When Space Shuttle Atlantis landed for the final time at the Kennedy Space Center yesterday morning an era ended.
Like the Saturn rockets and Lunar modules of the Apollo program, the Shuttle will now become an iconic image in the history of space flight. It was a vision of beauty – graceful, elegant but oozing power – and it must have been exhilarating to fly it.
What will the space vehicles of the future look like? Well, Hollywood has already had a think about this one and if NASA is looking for any help with its R & D, it needs look no further than some of the sci fi movies of the last forty years. Here are five of the most iconic spaceships sci fi has to offer:
The ship that famously made “the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” is practically a museum piece itself in the sci fi genre. Bursting onto our screens more than thirty years ago, the ship was an instant hit with fans and has remained a key image of the Star Wars universe ever since.
For me, the Starship Enterprise is by far the most iconic space vessel in sci fi. Each NCC-1701 series craft is instantly recognisable to fans and non-fans alike. I can hear the theme music in my head as soon as I see the Enterprise. Can’t wait for the next movie in the rebooted franchise, due out next year.
The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is the striking image woven throughout Close Encounters that the characters are drawn to. But they, and the audience, are awestruck not by the Tower but by the alien mothership that descends, dwarfing it almost into insignificance. Thrumming with light and sound this is still one of the most gorgeously beautiful spaceships ever imagined.
The Galactica is the hub of the fleet that is home and refuge for the remains of human civilization after the Cylon attack on the colonies. Not pretty, not graceful, it is instead the beating heart of all that remains between humanity and extinction.
Imagery is everything in this movie. So it may be no coincidence that the spacecraft carrying astronauts Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood to Jupiter bears a passing resemblance to a neuron.
Just as a neuron transmits the electrical and biochemical impulses that allow thought to occur, so the alien monolith transmits signals which allow human evolution to occur.