Video: “Elysium” – new movie to feature an orbital space colony

Huge rotating habitats,  promoted in the 1970s and 80s by Gerard O’Neill and others as the best places to put space settlements, always seemed to me to provide ideal locales for exciting science fiction. However, except for Babylon 5, I don’t know of any high profile sci-fi work that has used them. Till now.

This summer the movie Elysium, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, appears from the trailer (see below) to make in-space colonies key factors in the plot. The scenario is a future where the rich live utopian high-tech life styles in the Elysium space colony while everything is going to hell on earth. Damon plays a character on earth who is determined to reach the colony Elysium to obtain a life-saving cure. (See synopsis.)

This follows from a common but spurious criticism that space settlement is about abandoning earth and pursuing a feckless dream of a space utopia. This is a silly misrepresentation of what space settlement is all about. Developing space does not mean rejecting earth any more than if someone moves to Alaska it means abandoning the continental US. Alaska is extremely useful in many ways for the rest of the country, particularly with respect to resources.  Thankfully there is a small but significant number of people who think Alaska is a great place to live. Space will one day support earth and provide homes for a small but significant number of people who find space a wonderful place to live. And like Alaska, it will also be a great place to visit.