The new short story I wrote for http://terribleminds.com/.
What exactly did Star Trek mean when it said space is the final frontier? Since space is a seemingly endless vacuum there isn’t a clear goal to be had besides to see more of the endless mostly empty vacuum. Science had shown that every planet within reach of ours is uninhabitable so there was not a whole lot to frontier. That was 2012. That was 50 years ago. A lot can happen in 50 years.
Remember so long ago when landing on the moon was such a huge deal? Half a billion people turned on their black and white TVs and adjusted their antennas to watch Neil Armstrong be the first man to set foot on the surface of a rock that was not Earth. Now taking a trip to the moon is a high school field trip. Mars was once the unreachable red planet and almost every time we sent a probe droid it was destroyed entering the atmosphere. Now? Now Mars is a more popular vacation destination than Hawaii, or anywhere else on Earth for that matter. Jupiter? There’s a Burger King and a McDonalds orbiting it, just in case you get hungry on your way out of the Milky Way.
In 2020 a 55 year old man named Timothy Phillips announced to the world what he called “The Light-Speed Drive”. Phillips was a NASA engineer who graduated magna cum laude from MIT with PhDs in Physics and Engineering. For 30 years, most of his adult life, he spent his time alone tinkering with old parts and what most people would deem junk on his off time. He never married, had no children or immediate family and lived in a cheap rundown one bedroom apartment. He rarely spent any money on anything except more parts. When NASA’s space program was ended they had layoffs, Phillips was one of the layoffs. No one really missed him. He was a genius, but then again most people working at NASA were. Phillips was a completely different kind of genius. Very focused on finishing what he started he used his savings to perfect his invention. One day, he did just that. If you’re still confused at what it is think of it along the line as the engine in the DeLorean in Back to the Future. Only instead of traveling through time, you’re traveling through space. And instead of going 88 miles an hour you’re going much, much, much faster than the speed of light. Or, to make it even simpler, Phillips invented the Hyper-Drive.
Needless to say that wasn’t the only thing needed for space travel. Sure you now had a way to cover the distance, but we still needed a way to survive in the extreme cold or heat and land and survive on planets that are not hospitable to life, on top of all that we needed a vehicle that could survive at such speeds. Phillips solved all this. Not alone this time, instead he was given his own division at NASA. He and a huge team of scientists (scientist=geniuses) spent the next 10 years designing, testing, and perfecting all the equipment to do all those extraordinary things. Until, one day, we moved to the Moon. Seems weird right? It happened. Phillips and his team designed some sort of device that took the extremely limited source of water buried deep inside of the moon and created life. Not a complete, fertile, lush environment such as on Earth, but well enough for a few million people to live. Eventually the same thing happened with Mars. Same basic technology only tweaked. And the human race just sort of…expanded. It all happened very quickly and suddenly. One day we were completely confined to Earth, a few decades later and we were starting to expand outside of the Milky Way.
Of course there were accidents. An important machine stopped functioning for 33½ seconds on Mars one day and BAM, 475 people dead. Other times shuttles have flown into asteroid fields and in a few very, very rare occurrences have collided with comets. The excitement and importance of what was being accomplished was deemed more important than the risks and the expansion was, of course, continued. Phillips himself was, rightfully, deemed one of the most important men in history and he had schools, parks, and towns named after him and there were quite a few statues made. He won prizes upon prizes upon prizes, including the Nobel Prize for Science. His work was continued by his team after his death at the age of 70 in 2035.
Eventually more and more and more habitable planets were found. Some were even much better than Earth, although no extraterrestrial life was ever found to the disappointment of most of the world. After a while the novelty of what was happening finally wore off. It was still important yes, but people just didn’t seem to care much anymore. Few paid attention to what was happening and even fewer cared. Maybe space isn’t the Final Frontier because it was the last thing mankind ever explored, but because it is the last thing mankind will ever be able to explore. What if space is not endless? What happens when you find the end of space? How would that even work if it is even remotely possible? How far do we have to go before we realize that we do not need all the extra room? It’s the equivalent of owning a 30 room mansion when you live alone, there’s just no point in all the extra space. Of course there’s the one question no one wants to ask. The question that everyone is always thinking, but no one dares utter. What do we do now?