The race to space propelled imagination of many around the world and that included the television & movies which gave us many classics such as the 1970s science fiction TV show titled “Space 1999”. Image source: Ultimate Classic Rock
During this lockdown and self-isolations in quarantine centre, one of the things I decided to do to kill the boredom (and make full use of the free internet) by watching old TV series which now is available on Youtube. I had watched a few but for space-related shows, Space 1999 crossed my mind instantly.
The premise of Space 1999 is very similar to Star Trek TV series but with some twist namely, the vessel that they are on in their journey
The premise of Space 1999 centres on the plight of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, a scientific research centre on the Moon.
Humanity had been storing its nuclear waste in vast disposal sites on the far side of the Moon, but when an unknown form of magnetic radiation is detected, the accumulated waste reaches critical mass and causes a massive thermonuclear explosion on 13 September 1999.
The force of the blast propels the Moon like an enormous booster rocket, hurling it out of Earth orbit and into deep space at colossal speed, thus stranding the 311 personnel stationed on Alpha. The runaway Moon, in effect, becomes the “spacecraft” on which the protagonists travel, searching for a new home.
Not long after leaving Earth’s Solar System, the wandering Moon passes through a black hole and later through a couple of “space warps” which push it even further out into the universe. During their interstellar journey, the Alphans encounter an array of alien civilizations, dystopian societies, and mind-bending phenomena previously unseen by humanity.
Several episodes of the first series hinted that the Moon’s journey was influenced (and perhaps initiated) by a “mysterious unknown force”, which was guiding the Alphans toward an ultimate destiny. The second series used simpler action-oriented plots.
I recalled watching Space 1999 when I was still a small kid and I remembered the star of this TV show which is the Eagle Transporter. Image source: Deviantart
Eagle Transporter and passenger pod have a combined mass of 328 tons. It is considerably heavier (by a factor of ten) than a real NASA lunar landing craft of comparable size, and the Eagle does seem to be remarkably strongly built as it survives crash landings with far less damage than a real aircraft or spacecraft would.
Capable of speeds up to 23,700 miles per second, or 15% of the speed of light, it is powered by four nuclear fusion rockets and carries fuel reserves for 48 hours of flight.
The Eagle can support a crew of two pilots. Up to eight passengers can be carried in the passenger pod.
The Eagle life support system, with maximum supplies, can support a 6-crew for little more than a month (i.e. the same theoretical mission duration as NASA’s current Extended Duration Orbiter space shuttles).
Most Eagle missions only last a few days and stay within one light-second of Alpha [direct communication is always possible]; the limiting factor being life support. In exceptional cases, the Eagles perform one-month excursions at a distance of up to a few million miles from Alpha.
The theme music for Space 1999 is one of the best theme music I have heard but then again, most of the 1970s TV show theme music has also been great. Perhaps it is the era. If this theme sounds familiar, then you will be familiar with the theme music for another science fiction TV series, Thunderbirds and Stingray which also created by the same creator, Gerry Anderson and composer, Barry Gray.
Whilst one needs to put aside some of the logic behind the science in Space 1999 series namely the fact that a nuclear explosion on the surface of the moon can propel it like a spacecraft, Space 1999 was indeed an entertaining show.
By the way, what happens to Earth once the moon is no longer within the Earth’s orbit is not show. But then consider the actual science here.
But what if we didn’t have a moon?
Here are the top five things we would miss without it.
1. Nights would be much, much darker. The next brightest object in the night sky is Venus. But it still wouldn’t be enough to light up the sky. A full moon is nearly two thousand times brighter than Venus is at its brightest.
2. Without the moon, a day on earth would only last six to twelve hours. There could be more than a thousand days in one year! That’s because the Earth’s rotation slows down over time thanks to the gravitational force — or pull of the moon — and without it, days would go by in a blink.
3. A moonless earth would also change the size of ocean tides — making them about one-third as high as they are now.
4. Forget about seeing any lunar eclipses — or any solar eclipses — without the moon, there would be nothing to block the sun.
5. Without a moon the tilt of our earth’s axis would vary over time. This could create some very wild weather. Right now, thanks to our moon, our axis stays tilted at twenty-three point five degrees. But without the moon, the earth might tilt too far over or hardly tilt at all leading to no seasons or even extreme seasons.
Without the moon helping to keep the earth on a steady tilt, scientists have even imagined that life on earth may not have evolved the way we know it.
It is just too bad that Space 1999 only lasted for 2 seasons despite the premise of the show. It had a very storyline which was very similar to Star Trek so it was easy to follow.
Each of the Space 1999 episodes has its own story whilst maintaining the overall story of the survivors of the Moonbase Alpha looking for a new home to settle down. The option to return to Earth is no more onboard.
By the way, the special effect in Space 1999 was impressive considering the 1970s – it is not a big surprise considering the special effects director Brian Johnson subsequently worked on the movie Alien and The Empire Strikes Back.