Exploratory missions

In the introductory scene where Shaw and Holloway explain their hokey search for Bald Xenu Jesus to the rest of the crew, we learn that several of the crewmembers literally do not know why they are there.

As an expository device, that scene was incredibly clumsy. In a more general sense it was even worse because it immediately made me start wondering about a) who the hell signs up for a two-year research mission on another planet without knowing what they’ll be working on or why, and b) who picked out the crew in the first place.

Costume Design and the Crew of Prometheus

I enjoy the posts on Hello, Tailor a lot, but point (a) here threw me a little. Because I would certainly consider it. I mean, presumably in 2091 GOING TO SPACE is less of a big deal, but surely it’s still enticing? ‘Mission on another planet’ is enough of a draw that the specifics don’t seem that important.

I know I’ve spent enough time thinking about when humanity finally gets its act together and sends some people to Mars … that’s a four-year, one-way journey. And yet it’s one of the things that kind of makes me sorry I didn’t continue on in geology. Because a geologist would be a reasonable choice to send to Mars. An editor doesn’t have much chance.

Maybe in the future everyone is blasé about going to other planets? But I feel, surely, there are people for whom the thrill of exploration would be enough. It doesn’t matter whether Weyland’s funding it because he’s thinking of terraforming it, or because there’s exciting new plant life that could give us new medicines, or because there’s some reason to think there might be sentient alient life, or just, hey, new planet, might have some interesting rocks!

I mean, back in the day, the Endeavour was sent on a secret mission to discover a hypothetical continent. The official reason was to go to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus, but ‘As soon as that part of the work was completed, so Cook’s secret instructions directed him, he was to put to sea in search of the great southern continent.’ (The Discovery of New Zealand, J.C. Beaglehole.) That’s not just secret from the crew, or the public – that’s sealed instructions that Cook wasn’t to open till after the transit.

And that ended up being a three-year voyage. No cryo-sleep in the eighteen century either!

There’s a lot of things to complain about in Prometheus, but I don’t think them keeping the purpose of the mission secret is one of them. ‘Commercial sensitivity’ is probably all the excuse they need.

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