Those were the days, when we had real fake spaceships and it was all-about-the-science.
This Saturday marks the launch of the biggest vessel in European space history – the Automated Transport Vehicle (ATV), Jules Verne. Named for the classic SF writer, the 21-ton spacecraft is the first unmanned ship launched by Europe to transport goods through space. Russia has some unmanned vehicles, the Progress spaceships. The US Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz craft also visit the International Space Station but Jules Verne is the first new type of craft in 9 years.
“The ATV, as a logistics vehicle, carries almost three times the hardware, fuel, water and oxygen that a Russian Progress carries,” said NASA’s ISS program manager Mike Suffredini. “It is a major contribution to the program.”
The Jules Verne will travel for a week catching up with the International Space Station before docking. The astronauts will remove the fuel and equipment within and send the ATv back to Earth in six months time, filled with waste material. Jules Verne will burn up in the atmosphere although in the future reentry-proof canisters may be included.
Online video game magazine The Escapist, home to the hilariously funny animated review column Zero Punctuation, has the theme of space for its 136th issue. They talk about why the starfighter genre appears to have died down since the heyday of X-Wing vs Tie Fighter and Wing Commander and about how science fiction is, although often set in the future, a commentary about now.
Although the space combat genre is in a lull right now, space strategy and so called ‘4X’ civilisation games are enjoying some underground success thanks to the efforts of indie games publisher Stardock, which produced the critically acclaimed Galactic Civilisations II last year. Its latest release, Sins of a Solar Empire, came out this month and combines Real Time Strategy elements of controlling fleets of spacecraft as well as exploration and colonisation. Currently holding a very respectable 87% average on Metacritic and impressing this writer enough to squeeze it into my schedule, games like this and Will Wright’s forthcoming evolutionary Spore are showing that maybe there’s a future for space in video games after all.