33 Comments

  1. Geez, that reminds me of a scene I just read a few minutes ago in a novel: Enceladus Mission by Brandon Morris.

  2. They simulated a long mission. They showed him something that he should have thought was a hallucination. He took it at face value and was going to let that hallucination in (or go out to it). He failed and they ended the test.

  3. So it’s the sci-fi trope of astronauts in deep space see images of long dead relatives. I’m not sure that any movie other than “Contact” ever stooped so low to actually *do* so a cliche ridden overdone such trope[*] but… it’s a trope none-the-less.

    So this strip speculates that seeing dead relatives will be a routine occurrence that training programs will prepare for it complete with actors.

    [*]Nobody ever did it because it was such a cliche.

  4. This doesn’t explain the joke, but there’s a JG Ballard short story from 1962, “Thirteen To Centaurus” which (spoiler alert) is set on a large faked spaceship, a psychological test where the crew think they’re on a multi-generational starship but it is just a simulation to test the possibility of a century-long flight. Well, the protagonist finds out the truth, but in proper Ballard fashion instead of blowing the whistle he stays in the station and embraces its opportunities.

    https://www.centauri-dreams.org/2016/03/25/thirteen-to-centaurus/

  5. Wasn’t this the plot of the very first TZ episode?

    I did see what was literally happening, just not where the joke was.

  6. I’ve never been able to get very far either reading the novel or watching the film(s) of “Solaris”. But I think there are some plot elements that connect with the ones being mentioned here too.

  7. This is the Flat Earthers’/Space Deniers’ wet dream. Believe me, I’ve had many conversations (such as they are) with one (yes, I finally had to delete him), and this is EXACTLY how they think it all was done.

  8. Well, the joke seems obvious, if a bit weak. As others have already said, this astronaut is on a very long mission in a small space capsule. He thinks he has a vision of his grandma and reacts spontaneously to open the pod. You expect some kind of revelation about the afterlife or maybe he has gone mad, instead, we find out it was all a simulation. 189 days runnning and he aborted it.

    The astronaut knew full well it was a simulation, see his “oh, Duu” reaction, but the long months of loneliness got to him. It was a test if he was still fully mentally stable and functional and he failed.

    As I said, a weak joke.

  9. There’s no punchline, if that’s what you mean, Bill. The humor comes from the unexpected twist. That’s it.

  10. This reminds me of the ‘Mission: Impossible’ TV series; I was always fascinated by the convoluted staging they so often used. ‘Leverage’ sometimes did the same. ‘Vengeance Unlimited’ did it on a much smaller scale; Mr Chapel used psychology more than staging.

  11. We are all on a journey. This comment made me think of this video, which I saw at the end of April.

    CIDU Bill, it is indeed the first episode of The Twilight Zone. I have the complete series on Blu-ray and can confirm that. Here’s Rod Serling talking about The Twilight Zone in a promotional film that was intended for people who ran CBS TV stations. It also features the opening of the episode:

  12. Woozy: “Nobody ever did it because it was such a cliche.”

    Philip J. Fry: “No one in New York drove. There was too much traffic.”

  13. A variant of the cliche is in Ray Bradbury’s “Mars is Heaven” — the astronauts really do travel to Mars, and find that all of their dead loved ones are already living there in small-town happiness. Or at least that’s what the Martians *want* them to believe — which they do, until it’s Too Late.

  14. I certainly wish I’d seen that ‘Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You’ video back in April; it is really really good. We’re lucky in that we are in a house that is 1) large enough that Hubby and I can spend time alone; and 2) has a pool for exercise and relaxation. Also, I began yoga again, thru ZOOM, with my yogini from WI. Makes all the difference, and of course, doubling my anti-depressants has helped, too 😉 . . . 3000 new cases here in FL in one day; I’m staying home ’til 2021.

    Thanks for that video, SB – I’ll be sure to pass it along.

  15. That TZ video was indeed weirdly positioned — thanks, SBill, for the explanation. It seems to include a compilation of several of his broadcast intro monologues, but there is also the material addressed to “You gentlemen…”.

  16. Woozy: “Nobody ever did it because it was such a cliche.”

    Philip J. Fry: “No one in New York drove. There was too much traffic.”

    Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded.”

  17. So did the astronaut in this strip know it was a simulation? Or had they tricked him into thinking he was actually in space?

  18. I think it was good science. They discovered that, in long-term isolation, this is a form of judgement failure which could happen and lead to catastrophic results. Now they know that, and can start to try to work out mitigation strategies.

  19. >I did see what was literally happening, just not where the joke was.

    This is an issue I have with Perry Bible Fellowship. The take a trope. Become aware of it, and … assume that’s enough of a joke and aren’t they oh so cynical.

    The joke is just that the space program would prepare for such sci-fi meet dead relatives scenario.

  20. @ WW – I think Markus had it right (see above): the “facepalm” indicates a classic “D’oh!” reaction, indicating that he knows he did something stupid.

  21. The first thing, I thought of, though, when I saw “Day 189” was Alfred Bester’s amazing novel “The Stars My Destination.” It contains an opening line I consider one of the best I’ve read. It immediately made me think of this poor astroneer.

    First paragraph:

    “HE WAS ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY DAYS DYING and not yet dead. He fought for survival with the passion of a beast in a trap. He was delirious and rotting, but occasionally his primitive mind emerged from the burning nightmare of survival into something resembling sanity. Then he lifted his mute face to Eternity and muttered: ‘What’s a matter, me? Help, you goddamn gods! Help, is all.'”

    The novel is known as “Tiger! Tiger!” in the UK and some other markets.

  22. (Pah! Re-creating a post my browser lost for me.)

    I heartily share the admiration for TSMD! I do recall the opening scenes of Gully Foyle drifting and waiting to die, and the little rhyme that expresses this. But I did not have the recollection of words and lyrical passage that SBill does, and afforded him that reminder based off of just a number!

    I believe we may have discussed the book before, in a context of the plot having some basis in The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre Dumas (père). As the alternate title “Tiger! Tiger!” suggests, there is also something owing to Blake. But also the anonymous sources for recitations like the one I mentioned:

    Gully Foyle is my name
    Terra is my nation
    Deep space is my dwelling place
    And death’s my destination

    (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_rhyme and the Identification Rhyme section)
    “Stephen Dedalus is my name, Ireland is my nation. Clongowes is my dwellingplace And heaven my expectation.”

  23. Andréa, I read a that to make as realistic a fake moonshot as a real one would actually cost more.

  24. Something that was just pointed out to me: If NASA faked the moon landings, presumably they faked the ongoing space program as well, including a fake Apollo 13 mission? And the embarrassing unit mistake that caused the fake Mars Climate Orbiter crash? You have to give them credit for such verisimilitude as to include failures!

  25. Chak & WW – you see, you’re trying to use logic!! I tried to do that, too, and also ask the question, “WHY??” But being logical and answering questions are not within the purview of Flat Earthers/Space Deniers. So I gave up and instead blocked the person, because his political views ran along the same lines (no logic/absolute denial of science). And this was BEFORE the pandemic.

  26. I wish I’d had that video earlier, when I was still in communication with the flat earther/space denier . . . altho I doubt there is a sense of humor in that person, either. (Also the video of the aliens, another belief that runs counter to the concept of there being no space, but that doesn’t stop those believers). The videos by SciManDan debunking all these ‘theories’ are good ones, too, albeit not humorous, just realistic.

  27. Ah yes, the chem trails . . . . My fave is the ‘dome over the [flat] earth; I think those people watched The Truman Show once too many times.

  28. Where I work, the IT department sends out e-mails semi-randomly to employees that state something like: “Your immediate attention is needed. Click here to resolve the issue.”

    The thing is, we’re repeatedly told to watch out for e-mails like that (and to immediately delete and/or report them), as many of them are phishing scams that originate outside the company. If you’re caught clicking that link from an e-mail that originated from IT, you will be shamed for it in the hopes that you don’t click on a “real” phishing scam in the future.

    It’s the same idea in this cartoon; no matter how many times the astronauts are told not to open the pod door in deep space, some still fall for it. After all, how do you really know it’s the genuine ghost of your beloved Gramma Schmoopie, or just another run-of-the-mill evil alien who wants to hitch a ride to Earth and foresee its destruction?

    Better weed out the gullible types before it’s too late.

  29. My favorite book-verse is from a Dicken’s story. A character sells Alexander Pope’s own copy of a book. Proof is the book-verse:

    Steal not this book for fear of hangman’s rope, For it belongs to Alexander Pope.

    Alexander Pope’s own copy of a volume of Lord Byron’s poems.

  30. A couple other variants of the cliche: “The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton” by Robert Bloch — glitch in test causes Clayton to think he has actually spent years on slow trip to Mars, actually only hours in testing lab, but he ages according to his belief; and “The Yellow Pill” by Rog Phillips — astronaut is convinced that in fact he is in a test situation and not really in space; he opens the spacelock, and — well, you know.

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