So who is this Spaceman Ross, anyway? Well, to tell you that story in all its sordid detail, first we have to go forward in time about 100-200 years, and explain the dark but not entirely hopeless future into which Ross was born. Let’s do that now.
In the early part of the 2100’s the world had managed to somehow survive what was known as a Soft World War. Despite massive loss of life and property on localized battlefronts all over the planet, miraculously no major military campaign launched any nuclear attacks. There were many close calls, but in the end something quite astonishing resulted. By 2120, for the first time in human history, the wealthy and powerful elite class of every nation consolidated their power over the rest of us commoners. They must have realized they could make more money in peacetime if they managed us well. For the other 98% of human beings not in the ruling class this meant if you had a child he or she would never have to go to war, but they were never going to be super rich either.
It started with cease-fire agreements that read like sales pitches. It went on to multi-national treaties that were more like corporate mergers. It took several years to convince the most die hard boots-on-the-ground fighters to lay down arms in the name of good business for their leaders. After all, many of them fought for things like national pride and hatred of their enemy rather than business opportunities for the rich. Finally, the guns fell silent on the last of the zealots and dissenters. From then on if anyone tried to rise up against the status quo, they were swiftly dealt with in what were called “police actions” but were often executed by the military.
The newly formed One World Government was basically a huge international corporate conglomerate that owned every single bank and military force on earth. They centralized world currency and did away with all paper and coin. The rich were now totally and completely at the helm of humanity’s future, and they knew war was not our only danger as a species.
The world was not in the best shape environmentally by that time. Humans had done a number on it and in retrospect, years of past political debates over how to stem the tide of humans’ unparalleled destruction didn’t amount to very much in the face of our consequences. But the rich, being what they were, took a look around and said well the air quality is poor, but there’s air, people can still breathe. Then they said the water quality isn’t great, but there’s still plenty of water. But when they looked at energy resources, for powering everything from phones to aircraft carriers, they started to get very nervous. A big part of the problem was waste. They needed an energy source that could provide power while using very little resources to produce and was either reusable or left little or no environmental footprint. Scientists from around the world began to try developing such a fuel, but it was a slow and laborious process.
Then someone in the One World Government proposed something quite bizarre. I don’t remember his name, but he openly recommended that rather than limiting our search to earth for our solution, we should venture out into the universe and see what we can find that may be of use. At first the notion was risible, of course. His idea was thrown around at parties in some wealthy circles for a few months until eventually the elites realized the idea was actually gaining traction. To be sure, serious consideration of a space voyage to find a viable earth fuel was lofty at best and at worst a clear sign of the world’s desperation. Ultimately, the rich knew a multi-national space program would give the common people something to rally around together – an Olympic-magnitude human endeavor to save the species. They also knew there’s always money to be made in any human endeavor.