News from Space: We’re Going to Mars!

marsAs part of their desire to once again conduct launches into space from US soil, NASA recently awarded commercial space contracts worth $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX. But beyond restoring indigenous spaceflight capability, NASA’s long-term aim is clearly getting a manned mission to Mars by 2030. And in assigning the necessary money to the companies and visionaries willing to help make it happen, they just might succeed.

As per the agreement, Boeing will receive $4.2 billion to finance the completion of the CST-100 spacecraft, and for up to six launches. Meanwhile, SpaceX is receiving $2.6 billion for its manned Dragon V2 capsule, and for up to six launches. NASA expressed excitement its collaboration with both companies, as it frees the agency up for bigger projects — such the development of its own Space Launch System (SLS).

elon-musk-on-mars-curiosity-self-640x353One person who is sure to be excited about all this is Elon Musk, SpaceX founder, CEO, and  private space visionary. With this big infusion of cash, he has apparently decided that it’s time to bring his plans for Mars forward. Ever since 2007, Musk has indicated a desire to see his company mount a manned mission to Mars, and now he may finally have the resources and clout to make it happen.

These plans include flying astronauts to Mars by 2026, almost a decade before NASA thinks it will. By late 2012, he even spoke about building a Mars Colony with a population in the tens of thousands, most likely established sometime during the 2020’s. As of this past year, he has also revealed details about a Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT), an interplanetary taxi that would be capable of ferrying 100 people at a time to the surface.

Fan art concept of the MCT
Fan concept art of the MCT

And then in February of this year, SpaceX began developing the MCT’s engines. Known as the Raptor, this new breed of large engine reportedly has six times the thrust of the Merlin engines that power the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. Now that the company has the financial resources to dream big, perhaps the MCT might move from the development stage to prototype creation.

And there is certainly no shortage of desire when it comes to sending people to the Red Planet. Together with Mars Society president Robert Zubrin, and Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp, crowdfunded organizations are also on board for a manned mission. The case for settling it, which Musk himself endorses, is a good one – namely, that planting the seed of humanity on other worlds is the best way to ensure its survival. 

Earth_Mars_ComparisonAnd as Musk has stated many times now, a manned mission Mars is the reason there is a SpaceX. Back in 2001, while perusing NASA’s website, he was perturbed to find that the space agency had nothing in the way of plans for a mission to Mars. And the best time to go is probably in about 15 or 20 years, since Mars will be at its closes to Earth by then – some 58 million kilometers (36 million miles).

During this window of opportunity, the travel time between Earth and Mars will be measured in terms of months rather than years. This makes it the opportune time to send the first wave of manned spacecraft, be they two-way missions involving research crews, or one-way missions involving permanent settlers. Surprisingly, there’s no shortage of people willing to volunteer for the latter.

Mars_one1When Mars One posted its signup list for their proposed mission (which is slated for 2025), they quickly drew over 200,000 applicants. And this was in spite of the fact that the most pertinent details, like how they are going to get them there, remained unresolved. Inspiration Mars, which seeks to send a couple on a round trip to Mars by 2021, is similarly receiving plenty of interest despite that they are still years away from figuring out all the angles.

In short, there is no shortage of people or companies eager to send a crewed spaceship to Mars, and federal agencies aren’t the only ones with the resources to dream big anymore. And it seems that the technology is keeping pace with interest and providing the means. With the necessary funding now secured, at least for the time being, it looks like the dream may finally be within our grasp.

Though it has yet to become a reality, it looks like the first Martians will actually come from Earth.

Sources: extremetech.com, (2)sploid.gizmodo.com, mars.nasa.gov

Timeline of the Future…

hyperspace4I love to study this thing we call “the future”, and began to do so as a hobby the day I made the decision to become a sci-fi writer. And if there’s anything I’ve learned, its that the future is an intangible thing, a slippery beast we try to catch by the tail at any given moment that is constantly receding before us. And when predict it, we are saying more about the time in which we are living than anything that has yet to occur.

As William Gibson famously said: “…science fiction was always about the period in which it was written.” At every juncture in our history, what we perceive as being the future changes based on what’s going on at the time. And always, people love to bring up what has been predicted in the past and either fault or reward the authors for either “getting it right” or missing the mark.

BrightFutureThis would probably leave many people wondering what the point of it all is. Why not just wait and let the future tend to itself? Because it’s fun, that’s why! And as a science fiction writer, its an indispensable exercise. Hell, I’d argue its absolutely essential to society as a whole. As a friend of one once said, “science fiction is more of a vehicle than a genre.” The point is to make observations about society, life, history, and the rest.

And sometimes, just sometimes, predictive writers get it right. And lately, I’ve been inspired by sources like Future Timeline to take a look at the kinds of predictions I began making when I started writing and revising them. Not only have times changed and forced me to revise my own predictions, but my research into what makes humanity tick and what we’re up to has come a long way.

So here’s my own prediction tree, looking at the next few centuries and whats likely to happen…

21st Century:

2013-2050:

  • Ongoing recession in world economy, the United States ceases to be the greatest economic power
  • China, India, Russia and Brazil boast highest rates of growth despite continued rates of poverty
  • Oil prices spike due to disappearance of peak oil and costs of extracting tar sands
  • Solar power, wind, tidal power growing in use, slowly replacing fossil fuel and coal
  • First arcologies finished in China, Japan, Russia, India and the United States

arcology_lillypad

  • Humanity begins colonizing the Moon and mounts manned mission to Mars
  • Settlements constructed using native soil and 3D printing/sintering technology
  • NASA tows asteroid to near Earth and begins studies, leading to plans for asteroid mining
  • Population grows to 9 billion, with over 6 living in major cities across the all five continents
  • Climate Change leading to extensive drought and famine, as well as coastal storms, flooding and fires
  • Cybernetics, nanotech and biotech leading to the elimination of disabilities
  • 3D Construction and Computer-Assisted Design create inexpensive housing in developing world

europa_report

  • First exploratory mission to Europa mounted, discovers proof of basic life forms under the surface ice
  • Rome ordains first openly homosexual priests, an extremely controversial move that splits the church
  • First semi-sentient, Turing compatible AI’s are produced and put into service
  • Thin, transparent, flexible medical patches leading to age of “digital medicine”
  • Religious orders formed opposed to “augmentation”, “transhumanism” and androids
  • First true quantum computers roll off the assembly line

quantum-teleportation-star-trails-canary-islands-1-640x353

  • Creation of the worldwide quantum internet underway
  • Quantum cryptography leads to increased security, spamming and hacking begins to drop
  • Flexible, transparent smartphones, PDAs and tablets become the norm
  • Fully immersive VR environments now available for recreational, commercial and educational use
  • Carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere passes 600 ppm, efforts to curb emissions are redoubled
  • ISS is retired, replaced by multiple space stations servicing space shuttles and commercial firms
  • World’s first orbital colony created with a population of 400 people

2050-2100:

  • Global economy enters “Second Renaissance” as AI, nanomachinery, quantum computing, and clean energy lead to explosion in construction and development
  • Commercial space travel become a major growth industry with regular trips to the Moon
  • Implant technology removes the need for digital devices, technology now embeddable
  • Medical implants leading to elimination of neurological disorders and injuries
  • Synthetic food becoming the rage, 3D printers offering balanced nutrition with sustainability

3dfood2

  • Canada, Russia, Argentina, and Brazil become leading exporters of foodstuffs, fresh water and natural gas
  • Colonies on the Moon and Mars expand, new settlement missions plotted to Ganymede, Europa, Oberon and Titan
  • Quantum internet expanding into space with quantum satellites, allowing off-world connectivity to worldwide web
  • Self-sufficient buildings with water recycling, carbon capture and clean energy becomes the norm in all major cities
  • Second and third generation “Martians” and “Loonies” are born, giving rise to colonial identity

asteroid_foundry

  • Asteroid Belt becomes greatest source of minerals, robotic foundries use sintering to create manufactured products
  • Europe experiences record number of cold winters due to disruption of the Gulf Stream
  • Missions mounted to extra-Solar systems using telexploration probes and space penetrators
  • Average life expectancy now exceeds 100, healthy children expected to live to 120 years of age
  • NASA, ESA, CNSA, RFSA, and ISRO begin mounting missions to exoplanets using robot ships and antimatter engines
  • Private missions to exoplanets with cryogenically frozen volunteers and crowdfunded spaceships

daedalus_starship_630px

  • Severe refugee crises take place in South America, Southern Europe and South-East Asia
  • Militarized borders and sea lanes trigger multiple humanitarian crises
  • India and Pakistan go to war over Indus River as food shortages mount
  • China clamps down on separatists in western provinces of Xinjian and Tibet to protect source of the Yangtze and Yellow River
  • Biotechnology begins to grow, firms using bacteria to assemble structural materials

geminoid

  • Fully sentient AIs created and integrated into all aspects of life
  • Traditionalist communities form, people seeking to disconnect from modern world and eschew enhancement
  • Digital constructs become available, making neurological downloads available
  • Nanotech research leading to machinery and materials assembled at the atomic level
  • Traditional classrooms giving way to “virtual classrooms”, on-demand education by AI instructors
  • Medical science, augmentation, pharmaceuticals and uploads lead to the first generation of human “Immortals”

space_debris

  • Orbital colonies gives way to Orbital Nexus, with hundreds of habitats being established
  • Global population surpasses 12 billion despite widespread famine and displacement
  • Solar, wind, tidal, and fusion power replace oil and coal as the dominant power source worldwide
  • Census data shows half of world residents now have implants or augmentation of some kind
  • Research into the Alcubierre Drive begins to bear experimental results

alcubierre-warp-drive-overview22nd Century:

2100-2150:

  • Climate Change and global population begin to level off
  • First “Neural Collective” created, volunteers upload their thought patterns into matrix with others
  • Transhumanism becomes established religion, espousing the concept of transcendence
  • Widespread use of implants and augmentation leads to creation of new underclass called “organics”
  • Solar power industry in the Middle East and North Africa leading to growth in local economies
  • Biotech leads to growth of “glucose economy”, South American and Sub-Saharan economies leading in manufacture of biomaterials
  • Population in Solar Colonies and Orbital Nexus reaches 100,000 and continues to grow

asteroid_belt1

  • Off-world industry continues to grow as Asteroid Belt and colonies provide the majority of Earth’s mineral needs
  • Famine now widespread on all five continents, internalized food production in urban spaces continues
  • UN gives way to UNE, United Nations of Earth, which has near-universal representation
  • First test of Alcubierre FTL Drive successful, missions to neighboring systems planned
  • Tensions begin to mount in Solar Colonies as pressure mounts to produce more agricultural goods
  • Extinction rate of wild animals begins to drop off, efforts at ecological restoration continue
  • First attempts to creating world religion are mounted, met with limited success

networked_minds

  • Governments in most developed countries transitioning to “democratic anarchy”
  • Political process and involvement becoming digitized as representation becomes obsolete
  • “Super-sentience” emerges as people merge their neural patterns with each other or AIs
  • Law reformed to recognize neural constructs and AIs as individuals, entitled to legal rights
  • Biotech research merges with AI and nanotech to create first organic buildings with integrated intelligence

2150-2200:

  • Majority of the world’s population live in arcologies and self-sufficient environments
  • Census reveals over three quarters of world lives with implants or augmentation of some kind
  • Population of Orbital Nexus, off-world settlements surpasses 1 million
  • First traditionalist mission goes into space, seeking world insulated from rapid change and development
  • Labor tensions and off-world riots lead to creation of Solar policing force with mandate to “keep the peace”

Vladivostok-class_Frigate

  • First mission to extra=Solar planets arrive, robots begin surveying surface of Gliese 581 g, Gliese 667C c, HD 85512 b, HD 40307 g, Gliese 163 c, Tau Ceti e, Tau Ceti f
  • Deep space missions planned and executed with Alcubierre Drive to distant worlds
  • 1st Wave using relativistic engines and 2nd Wave using Alcubierre Drives meet up and begin colonizing exoplanets
  • Neighboring star systems within 25 light years begin to be explored
  • Terraforming begins on Mars, Venus and Europa using programmed strains of bacteria, nanobots, robots and satellites
  • Space Elevator and Slingatron built on the Moon, used to transport people to space and send goods to the surface

space_elevator_lunar1

  • Earth’s ecology begins to recover
  • Natural species are reintroduced through cloning and habitat recovery
  • Last reported famine on record, food production begins to move beyond urban farms
  • Colonies within 50 light years are established on Gliese 163 c, Gliese 581 g, Gliese 667C c, HD 85512 b, HD 40307 g, Tau Ceti e, Tau Ceti f
  • Off-world population reaches 5 million and continues to grow
  • Tensions between Earth and Solar Colonies continue, lead to demands for interplanetary governing body
  • Living, breathing cities become the norm on all settled worlds, entire communities build of integrated organic materials run by AIs and maintained by programmed DNA and machinery

self-aware-colony

23rd Century and Beyond:

Who the hell knows?

*Note: Predictions and dates are subject to revision based on ongoing developments and the author’s imagination. Not to be taken literally, and definitely open to input and suggestions.

Google CEO Wants Land Set Aside for Experimentation

future-city-1Back in May, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page hosted a rare Q&A session with the attendees of the Google I/O keynote speech. During this time, he gave some rather unfiltered and unabashed answers to some serious questions, one of which was how he and others should focus on reducing negativity and focusing on changing the world.

Page responded by saying that “the pace of change is increasing” and that “we haven’t adapted systems to deal with that.” He was also sure to point out that “not all change is good” and said that we need to build “mechanisms to allow experimentation.” Towards that end, he claimed that an area of the world should be set aside for unregulated scientific experimentation. His exact words were:

There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation. And that’s good, we don’t want to change the world. But maybe we can set aside a part of the world… some safe places where we can try things and not have to deploy to the entire world.

So basically he’s looking for a large chunk of real-estate to conduct beta tests in it. What could possibly go wrong?

detroit_experimentOne rather creative suggestion comes from Roy Klabin of PolicyMic, who suggest that an aging and dilapidated Detroit might be just the locale Page and his associates are looking for. This past week, the city declared bankruptcy, and began offering to sell city assets and eradicate retirement funds to meet its $18 billion debt obligations.

What’s more, he suggests that SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who’s always after innovation, should team up with Google. Between the two giants, there’s more than enough investment capital to pull Detroit out of debt and work to rehabilitate the city’s economy. Hell, with a little work, the city could be transformed back into the industrial hub it once was.

And due to a mass exodus of industry and working people from the city, there is no shortage of space. Already the city is considering converting segments of former urban sprawl into farming and agricultural land. But looking farther afield, Klabin sees no reason why these space couldn’t be made available for advanced construction projects involving arcologies and other sustainable-living structures.

dragonfly-vertical-farm-for-a-future-new-york-1Not a bad idea, really. With cities like Boston, New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Moscow, Chendu, Tokyo and Masdar City all proposing or even working towards the creation of arcologies, there’s no reason why the former Industrial Heartland – now known as the “Rust Belt” – shouldn’t be getting in on the action.

Naturally, there are some who would express fear over the idea, not to mention Page’s blunt choice of words. But Page did stress the need for positive change, not aimless experimentation. And future generations will need housing and food, and to be able to provide these things in a way that doesn’t burden their environment the way urban sprawl does. Might as well get a jump on things!

And thanks to what some are calling the “New Industrial Revolution” – a trend that embraces nanofabrication, self-assembling DNA structures, cybernetics, and 3D printing – opportunities exist to rebuild our global economy in a way that is cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable. Anyone with space to offer and an open mind can get in on the ground floor. The only question is, what are they willing to give up?

venus_projectThere’s also a precedent here for what is being proposed. The famous American architect and designer Jacque Fresco has been advocating something similar for decades. Believing that society needs to reshape the way it lives, works, and produces, he created the Venus Project – a series of designs for a future living space that would incorporate new technologies, smarter materials and building methods, and alternative forms of energy.

And then there’s the kind of work being proposed by designer Mitchell Joachim and Terreform ONE (Open Network Ecology). And amongst their many proposed design concepts is one where cities use vertical towers filled with energy-creating algae (pictured below) to generate power. But even more ambitious is their plan to “urbaneer” Brooklyn’s Navy Yard by turning natural ecological tissues into viable buildings.

future-city2This concept also calls to mind Arconsanti, the brainchild of architect Paolo Solari, who invented the concept of arcology. His proposed future city began construction back in the 1970 in central Arizona, but remains incomplete. Designed to incorporate such things as 3D architecture, vertical farming, and clean, renewable energy, this unfinished city still stands as the blueprint for Solari’s vision of a future where architecture and ecology could be combined.

What’s more, this kind of innovation and development will come in mighty handy when it comes to time to build colonies on the Moon and Mars. Already, numerous Earth cities and settlements are being considered as possible blueprints for extra-Terran settlement – places like Las Vegas, Dubai, Arviat, Black Rock City and the Pueblos and pre-Columbian New Mexico.

Black Rock City - home to "Burning Man" - shown in a Martian crater
Black Rock City – home to “Burning Man” – shown in a Martian crater

These are all prime examples of cities built to withstand dry, inhospitable environments. As such, sustainability and resource management play a major role in each of their designs. But given the pace at which technology is advancing and the opportunities it presents for high-tech living that is also environmentally friendly, some test models will need to be made.

And building them would also provide an opportunity to test out some of the latest proposed construction methods, one that do away with the brutally inefficient building process and replace it with things like drones, constructive bacteria, additive manufacturing, and advanced computer modelling. At some point, a large-scale project to see how these methods work together will be in order.

Let’s just hope Page’s ideas for a beta-testing settlement doesn’t turn into a modern day Laputa!

And be sure to check out this video from the Venus Project, where Jacque Fresco explains his inspirations and ideas for a future settlement:


Sources:
1.
Elon Musk and Google Should Purchase and Transform a Bankrupt Detroit (http://www.policymic.com/)
2. Larry Page wants to ‘set aside a part of the world’ for unregulated experimentation (theverge.com)

3. Six Earth Cities That Will Provide Blueprints for Martian Settlements (io9.com)
4. The Venus Project (thevenusproject.org)
5. Arcosanti Website (arcosanti.org)
6. Terreform ONE website (terreform.org)

Babylon 5, the Dénouement

Babylon 5, the Dénouement

In the last season, Sheridan was believed to have perished at Z’Hadum, Garibaldi had disappeared as well, and the war has reached a state of intermission. A sad ending, and one which was sure to keep the audience in anticipation for the next season. And like season three, season four was chock full of revelations, action, and big climaxes! In a way, it was the natural topper to this series, to be followed by the relatively tame and epilogue-like season five.

Season Four:

The season opens with Ivanova once again in charge of operations around B5. This time, however, she is heart broken and distraught over the loss of Sheridan, as is Delenn. In time, they try to go to Z’Hadum to find him, but are forced to flee when the Shadows detect them and nearly take over their minds. In any case, they get no word from the surface and assume the worst. However, it appears that John is alive, and wandering aimlessly in a cave until he is found by an alien named Lorien. In time, Lorien reveals to him that he is indeed dead, that he is stuck in time because Lorien grabbed him shortly before he fell to his death. He says he can save John, but only if he finds something worth living for (as opposed to not dying). He finds it in Delenn.

In terms of the war, Sheridan’s kamiza routine with his White Star and the nukes has forced the Shadows to change strategies. Feeling vulnerable, they have decided to move much of their fleet away from Z’Hadum and place them amongst worlds that owe allegiance to them. The Alliance meanwhile is falling apart, member worlds choosing to pull their forces back to protect their own worlds and take advantage of the lull. Delenn insists that they must stay together, but they are unreceptive. She meanwhile confronts the new Vorlon ambassador and demands to know what they are prepared to do. Said ambassador, who is much darker and curt than Kosh, says they intend to do nothing and that their plans have changed.

Meanwhile, G’Kar begins searching for Garibaldi, a search which takes him far from B5 and exposes him to danger. The Centauri are searching for him, given the fact that he is the last remaining member of the Kah’Ri. He is eventually captured, and brought before the Emperor as a gift. This coincides with Londo’s return to Centauri Prime on the Emperor’s request. It seems the puppet Cartagia, now that Refa is dead, has made his own agreement with Morden and given the Shadows the island of Seleni to put their ships on.

Morden reveals himself, scarred from Sheridan’s attack but still alive, and tells him the Cartagia is killing off anyone who resists his will. Londo is fearful because having the Shadows on their planet might mean the Vorlons will attack them there, but Cartagia is unconcerned. He seems to think that the sacrifice of his world is a small price to pay for imminent godhood, which he believes the Shadows are able to confer on him. Londo quickly realizes that Cartagia is mad, and that he must do something to stop the destruction of his homeworld.

Delenn begins to organize an assault on Z’Hadum involving the Rangers and the White Star fleet, hoping it will rally the League and other member races. However, the League quickly move to denounce her and propose that they try to find an accommodation with the Shadows. They claim that there is no hope for victory anymore, that no one comes back from Z’Hadum alive. Just then, Sheridan walks in with Lorien at his side. They say they thought he was dead. He replies, “I was. I’m better now.” He demands that they stay together, that the Shadows can be beaten, and that he is proof. His words ignite the crowd and the alliance is reformed! Everyone appears elated, except for Lennier…

Sheridan then explains to them what the war is really all about. Lorien, who we learn is THE First One, the last surviving member of the first sentient race to ever live, who were naturally immortal, has filled him in on all the remaining details. It seems that the Shadows were right about one thing: at one time, the Vorlons and Shadows were both shepherds to the younger races. However, for millennia they have been struggling because they believe their way is the right way. And the reason the Vorlons no longer care about the alliance and were unconcerned with ascertaining Sheridan’s whereabouts is because they are now moving on every world where the Shadows have bases.

Garibaldi, who was also rescued shortly beforehand, is also concerned. He doesn’t trust Lorien, and seems very cynical and discontent about… everything. His second, Zack Allen, is also concerned, as it seems like Garibaldi’s rescue felt staged. However, all that takes a back seat to getting the war back on track. Now that the Vorlons are devestating any planet where the Shadows have influence, using massive Planet-Killer ships, the Shadows are doing the same in return, using a type of cloud-like device that sterilizes a planet’s surface. “Giants in a playground,” says Ivanova, describing their situation. While they battle it out, countless others are stepped in between.

But before the alliance can counter-attack, they must first remove the new Vorlon from B5. This takes the form of luring him into a trap. Lyta first reveals to him that a part of Kosh survived in Sheridan, when taking him to see him, they attack and destroy his encounter suit. However, no one is able to hurt the Vorlon himself (they are beings of pure energy). However, Kosh soon reveals himself and leaves Sheridan to fight, and the two are destroyed together. Sheridan is left virtually dead in the process, but Lorien touches him and is able to rekindle his life. Afterward, he explains to Delenn that he did not so much save Sheridan’s life as prolongue it. He has 20 years to live now, tops. Delenn is upset, but Sheridan tells her he will still have a good haul and asks her to marry him. She accepts!

At last, the allliance hatches their battle plan. While Ivanova is off recruiting as many First Ones as she can, Sheridan and the others learn that the Vorlons next targets are Coriana 6 and Centauri Prime. They have enough ships for one stand, so they choose Coriana since it has over 6 billion people living on it. They decide they will fight the Vorlons there, but that they will also lure the Shadows there by letting them know they are preparing an offensive from this system. With the two sides together, they will attack both and force a confrontation with the Alliance. Rather than planning on victory, Sheridan is hoping this confrontation will act as a crucible.

Londo is warned though, and begins conspiring with Vir to kill Cartagia. However, he cannot trust anyone else in the palace, and is forced to enlist the help of G’Kar. In exchange for his help killing Cartagia, he agrees to free Narn once and for all. On the Narn homeworld, during G’Kar’s show trial, he escapes and creates confusion while Vir and Londo kill Cartagia with a poison needle. Londo then returns to Centauri Prime, having been appointed the new Prime Minister, and begins removing all Shadow influence. He also learns from the head of security that Morden killed Lady Aadira, and that Cartagia asked that it be kept a secret. Londo is outraged, and it makes what he’s about to do easier.

He summons Morden before him, orders him to remove his ships, but Morden refuses. Londo is therefore forced to detonate several nukes on the island, taking out all the ships, and orders Morden taken away. Morden angrily proclaims that Londo and his people will pay! Ultimately, Morden is executed and his head is put on a pike. Knowing that Vir once jokingly said he like to see that happen, he shows it to Vir as a gift. Londo now believes they are safe since he’s rid their world of all Shadow influence, but Vir tells him there’s one that remains: Londo himself! This coincides with the appearance of a Vorlon planet-killer in orbit. Londo orders Vir to kill him post-haste to save their world, but strangely, the ships suddenly depart. It seems like they have been called in elsewhere, which brings me back to the alliance’s battle plan…

Back at Coriana 6, the Vorlons and Shadows arrive and begin fighting each other, both sides having brought their own planet-killer devices. Sheridan detonates several nukes to get their attention, and the alliance forces begin battling both of them. Things appear to be going smoothly, until the Vorlon planet-killer gets in range of the planet. They call in the First Ones, who then blow it up. Everything reaches a lull, during which time the Vorlons take over Sheridan and Delenn, so that they might have a private conversation. However, Lorien embraces both of them and lets everyone in the fleet listen in.

During his conversations with the Vorlons, Sheridan demands to know why they haven’t struck at the Shadows directly if they intend to “eliminate the darkness”. He tells them that he knows this is about influence, that its not for the benefit of the younger races at all, and that they are refusing to take sides anymore. Delenn’s conversation is similar, the Shadows try to appeal to her by saying her race will come out this conflict stronger, but Delenn refuses. She too says that they will reject both sides and not fight their wars anymore, but is told that they will fight and die for them because there is no other way.

The conversation ends when both Vorlons and Shadows realize that the rest of the fleet is listening in, that they know the truth. The Shadows pull their planet-killing shroud over the alliance fleet and threaten to kill Sheridan and Delenn. However, when they begin firing on them, other ships move in to protect them. It is thus clear that the Shadows and Vorlons have lost all influence, and Lorien tells them its time to let go. Like the other First Ones, they should leave the galaxy to the younger races, like his people did with the Vorlons and Shadows, and head out into the wider universe. They agree, happy that Lorien will be coming with them and they will not be alone.

The war is over! However, some accounts still need to be settled. Namely, Sheridan and his people still have Clark and his government to deal with. And now that he no longer has his Shadow friends to protect him, Clark is thinking the same thing. He sees B5 as a liability and begins running a propaganda campaign to make Sheridan appear like an alien collaborator who’s working against Earth. Sheridan responds by creating the “Voice of the Resistance”, using their wartime network to broadcast the truth about Clark’s regime and his activities.

Bester also returns, bearing information on Clark’s plans. In return, he asks that they go to Z’Hadum to see if they can find any leftover technology that might help them cure the telepaths they rescued. Mainly, he’s interested in helping the woman he loves, and in a private conversation with her body, he reveals that he has one final “ace up his sleeve” for Sheridan. When they arrive at Z’Hadum, they see a fleet of ships evacuating, and the planet blows up. Afterward, Sheridan confronts Lyta, since he suspects that it was her that sent the telepathic signal that detonated it. She tacitly admits to this, partly because she wanted to hurt Bester for all he’s done, and to make sure the Shadow technology never fell into anyone’s hands.

Around this time, Delenn is forced to return home. It seems that since she broke the Grey Council, unrest has been settling in between the religious and warrior castes, and even a civil war rappears to be looming. She learns of this when a new race, the Draak (who they learn were the Shadows allies) show up and try to take some worlds on the border of Mimbari space. After blowing their cover and defeating their attack force, Delenn realizes she must return home to take stock of the situation. As the one who broke the Grey Council, she feels responsible for the ensuing chaos.

To do this, she enlists the help of an unlikely ally: Neroon, the hard-core warrior who replaced her on the Council. He is initially reluctant, but in time she convinces him of her sincerity, and agrees to her plan. After war breaks out, Delenn announces that the religious caste will surrender and she will meet with the leader of the warriors – a man named Shakiri. They meet in the ancient temple that predated the Grey Council, where leadership were selected by “trial by fire”. This involved the leader of a respective caste entering the wheel of fire, where they would be consumed. Whoever was willing to die would have their caste become the new leaders. Since Shakirir has rejected the ways of Valen, they must embrace this tradition, or lose face…

Shakiri agrees, but is ultimately unwilling to die and flees the fire. He is therefore revealed to be unworthy, but contrary to what she and Neroon had originally planned, Delenn stays behind. He jumps in to save her, himself dying in the process, but not before he makes a heartfelt plea.  He claims that though he was born a warrior, the true calling of his heart is religious, and that their people listen to Delenn. She then goes about reforging the Grey Council, only this time, instead of their being three representatives from each caste, the bulk of representatives will be from the Worker caste. This way, the people will decide policy, not prophecies or ideologies.

After an atrocity where fleeing civilians are fired upon by Earth ships takes place, Sheridan decides its time for more direct action. Using the White Star fleet, B5 begins an offensive against the Earth Alliance, attacking Proxima, Mars, and then Earth. Meanwhile, Garibaldi, who resigned his post and became an independent investigator decides to turn on Sheridan. For some time, its been apparent that he’s changed since his capture and that something happened to him while he was away. In his new job, he enlists with William Edgars, a major industrialist who owns half of Mars and happens to be married to Garibaldi’s ex. When he returns to Mars, he learns Edgars and his people have their own plans for overthrowing Clark, but it goes farther than just removing the man.

Once Garibaldi earns Edgars’ trust, Edgars tells him that Clark’s real power comes from the Psi Corps, and that they are the power behind the throne. His industries have created a virus that kills telepaths, but also have created a cure. This way, they can control them and keep them from taking over. However, Sheridan’s offensive is an impediment to this plan, so Garibaldi is forced to betray him, luring him into a trap where Earth agents are able to grab him. Afterward, once Garibaldi knows everything, he meets up with Bester, who is apparently the one that’s been pulling his strings. While in a hypnotic state, he divulges everything about Edgar’s plans and Bester concludes that this is a remnant of the Shadow’s plan: that the virus is their technology, and that alongside supporting Clark’s bid for power, they put this plan into work – leaving his people either “controlled… or dead”.

Psi Cops show up immediately thereafter to kill Edgars, his people, and take the virus and the cure. Bester than frees Garibaldi of his grip, and Garibaldi is horrified to see what he’s done. He immediately seeks out the Mars resistance, finding Franklin, Lyta and Marcus there too since they’ve been laising with them. He tells them everything, Lyta probes him and sees he’s telling the truth, and they set out to rescue Sheridan. They find him drugged but alive inside a detainment center where he was being tortured and subjected to mind warfare.

At the same time, Delenn finds out that news of Sheridan’s capture brought the League worlds together, and that they have openly declared their support for Sheridan and his efforts. The wartime alliance is now a full-time thing, known as the Insterstellar Alliance. Ships from every member world are sent into the fray to offer support, but the front line fighting will be left to Sheridan and the Earth forces to ensure that everyone knows this is their effort, not outside interference.

And now that he is free, Sheridan returns and takes command of the fleet so they can mount their final assault. The Earth fleet is marshalling at Mars for a final fight, but rather than attack them directly, Sheridan’s forces and the Mars resistance manage to smuggle the altered telepaths (the ones they captured from the Shadows) aboard the Alliance ship’s where they began merging with the machinery. The ships are therefore disabled and the alliance fleet is able to surpass them and head for Earth.

Unfortunately, he gets back just in time to find Ivanova on her death bed. On their way to Mars, they came up against Clark’s best forces, a fleet of Earth Destroyers that had been merged with Shadow vessels. They won the battle, but in the process, Ivanova was critically injured and narrowly saved by Marcus. However, after being rushed back to B5 for treatment, Marcus finds out about an alien device Franklin inherited that can transfer life force. He gives his life to save hers, and tells her he loves her just before she comes out of her coma and he dies.

However, Clark has reprogrammed the defensive grid to enact “Scorched Earth” – aka. to level the planet’s surface. He’s gone mad it seems, and then takes his own life to avoid capture. However, his own people break into his office, tell Sheridan of the plan, and Sheridan’s forces manage to knock out the defense grid before it can fire. Sheridan then goes to Earth to offer himself up for judgment, and they decide to relieve him of his position as Captain, but thank him for saving them as well. Which is fine, since he’s got a new job – as first president of the new Interstellar Alliance! Earth is offered membership, but only if it allows its colonies independence.

In the season finale, Sheridan returns to B5 for his inauguration. However, we quickly see that the episode is a retrospective being told from one million years in the future. The main theme of the episode opens when Sheridan wonders aloud whether or not he and Delenn will be remembered, and he concludes “probably not.” Delenn tells him not to worry though, that they’ve created what they did because it was right and that history will tend to itself.

These words are therefore meant to be ironic since we can clearly see how their influence and their actions echoed throughout the ages, all the way to the distant future where humanity has evolved to the point of being like the Vorlons and are leaving the Solar System for the last time. The season then ends with the words: DEDICATED TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO PREDICTED THE BABYLON PROJECT WOULD FAIL IN ITS MISSION. FAITH MANAGES.

From what I understand, this episode was meant to be the series finale. One friend tells me this was because Straczynski had no intention of making a fifth season, but others tell me it was because the show was originally intended for five seasons but it was unclear whether or not the network would spring for a fifth. Either way, B5 would have one last season before wrapping up for all time. And as I said before, it was full of epilogues, some rather sad…