10 Lessons Sci-Fi Taught Me About Surviving In Space

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In the weeks following the premiere of the trailer for The Martian, I’ve been preparing for the film’s October release the only way I know how — by watching space survival movies. There’s nothing that gives me more anxiety than considering the crushing fate of being stranded in the infinite trappings of space. For some reason, the survival movie genre is one of my favorites. Go figure.

I’d like to think that I’ve watched enough films to come up with a generic set of guidelines to follow if I were ever to be trapped in space. Which, to be honest, will probably never happen because space travel wigs me out. (Alien abduction on the other hand seems cool, in theory, but in practice would most likely be even more disturbing so you know what, never mind…)

This is what I’ve come up with. (Beware: Slight spoilers for Gravity & Sunshine)

Rule #1: Don’t Panic!

source: Cosmic Cutie illustrated by Peter Cross

This quintessential bit of knowledge from Douglas Adams’ book series turned TV series turned film (that was received with mixed reviews) is applicable in any stranded-in-space type situation. Panicking is bad because it will waste valuable time that could better be spent coming up with an escape plan. Additionally, it can cause you to hyperventilate and waste precious O2.

Rule # 2: Get Creative

source: Muppets from Space/Columbia Pictures

Most items have more than one use. Depending on your time spent stranded and the size of your crew, you’re going to run out of supplies sooner rather than later (see #4 & #5). You may find you need to MacGyver some items to have them work in your favor.

(To be quite honest, this image isn’t really related but it was an excuse to reference one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite Muppets)

Rule #3: Make Friends

source: Silent Running/Universal Pictures

Space is lonely, especially when you’re stranded. It’s important to keep up on your social interactions so you don’t go insane. If you can’t make any “real friends” out of inanimate objects or high-tech smiley face computers, you can always hallucinate George Clooney. That works as well.

4. Don’t Run Out of Oxygen

source: Apollo 13/Universal Pictures

Running out of oxygen is pretty much unavoidable if you’re stranded, since you most likely weren’t planning on being in space as long as you now are. There are ways around this if you plan ahead. So again, get creative! And refer to rule #8.

5. Don’t Run Out of Fuel

source: Firefly/Twentieth Century Fox

This is pretty much a given. There’s a high probability of this happening because there needs to be a horrific event that occurs that leads to you being stranded in space in the first place. If it can be avoided, please try to avoid it. If not, you’re going to have to be on the lookout for some more fuel or a different form of transportation.

Rule #6: Morals Are Out The Window

source: Sunshine/Twentieth Century Fox

Sometimes murder is okay. Or at least something you don’t need to worry about until you’re back at home safe on Earth. It’s you or them and hey, if it’s good enough for Chris Evans, it should be good enough for you.

7. Send Out A Rescue Beacon

cover image: Gravity/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

… Someone will hopefully see it? We really won’t know until the end of the film, but it’s worth a shot.

Rule #8: Be On the Lookout For Other Ships

source: Moon/Sony Classics

If you’re stranded in space it is highly likely that you will #4 run out of oxygen or #5 run out of fuel. This also fits in with rule #2 – get creative. Even if the other craft you find is abandoned, which it very well may be, you can still use it’s resources. This is ultimately better because you don’t want to have to worry about dealing with hostile enemies in your weakened state.

9. Send Out A Farewell Transmission

source: Sunshine/Twentieth Century Fox

Just in case, it’s nice to leave a message for your family. At best, it will be something to laugh at when you’re back home on Earth with your loved ones.

10. Don’t Give Up

source: Alien/Twentieth Century Fox

Overall, the most important lesson is don’t quit. Your situation may seem dire. You may just want to quit, but don’t give up! Because if you survive – you’ll have one hell of a story to tell.


cover image: Gravity/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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