In the future, everything is terrible – according to most movies, anyways. But Neill Blomkamp’s newest film Elysium shows us a 22nd century which isn’t entirely the worst (if you’re rich enough). In 2154, Earth’s fanciest folk have abandoned the planet’s surface, living in style on a space station. But how realistic is Blomkamp’s vision, really?
According to science: pretty darn realistic.
Mark Uhran, former director of the International Space Station Division in NASA’s Office of Human Exploration and Operations with over thirty years of ISS experience, said that Elysium’s premise “is totally believable” and “certainly achievable in this millennium.” Probably not in the next 150 years, though; according to Uhran, we’d need to develop an entirely new system of launching materials into space. “In order to lift that much mass into orbit or even to go retrieve it from asteroids or mine it on the moon,” said Uhran, “you probably couldn’t do it with chemical propulsion. That’s a lot of mass in that Elysium space station.”
Elysium’s artificial gravity, on the other hand, is a concept that Uhran says scientists are toying with even now. Though still trying to determine “[w]hether or not NASA’s efforts to adapt humans to microgravity will be successful if they space in space for years at a time,” said Uhran, “at some point in the future, NASA – or whoever develops space stations 100 years from now – may have to go the way of rotating spacecraft and create artificial gravity. There are plenty of concepts for doing that.”
In Elysium’s production notes, Blomkamp confirms that he based his design for the space station on NASA’s early plans for the ISS: “Back in the ‘70s,” he wrote, “people were actually discussing the ideal of leaving Earth and building space stations for us to potentially live on one day. One of the top answers to that challenge was the Stanford Torus. I like the idea of taking this well-known concept and caking it with wealth, diamonds and Bel Air-style mansions – the idea, the image of putting these exorbitant, ridiculous mansions on a doughnut-shaped space station is hilarious to me, and it becomes something I want to make a movie about.”
Elysium hits North American theatres today, so check it out – and start putting your cash away in a space station stash, just in case.
- Blompkamp sure does love his garbarge, though
- Then there was that weird video he did
- There will still be some technobabbly in Elysium though, right?