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Casual Interplanetary Travel

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Eternal Father, King of birth, who didst create the heaven and earth!
And bid the planets and the sun, their own appointed orbits run!
O hear us when we seek thy grace, for those who soar through outer space.
— J.E. Volonte

Currently it takes about 20 million dollars of government support to get a single human being into Low Earth Orbit, and only robots have gone beyond the moon. Aside from the massive cost there are supply considerations because getting just about anywhere takes months if not years. However, in many stories involving space (and nearly all outside of literature), even if interstellar travel is hard, interplanetary travel is easy, taking a couple days at most and within the range of at least an upper-middle class person cost wise.

In context, it's not that bad; historically, Christopher Columbus' first voyage cost less than two million - and once you reach orbit, you're halfway to anywhere. Once the infrastructure was in place, the original American immigrants made their journeys on personal funds - so there's no reason that the phenomenon shouldn't repeat itself by the 2050's so long as we get a "space Mayflower" by the 2020's. Better get to work on that.


Sister Trope of Casual Interstellar Travel. Sometimes there's minimum range limitation that makes only interstellar transit easy (say, wormholes), sometimes interstellar travel is still sublight or very difficult, but this is easy. At the other end of the spectrum, see Interplanetary Voyage (where interplanetary travel is treated as so difficult that it takes up the whole story) and Generation Ships.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Aria has people from Earth regularly visiting Mars (now called Aqua) for business or pleasure. A girl the main cast meets returns in the first season just to go to a New Years festival.
  • Cowboy Bebop has this, with the constantly broke protagonists nevertheless able to afford to operate an interplanetary fishing(!?) ship. This is facilitated by hyperspace, however.
  • Subtle examples can be found in the Gundam series, which likes to use Lagrange points around the Earth for its colonies, with the furthest ones at the L2 point (where the Principality of Zeon is located) being past lunar orbit. The L3 point (where Mobile Suit Gundam begins for example) is on the opposite side from the moon at any given time. Travel between these points, or from one to the Earth or the moon, takes a few days at most. Going out past the immediate area of lunar orbit, however, takes several months.
    • In the UC timeline, there exist colonies out at Jupiter, for gas-mining purposes. Travel out to the Jovian colonies is therefore fairly common and not much of a big deal, though it does take about six months on average to make the trip.
  • Lyrical Nanoha series is a bit vague about its cosmology but it seems that "dimension", "world", and "planet" mean the same thing in the setting. Spells like Dimensional Transfer are readily available to Magitek mages, and in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vi Vid, the heroes take a shuttle to another planet like one would take a bus to another town.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Sangtee Empire covers at least two star systems and have shipping lanes through space, however interstellar travel is still a large undertaking for them especially to places outside the Empire's borders.

    Fan Works 
  • In A.A. Pessimal's Discworld and The Big Bang Theory crossover The Many Worlds Interpretation, HEX (via the Travelling Engine) makes it easy for the Roundworlders to experience the Discworld in small, well-escorted parties. Things still go wrong, especially when Sheldon twocks the Engine and randomly programs it in such a way that HEX has to spend time untangling things. Penny gets to be First Woman on the Moon. At first, she is not greatly impressed.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Gattaca has the eponymous company launching several spacecraft a day, including one to Titan, and is in no way implied to be the only company in the business.

  • Alien in a Small Town: A trip to Mars on a passenger ship takes weeks, and doesn't seem terribly expensive.
  • Averted in The Children's Crusade by Robert Reed. The three superpowers attempt manned landings on Mars - all of which fail. The American ship manages to reach Mars, but finds their lander inoperative - they leave back for Earth, while systems on the ship fail and kill 4 of the 7 crew. The European Union launches two ships. One of the landers explodes on entry, and the other lands - but is bogged down in extremely fine Martian dust, causing it to sit at an odd angle, making it impossible to lift off again, stranding the crew on the surface. The Chinese build an elaborate, highly efficient ship powered by a fusion rocket, which explodes from impurities in its reaction chamber as it leaves Earth's orbit.
  • Robert A. Heinlein
    • His "Future History" has regular interplanetary travel available to the majority of humanity, but also repeatedly details how much work it took to make it Casual - see the quotes page.
    • In Heinlein's juvenile The Rolling Stones, buying a spaceship capable of flying from the Moon to the Asteroid Belt is roughly equivalent to buying a sailing vessel big enough for a family to go on an ocean voyage.
  • In the Honor Harrington series, travel between planets is casual to the point of day trips to other planets by middle class people being possible (with favorable orbital positions). Midway through the series Honor commutes for a time between the Naval Academy on Manticore and her home planet of Sphinx.
  • Due to space itself working differently in Larklight (Space Is an Ocean and also breathable for short periods) and faster-than-light speed a matter of mixing the right chemicals together in the engine room, travel across the solar system is not significantly more difficult from travel across the sea in finest Space Opera form.
  • In Alastair Reynolds' novels, interstellar travel is very arduous, as he is strict about there being no FTL travel in his stories. However, interplanetary travel is portrayed as relatively casual.
  • Slowly seen coming about in Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey series. 2001 A Space Odyssey has the first manned mission ever to Saturn (retconned to Jupiter in the rest of the series to match the film), by 2061, the third book, interplanetary travel is evidently much more common, with colonies or outposts on several planets and moons and book opens with the protagonist as a guest on a luxury commercial cruise to a comet. By 3001, interplanetary travel is fairly routine.
  • In Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312, a trip from Mercury to Pluto via terrarium (hollowed-out asteroids containing largely self-sufficient biospheres) is measured in weeks. Relatively fast, but still leading some of those travelling to get temp jobs for the duration.
  • Averted in the more hard sci-fi novels of Stephen Baxter, particularly Voyage.
  • Averted in the The Lords of Creation series by S.M. Stirling. Space travel and colonisation is so expensive only the superpowers can afford it, using up the resources that would otherwise be spent on the East/West arms race or Third World conflict.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Expanse takes place in the 2300s, where the Epstein drive, a fusion drive capable of constant thrust have enabled the colonization of the Solar System. A single person can have their own mining ship, most trips take a couple weeks at most, and there are regular passenger services between population centers.
  • Firefly has this, as The ’Verse is confirmed to take place in one large, multi-star system. Although it stretches the definition of "casual" somewhat as transit times are often measured in weeks.
  • In Killjoys all the action on the show takes place in the neighborhood of a single inhabitable planet and its three inhabitable moons. The protagonists have no problem moving between them extremely fast.
  • From what we see of Lister's past in Red Dwarf, interplanetary travel is quite casual, with people living on several different planets and moons and often moving or having vacations to another. However, interstellar travel is not casual, and requires being sealed in stasis as it takes years.
    • Or at least it wasn't casual in Lister's home period. By the time Kryten left the solar system things must have become a bit easier, since his ship crash landed a long way from Earth (almost as far out as Red Dwarf itself got in 3,000,000 years.)
      • Though it is heavily implied that the crew had been dead for a good long time, and the ship might have been adrift for who knows how long, so it might not have been that much more casual.
  • The Stargate-verse has various shuttle-craft (Al'kesh, Puddle-Jumpers, etc.) that make it a breeze to fly from a planet's surface to say, the nearby moon. Not that every galactic Joe can own one, since they're mostly in the hands of organized militaries, empires, and crime syndicates, but it's not unheard of for a particularly enterprising individual to have their own private spacecraft.
    • For Earth specifically this is averted for several seasons until we have time to build our own ships, despite long since having become an interstellar power due to the SG teams and the stargates enabling Casual Interstellar Travel.
  • In the Canadian show Starhunter, interplanetary travel is semi-realistic but casual; push on the gas and you go faster, but it does take a couple of days to get from the moons of Jupiter to Mars. Interstellar travel exists (via Hyperspace), but is very new, cutting edge, rare, and dangerous.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eclipse Phase plays with it. Physical travel from one planet to another takes weeks or months and is expensive, but most people upload to a rental body at their destination which can be just as pricey but only takes a few hours.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones interplanetary travel takes a couple weeks and costs around a hundred credits (like a thousand bucks).
  • In Traveller travel within a star system takes a couple days, a week at most. While interstellar requires at least one week in jump plus the time to travel to/from the edge of both systems.

    Video Games 
  • In Rodina, the Limnal Drive upgrade to your ship allows you to fly from one end of the solar system to the other in a matter of minutes.

    Western Animation 
  • Exo Squad has people travel between Earth, Mars, and Venus, as if it were to another country.
  • Used for a few gags in Futurama (which flip-flopped between Interplanetary Voyage as the plot or humor demanded), most notably in the second episode, when Fry is still new to life in the future, and the crew is getting ready to take-off and make a trip to the moon.
    Fry: Can I count down?
    Leela: Huh? Sure.
    Leela: We're here.
    Fry: *quickly* Sixfivefourthreetwoone blast off!
    • Interplanetary travel is like crossing the street. Cubert and Dwight built a craft capable of doing it; they found it in an ad in a comic book. In another episode, Fry laments that he'll "never get into space" because his brother got to Mars first. Leela points out, "You went [to space] for donuts this morning."


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