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This Day in Science Fiction History: 16 October

Fictional Entry—Thursday, October 16, 1997

Mission control for the Jupiter 2 launch with the words October 16, 1997, imposed over a view of people, old-style blinking light computers, and a viewscreen showing the Magellanic Clouds.
Mission control for the Jupiter 2 launch (© Irwin Allen Productions 1965)

The Jupiter project, a massive program funded and developed by the United States as a way of finding and colonizing habitable worlds outside of the solar system. Probes had recently discovered one such world orbiting the star Alpha Centauri.

The family Robinson (Professor John Robinson and wife Maureen and their children Judy, Penny, and Will) were chosen from among over two million volunteer candidate families to become the first colonists to be sent to the new world. Additionally, pilot Major Donald West of the United States Space Corps and a B-9 Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot rounded out the crew. With the success of the mission, the United States intended to send 10 million families per year in additional colonization missions. This was intended to help reduce the massive overpopulation of Earth.

One scientist from Alpha Control was quoted as saying, “[Jupiter 2 is] the culmination of nearly 40 years of intensive research” and the “most sophisticated piece of hardware yet devised by the mind of man.” The ship used a new atomic-powered ion and magnetic drive fueled by deutronium. This gave the Jupiter series ships the capability to launch and land from planetside as well as maneuvering in space. For interstellar travel, the Jupiter ships also contained a warp drive with a top speed of approximately 0.9 times the speed of light (or slightly under 601 million miles per hour). Due to the length of the voyage to Alpha Centauri, the human crew would remain in suspended animation for most of the five and a half year mission.

The hull of the Jupiter class ships was manufactured from titanium, though certain structural elements and hatches were built from cosmuim steel. To make working in the ship during flight easier, gravity plates were installed throughout the ship. Due to the way the plates interacted negatively with other gravity sources, they were left off until the ship reached a specific distance from the gravity source.

Shortly after launch, the Jupiter 2 veered unexpectedly off course. The ship’s new trajectory intersected with a group of Trojan asteroids. Radar systems recorded several strikes from the asteroids before Jupiter 2 began maneuvering again. No communications were received by Alpha Control. It was assumed that the impacts damaged or destroyed the communications array. It was also assumed that Major West was revived by the B-9 and attempted to fly the Jupiter 2 out of the asteroid swarm. Eight hours after the launch, the Jupiter 2’s warp core engaged and the ship accelerated to near-light speed on a completely unplanned trajectory.

No signals have been received since the activation of the warp core. Alpha Control acknowledged that Jupiter 2 and its crew are lost in space.

Lost in Space S01E01 The Reluctant Stowaway

Television Series

Irwin Allen Productions


This Day in Science Fiction History examines notable events, real and fictional, concerning fantasy and science fiction in various media.

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