; Ellen Ripley & apos; Weaver bears in Aliens. But now that the switch from sci-fi space travel to actual space design could open the lock gates for many other brands to properly use speculative concept designs.

Another great example of this real-world marriage and sci-fi design is the way car manufacturer Lexus was recently called upon to help with concepts for what transportation of the future might look like by Luc Besson for Valerian and the city of a thousand planets .

Inspiration for the Skyjet came mainly from nature. Dolphins, whales and sharks inspired aerodynamic design (image credit: Lexus)

Using what the brand is already implementing in its vehicles, such as artificial intelligence and an HMI (human machine interface), they helped the Besson design team devise the Skyjet (pictured above and above this article), a single-seat spacecraft that became used throughout the movie.

Feeding sci-fi with reality

Dorman sees sci-fi as a vital source of inspiration for technicians looking to the future.

"I believe that the marriage of technology and science fiction right now (aided by current visual effect technology and artistry) helps to make things that were once considered full fantasy now seem more credible," he said.

"I also think it is part of the job of the sci-fi artist to precede what things will be like in the future."

Stanley Kubrick ' s 2001: A Space Odyssey has long been praised for its accurate portrayal of future technology. (Image credit: MGM)

A similar sentiment was shared by science fiction writer Robert J Sawyer. He told us: "A third of my working time is spent every year on research, attending – and speaking at – scientific conferences, talking with working scientists and technologists, and visiting universities, laboratories and business and government institutions.

"But this is a two-way street. The reason that I and other science fiction writers have access to these places is that the working scientists recognize the symbiosis: they learn as much from our speculative answers to their breakthroughs as we learn from them.

"I have been an advisor to NASA, DARPA, Google, XPRIZE, the Canadian federal government and many other organizations, just like many of my peers."

Dream a better future

So the transition between the imaginary and the real is generally recognized as a rich and fertile breeding ground for everyone, with an active cross-pollination of ideas that occurs more easily than we might think.

A concept drawing of the second-phase rocket from Virgin Orbit while it is making its way. Credit: Virgin

We can now only be a few years away from the reality of space tourism, with NASA ' s Travel to Mars to place human astronauts on Martian soil in 2030 and companies such as Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin are constantly making headlines because of their ambitious plans to do the same.

There will always be an interaction in sci-fi between what is scientifically accurate and what is dramatically satisfying. But these films are inspiring people to look at the night sky again and to wonder what our destination could be there.

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Space Week

Welcome to TechRadar's Space Week – a celebration of space exploration, throughout our solar system and beyond. Visit our Space Week junction to stay up to date with the latest news and features.

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