Follow TV Tropes


Interplanetary Voyage

Go To

An Interplanetary Voyage is a specific type of science-fiction story that takes the phrase "getting there is half the fun" very literally. In most cases these stories focus just as much, if not more, on the actual process of traveling in space as they do on the destination itself.

At the beginning of the Science Fiction genre, space travel was a new and novel trope. It wasn't about the destination - the journey alone was interesting enough. There was no Casual Interplanetary Travel (let alone interstellar). We didn't have your fancy Hyper Drive or wormhole networks or your sub-ether anagrammed-tribadist Teslafied radio transmittion contraptions, and we had to walk sixteen miles back and forth through the snow to the launch site. We were lucky if we had a pith helmet! Our science was silly, but it tried to be hard ...for its time (except for Cavorite. That's just magic).

You youngsters with your single-stage rockets and inertialess drives and horseless space shuttles have it easy. Back then, you had to build a balloon filled with evaporating morning dew, or strap on a giant rocket, or get shot out of a bloody cannon at the Man in the Moon and put his eye out. That's how we did it.

Well, that's how the hired help did it.

You could go anywhere your heart desired, as long it was the Moon, Mars, or Venus. Or the Counter-Earth, ruled by the rapacious Hun and the Kounter-Kaiser!

Back then, Men were Men, the Moon Men were Moon Men, or sometimes bats or bugs, Martians were Martians, and the Venusians were jungle-dwelling crab women!

And that's how we liked it, consarnit!

Nowadays, this is largely a Dead Horse Trope outside of parodies or Genre Throwback works. Space travel actually exists now, and even short journeys mostly involve astronauts sitting around in cramped living conditions with little privacy or entertainment options, a far cry from past visions of romantic interplanetary travel. Focusing on the destination rather than the journey allows writers to spend less time on the boring minutiae of space travel and more time building alien worlds. As a result, Interplanetary Voyage stories are strongly associated with science fiction novels of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and with pulp magazines published during that era.

Nevertheless, some modern writers still play this trope straight as deliberate Zeerust, while others treat it more realistically—works on the harder side of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness might depict a crewed mission to a planet like Mars or Jupiter using modern or near-future technology as a long and arduous journey, dealing with challenges such as life support, radiation, or equipment failures.

See also Journey to the Sky, its earthly equivalent. Contrast Casual Interplanetary Travel, where travel between planets is so trivial that it is barely touched upon in the story.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • The Planetary story "The Gun Club" features a horror-tinged Deconstruction of Verne's classic tale, From the Earth to the Moon.
  • The second story arc of De Cape et de Crocs takes place on the moon and pays tribute to Cyrano de Bergerac.
  • Dan Dare in The Eagle comic is perhaps the example of trying hard to be scientifically accurate space travel (for the 1950s, at least), with (almost all) the stories being limited to travel around a then-realistic version of the solar system using then-realistic spacecraft etc.
  • Tintin featured one such voyage in the album Destination Moon. The story is continued in the next one, Explorers on the Moon.
  • The Smurfs comic book story (and its Animated Adaptation) "The Astro Smurf" have its title character attempt this with the creation of his smurfship, although his attempt ended up failing. Papa Smurf and all his little Smurfs secretly lead Astro into a Fauxtastic Voyage by transporting his ship inside an inactive volcano and turning themselves into the alien cavepeople called Swoofs.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • True History: Lucian's Ur-Example is the first work of western fiction about a voyage to the moon.
  • Orlando Furioso, loosely based on the era of Charlemagne, has the knight Astolfo fly to the Moon on a hippogriff.
  • Somnium by Juan Maldonado (1541).
  • Johannes Kepler's Somnium, where demons take a man to the Moon.
  • The Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin, (1638) in which a Spaniard takes a swan-powered boat trip to the Moon.
  • Voyage dans la Lune (1657) by the Real Life Cyrano de Bergerac, where fireworks are used as rockets.
  • The Consolidator (1705) by Daniel Defoe, a trip to the moon in a Chinese invention.
  • The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1786) involves two trips to the Moon.
  • A Voyage to the Moon by Aratus (1793)
  • The Conquest of the Moon by Washington Irving, an allegory about the colonization of America.
  • A Flight to the Moon by George Fowler (1813).
  • A Voyage to the Moon (1827) by George Tucker.
  • "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" (1835) by Edgar Allan Poe involves a balloon trip to the Moon.
  • In Les Exilés de la Terre (Exiled from Earth) by Paschal Grousset involves a trip inside of an iron mountain in Sudan that has been converted into a magnetically driven vehicle (1887).
  • The 1903 Polish work The Silver Globe by Jerzy Żuławski.
  • From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne, and its film and opera adaptations. Subverted in that they never actually land on the moon, they end up stuck in decaying orbit and land back in the Pacific.
  • The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells (1901).
  • Heinlein's Luna Cycle of short stories and novels.
  • Roverandom by Tolkien, about a humorous trip to the moon taken by his 4-year-old son Michael's lost toy dog.
  • Doctor Dolittle in the Moon by Hugh Lofting, where the Doctor flies to the moon on the back of a giant moth.
  • C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy:
  • Arthur C. Clarke's 1951 Prelude to Space, to the point where the entire story revolves around the launch preparations and the flight itself is almost an afterthought.
  • Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg, describing a 1880 trip to Mars.
  • Unveiling a Parallel, an 1893 feminist allegory by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant describing a Martian voyage.
  • Journey to Mars and Journey to Venus by Gustavus W. Pope. Venus is covered in dinosaurs.
  • A Journey In Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future (1894) by John Jacob Astor IV, who was also notable as the richest man to die on the RMS Titanic.
  • Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898) by Garrett P. Serviss. Not as awesome as the name implies, as Edison commits genocide against the Martians. The message is less Scientific progress is fun! and more do not fuck with Edison.
  • 1905's Gullivar of Mars by Edwin Lester Linden Arnold, using a magic carpet.
  • Doctor Omega (1906) by Arnould Galopin.
  • The Great Romance, a 1881 novel about a trip to Venus.
  • A Trip To Venus by John Munro (1897)
  • Stephen King's short story "The Cursed Expedition" is about a trip to a living, carnivorous Venus.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space short story "Becalmed in Hell" (1965), involving a trip to a hellishly hot Venus. "The Coldest Place" and "The Hole Man" were set on Mercury and Mars, respectively.
  • Ben Bova's 2000 novel Venus involves a scientifically accurrate trip to Venus. Also, the rest of his Grand Tour series.
  • The Backstory of the Red Mars Trilogy has John Boone become a worldwide hero-celebrity because he led the first Mars voyage.
  • The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew, a 2009 short story by Catherynne M. Valente has a documentary team fired into space from a giant cannon and exploring Venus via silk balloon.
  • The Last Hero is a Magitek version, with a group of explorers reaching the Discworld's moon by means of a giant wooden bird powered by swamp dragons.
  • Voyage by Stephen Baxter is a combination of hard sci-fi interpretations of this and Alternate History tropes.
  • The Martian is a very well researched modern take on this trope.
  • Road to Mars: This 2014 collaborative Russian novel was written by 15 authors. It deals with the multinational crew of the spacecraft Ares, sent to explore the red planet as part of a joint American/Russian/European mission with two crewmembers from each of these blocs. They are actually in a race to overtake the Millennium Boat, a Chinese craft sent to the same destination a little earlier with only two crewmembers. Privately, though, some of the crewmembers on both vessels would much rather work together to ensure that everyone got home safely rather than win at any cost. After all, it's just them out there, with no other living soul for millions of miles. There is a supernatural component to the novel, though, which starts to affect the crew of the Ares.
  • Isaac Asimov:

    Live Action TV 
  • Season 3 of the hard sci-fi alternate history series For All Mankind is about a space race to Mars between NASA, the Soviets, and the private company Helios. Episode 4 "Happy Valley" solely focuses on the travel between Earth and Mars, being a modern and (relatively) more realistic take on this trope's definition.
  • Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets, a 2004 science-fiction docudrama involving the crewed exploration of several planets in our Solar System in a journey that takes several years and faces hardships like solar radiation exposure.

  • Pin Bot: This game requires the player to advance across the Solar System, from Pluto to the Sun.

  • Journey into Space:
    • In Journey to the Moon / Operation Luna, Jet, Lemmy, Doc and Mitch travel from the Earth to The Moon in 1965.
    • In both The Red Planet and The World in Peril, the crew journey from The Moon to Mars, first in 1971 and then again in 1972.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Space 1889 RPG took this trope and ran with it, featuring Victorian-era space colonies — colonies, as in "Age of European Colonialism" — on the Moon, Mars, and Venus.

    Video Games 
  • Orbiter
  • Kerbal Space Program is essentially an Interplanetary Voyage Simulator. It uses a physics engine to simulate realistic-but-simplified orbital mechanics and gives you essentially the same limitations that NASA has now (or might have 20 Minutes into the Future), but once you're aloft, you can explore the solar system to your heart's desire (and the limits of your fuel tanks) and even run across a few anomalies along the lines of 2001 (though they don't actually do anything).
  • Voyage Inspired By Jules Verne, being inspired by, of course, Jules Verne's story From the Earth to the Moon, involves Michel Ardan crash landing on the moon and encountering Selenites.

    Web Comics 
  • The comic Narbonic ran a special Sunday feature spread out over a couple years, with a Victorian-era Mad Scientist Helen Narbon and her minion Dave Davenport taking a rocket to other planets and encountering spacefaring Venusians and Martians. And even the Victorian-era Helen can't escape the influence of her mother.
  • Most of the run of Moony the Moon Man (the comic is no longer available online, sadly) was taken up with the titular little green Moon man's attempts to build a spaceship to get to Earth, because he was lonely.

    Western Animation 
  • The Wallace and Gromit short A Grand Day Out involves a rocket trip to the moon, which is made of green cheese.

  • Although actual space travel wasn't involved, the infamous "Moon Hoax" article series in the New York Sun used a super-telescope and elements of this trope to boost circulation in the mid-1800s.
  • The Kerbal Space Program fanfic The Next Frontier may involve interstellar travel, but it's definitely not the casual or fast sort. Travel times just between planets vary from a couple of weeks to several months, and the current state of the art in Faster-Than-Light Travel gets about one light-year a month.

    Real Life 
  • The Apollo program, which probably turned the original conception of this into a Dead Horse Trope.
  • As of 2022, no human has ever gone beyond the Moon. However, several engineering concepts and proposals for human missions to Mars have existed since the 1950s, such as the NASA Design Reference Missions. SpaceX is currently planning to send people to Mars using their reusable rocket system known as "Starship." Missions to other destinations have occasionally been considered, such as HAVOC (High Altitude Venus Operational Concept) and HOPE (Human Outer Planet Exploration), a crewed mission to Jupiter's moon, Callisto.