Outer Darkness

Apparently, “almost half” of the fluorescent light bulbs used in the Japanese module of the International Space Station have begun burning out far earlier than expected.
An entire section of the station thus might soon be left in darkness.

[Image: Kibo, the Japanese module of the International Space Station, soon to be without internal light].

Although an impending delivery of new bulbs will undoubtedly bring light back to the failing module, the implication that astronauts aboard something like the International Space Station – or some special, trans-galaxial touring edition, launched twenty-five years from now – might be faced with total darkness, a darkness from which they cannot be rescued, is mind-boggling.
At the very least it would make a great film: ten minutes into what you think is a science fiction adventure story, all the lights on the ship go out. There is no way to replace the bulbs.
The next hour and a half you listen – after all, you can’t watch – as a group of orbiting athletes and scientists slowly comes to grips with their situation. They are drifting out past the rings of Saturn inside a strange constellation of unlit rooms – and they will never have light in the station again.
Five years from now one of them will still be alive, half-insane, speaking into a dead transmitter. The price of seeing stars is darkness, he whispers to himself over and over again, as his failing eyes gaze out upon nebulas and planets he’ll never reach.

(Via Wired Science).

21 thoughts on “Outer Darkness”

  1. Super provocative idea. It helps me see a similarity I hadn’t appreciated: silent film predated and inspired film with sound, and radio shows predated and inspired television (introducing a visual component).

  2. There is one plot hole: The Sun is a bright light source throughout the region of space humans are likely to reach. The spacecraft in question would have windows, surely.

  3. and then much later another ship arrives and this man, mutated into a superbeing by the years of darkness, boards their ship and kills them all!

    oh wait, that’s already been done.

  4. True, amoeba, but plot holes are made to be filled. Rocket doesn’t have windows for some reason or another. Maybe because… Wait, it’s not my story–let the author come up with the reason!

  5. Why am I thinking of John Carpenter’s cult classic Dark Star? It was played as a dark comedy. If I remember they ran out of toilet paper, the captain was dead and preserved in liquid nitrogen and no one wanted to feed the alien.

  6. I LOVE this idea…

    re: plot holes… simple.

    premise: travel to the outer planets where the sun is dimmer.

    problem: lights going out one by one on the multi-year mission.

    visually: the movie is increasingly dark as essential services in the ‘dark’ parts of the ship require work, and only a limited number of torches are available. Ambient starlight/sunlight makes for a minimal amount on screen most of the time, but with an increasingly claustrophobic feel to it…

    climax: slingshot around (say) jupiter… the last original light fails just before the sun also dissapears from view…

    cameo reference: next line would be “my god, it’s full of stars” 😉

    …mostly though, this sounds awesome, and with the right characters and buildup… damn! Can I throw this idea around to some ideas people I know? 🙂

  7. Wait, wait! to ward off the aliens, the humans resort to use the fluorescent tubes as weapons. Later, the aliens’ fat is harvested to fuel torches. Irony ensues.

  8. The price of seeing stars is darkness. is a great line.

    Repeated over and over as he loses the last of his sanity.


    Sounds like they need to hurry on designating LEDs as spaceworthy.


  9. Plot premise:
    Japanese 100V lamps running on American 120V. It makes me wonder what they have up there for power actually.

  10. After a long journey in an absolute darkness, they would land on a mysterious planet, but they would never be able to trace back their journey from the earth because of the absolute darkness.

  11. 1. Bulbs burn out, leaving astronauts in darkness

    2. A variety of dangerous situations results, including loss of crew’s sanity

    3. ???

    4. Profit!

  12. why does every interesting plot that could be explored more and fully developped as a real cunematographic experience, has to turn into a violent/action movie?? this is typical hollywoodian thinking…and its starting to bore the hell out of sane person with a little more imagination than a 1yr old monkey!

  13. richard, i would love to hear what those interesting plot ideas are and how they could be developed w/o turning into a violent action movie. i’m very serious. i’d love to have that discussion with you and hear what you think about it. if you’re interested shoot me an email.

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