Thursday, 29 November 2007

NASA mission to Mars and the Ministry of Space

Mars is further away than Scotland. Further even than the North Pole. According to NASA we won’t be going there for a while yet. Had things taken a different turn as speculated in ‘Ministry of Space,’ which sounds like a governmental department for interior decorators, we’d have been to and settled upon Mars ages ago.

The ‘real’ mission to Mars isn’t likely to launch at the earliest until 2031. In Ministry of Space we’d have been there by 1969! The underlying theories behind the advanced developments in space flight explored in Ministry of Space, are underpinned by the notion that in the last days of WW2, British soldiers got to the scientists at Peenemunde before the U.S or USSR and, especially, they brought Dr. Wernher von Braun and the plans and pieces of the V-2 rocket bomb back to England. The story unfolds that the Ministry was funded by a ‘black budget’, which ultimately turns out to be gold stolen by the Nazis. The driving force behind the Ministry is Jack Dashwood (he’s got one of those thin 40’s lip moustaches and everything) as he acts as a sort of Steve Jobs character, relentlessly pushing the Ministry as hard as possible.

In the alternate 2001 the U.S are about to launch there own space mission and Dashwood is summoned to an orbiting space station, imaginatively named, Churchill Station. He justifies his obsession to his escort, “we moved too fast, of course. But we had no choice. The Ministry of Space was leading Britain out of the Second World War. Our country could not afford to get involved in brushfires and posturing, which would surely have happened.”

Ultimately, when the U.S threaten to reveal to the world where the funding came from, Dashwood replies, “If I am a monster, then England is too. See if England cares, with her free electricity and cheap food and her glorious, unchanging aspect.” It wouldn’t be a ‘ripping yarn’ if there wasn’t some moral to the story and at the very end you see that the black woman who has been acting as Dashwood’s escort in 2001 is changing in a ‘non-white’ staff room, implying that for all the leaps in technology, socially England was still stuck in the 50’s. Despite the heavy handed moral lesson, that feels tacked on, Ministry of Space really captures the spirit of what a ‘British empire’ in space would feel like. It’s the closest you’ll feel to being on the red planet until 2031.

1 comment:

Saio Kaas said...

I don't know if you still check this, but I'm putting up my (timely) review of Ministry of Space on Friday and you had the best image of the British Mars landing I could find on the internet (I'm currently away from my scanner). I wanted to check with you before I copied and uploaded that image for my own use.