Space Exploration

‘For All Mankind’ Gives Harsh Reality Check About Human Space Exploration

* Warning: Mild Spoilers Ahead *

The Apple TV+ series, For All Mankind, just wrapped up Season 3 and is a smash hit for both critics and fans, garnering Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 90% and 81%, respectively. It’s a show that (probably) came about from the Amazon hit, The Man in the High Castle, which depicted a world after the Allies lost World War II, and also garnered favorable ratings of 84% and 81%, respectively, having both fantastic characters and writing.

Like its predecessor, For All Mankind also depicts a different world, but this time after the United States loses the race to the Moon, with the Soviet Union’s Alexei Leonov becoming the first man to step foot on its surface instead of Neil Armstrong. This historic event galvanizes both NASA and the United States to prove that America is still the greatest, resulting in the Jamestown moon base (Season 1 & 2), and eventually sending astronauts to Mars (Season 3).

Also like its predecessor, For All Mankind has fantastic characters and writing, but also doesn’t pull any punches in terms of the levels of tragedy and loss the astronauts and their families endure as humanity continues to push the boundaries of human space exploration. This is where the show really shines since it doesn’t just demonstrate how things could have been if we lost the race to the Moon, but how things could still be in our own reality as we prepare to send astronauts back to the Moon and to Mars in the coming years. Throughout the course of its three glorious seasons, astronauts suffer, they go crazy (one suffers from legitimate PTSD after a trip to the Moon), and a lot of astronauts meet some pretty grisly deaths, both in space and on Earth. During our own Space Age, we have encountered unspeakable tragedies such as the Apollo 1 fire, Challenger explosion, and Columbia disaster, and Artemis 1 currently sitting atop its launchpad is a testament to both our resilience and fortitude to keep going.

As our own world anxiously awaits the launch of Artemis 1 to the Moon, it’s more important than ever to prepare ourselves for the very real likelihood that Artemis astronauts and future Mars explorers will endure the same hardships and tragedies experienced by the astronauts in For All Mankind. If our own Artemis 3—slated to be the first crewed mission—loses an astronaut or the mission fails due to astronauts going crazy or dying on the Moon, we must keep going. If the first crewed mission to the Red Planet experiences the same level of loss and tragedy depicted in Season 3, we must keep going.

Despite it taking place both on television and in an alternate universe, For All Mankind gives a harsh reality check that space is hard. Much like in the show, some of our future astronauts to the Moon and Mars will suffer, some will go crazy, and some will die. But as we have demonstrated throughout the Space Age, we can’t let this stop us from achieving the impossible and pushing the boundaries of human space exploration to plant our flag a little farther.

We will endure, but don’t expect our future astronauts to have a sunshine and rainbows stay on the Moon and Mars.

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Lead Image:

Credit: Shisma; permission to share under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. (Image)

Laurence Tognetti

Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.

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