|The Lynx Spacecraft. Graphic c/o XCOR.|
by Brian Orlotti
Within a month of each other, two NewSpace companies have announced deals with TV producers to make reality TV shows focused on space tourism.
On Sept 25th, the Hollywood trade websites Variety and Hollywood Reporter announced that Sony Pictures Television is developing a new reality show where celebrities will compete for a ride into space aboard XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx spacecraft.
|Jeff Greason. Photo c/o Moonandback.|
The series, titled "Milky Way Mission," will feature ten celebrities living at a boot camp where they will undergo an intensive astronaut training program. Each week, the aspiring astronauts will face a series of physical and mental challenges to avoid elimination, with the final round taking place at the Mojave Spaceport in Mojave, California.
The show’s producers are working with Netherlands-based Space Expeditions Corporation (SXC), the firm tapped by XCOR CEO Jeff Greason last year to market the Lynx (and on whose advisory board Buzz Aldrin sits). The first season will feature Dutch celebrities, but future episodes would be recast if the show succeeds internationally.
|Mark Burnett. Photo c/o askmen.com.|
Dutch television network Nederland 1 has ordered a run of eight 1-hour episodes, to be produced by Tuvalu Media and Simpel Media (also based in the Netherlands). Sony will be offering the series to international markets at the MIPCOM tradeshow in Cannes next month.
On Oct 23rd, NBC announced an exclusive deal with Virgin Galactic, backers of SpaceshipTwo, to produce a reality series called "Space Race." This series will also feature an astronaut training camp format, where contestants will compete for a ride into space aboard SpaceshipTwo.
The show is being produced by One Three Media, a television and web content firm headed by Mark Burnett, producer of CBS’ "Survivor" (considered the original "reality" show). One Three Media’s other projects include The Voice (NBC), The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC), Sing Off (NBC), Shark Tank (ABC) and The Bible (History Channel). The company also produces various awards shows including the MTV Movie Awards (2007-2011), and the People’s Choice Awards since 2010.
|Walt Anderson. Photo c/o Space Daily.|
Burnett has tried to make space-based reality TV shows before. Back in 1999, he signed an agreement with MirCorp, the firm founded by Rick Tumlinson and Walt Anderson to privatize the Russian space station Mir, to produce a show called "Destination Mir." Unfortunately, the show’s development was cut short by the hornet’s nest of ills that befell MirCorp, including a NASA-orchestrated smear campaign, the de-orbiting of Mir itself, and the imprisonment of Walt Anderson for tax evasion.
Many decry reality TV shows as crass, sleazy, contrived and intellectually bankrupt. Others defend them as unique, imaginative, engrossing and entertaining. Whatever your personal views may be, there is no denying their profitability and appeal to millions around the world. Decades ago, lushly-illustrated magazines, funny cartoons and provocative films were used to broaden space’s appeal to the public. The reality shows of today could go a step further, planting a crucial seed in the public consciousness; that they can be a part of the adventure, too.