© Provided by CNET Be sure to pack a kayak when you go to visit Saturn’s moon Titan. GIF by Leslie Katz/CNET
NASA may be focused on hard science, but it’s not opposed to dabbling in a bit of science fiction. On Tuesday, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center shared its vision for future human space exploration, and it’s inspiring.
The Visions of the Future video shows off exotic vacation destinations booked through the fictional Exoplanet Travel Bureau. “At least as important as the spacefaring rockets and satellites is the explorer and the inspiration to make the journey,” said NASA Goddard.
Perhaps you’ve imagined standing on Mars and watching a rocket launch, but have you considered floating on an elevated platform through the clouds of Venus, skydiving into Neptune-like exoplanet HD 40307 g or watching the two suns visible from the surface of Kepler-16b? NASA has.
The video drew inspiration from a series of travel posters NASA commissioned to highlight space destinations near and far, from Mars to dwarf planet Ceres to exoplanets located in other solar systems. They’re all real places, though we know more about some of them than others.
Stylish NASA posters imagine the future of space tourism (pictures)
1/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET NASA likes to envision a future where space travel is not only more possible, but more relatable. Over the past few years, both the space agency and SpaceX have periodically released some imaginative travel posters speculating on tourist destinations of generations still to come.The latest batch of NASA travel posters is the biggest yet, and it starts with this poster promoting a once-every-175 year tour of the outer gas giant planets that takes advantage of the same rare alignment that the Voyager mission did for its tour of the solar system. That means we’ve got until roughly 2150 to work out the technology and logistics to make the trip possible for the next alignment.
2/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET NASA hopes to send the first humans to Mars in the 2030s, perhaps laying the foundation for a future interplanetary tourism industry to such impressive sites as Olympus Mons, a volcano almost three times the size of Mount Everest, and the Valles Marineris, the Red Planet’s answer to the Grand Canyon, only long enough to span the lower 48 United States.
3/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET One day, when the colonies on Mars, the moon and in orbit are thriving, Earth may actually become a tourist destination itself. Imagine a family vacation to a remarkable place where the air doesn’t have to be brought in or manufactured — how quaint!
4/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET Venus is one of the most inhospitable planets around with its blazing temperatures and toxic clouds, but NASA has actually “floated” the idea of studying it from a base hovering safely above the planet. It’s not much further of a stretch to imagine a cloud city or resort above Venus eventually becoming a tourist destination itself.
5/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has allowed us to become much more familiar with dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. It’s believed to contain a large amount of subterranean water that could make it a very important waypoint on any itinerary heading deeper into the solar system. And that’s to say nothing of the potential for checking out a race or two across Ceres’ magnificent reflective salt flats.
6/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET We don’t usually think of huge and turbulent Jupiter as a place humans might want to spend any extended period of time, but all the crazy weather on the gas giant could make for some remarkable auroral light shows that NASA apparently fantasizes about seeing up close.
7/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET Great geysers like Yellowstone’s Old Faithful could one day seem so 21st-century in comparison to the grandeur of the many gargantuan plumes shooting into space from the southern end of Enceladus. It could even be more romantic up close than Niagara Falls.
8/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET If any other world in the solar system seems to resemble our own at first glance, it’s Titan with its deep lakes, rivers, weather and mountains. Of course, it’s totally freezing there and the lakes are made of stinky, flammable methane. But with the right vessels and technology, it could one day top a list of solar system destinations.
9/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET If there’s one place in the solar system likely to host life, it could be the warm(ish) waters beneath the icy shell of Europa. But even if it turns out to be as dead under there as it is dark, it could make a great place for a creepy, crazy submarine expedition.
10/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET While it’s a little bit further away, NASA still likes the idea that we could one day be traveling to the first exoplanet discovered, 51 Pegasi b. As the first planet seen around a star like our own, it holds a special significance, but you may want to save up your vacation days for the round trip, which would take 100 years to complete… if you could travel at light speed, that is.
11/11 SLIDES © Provided by CNET If you’re really up for something out of this world, NASA suggests a trip to a planet with a less-than-snappy name, PSO J318.5-22. This rogue planet wanders a darkened universe by itself without a star to orbit, so it’s definitely a destination with a dark side (because that’s it’s only side).Remember, if you’re looking to go beyond this collection of known worlds we could hypothetically visit one day, be sure to check out our 23rd Century Travel Guide for Extreme and Casual Tourists to get an idea of the kind of activities and travelers these posters might one day be marketing to.
NASA Goddard also shared a short behind-the-scenes look at how the video was created using green screens.
We often get to see concept art for distant locations like newly discovered exoplanets. That art doesn’t usually bring people into the equation, which is why NASA’s travel posters and video are so captivating. Humans might not have gone past our own moon yet, but we can imagine a future that reaches far, far beyond.
© Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
Be sure to pack a kayak when you go to visit Saturn’s moon Titan.