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Space Travel Veto

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White Hat: We shouldn't be exploring other planets until we've solved all our problems here on Earth.
Cueball: Sounds reasonable. So, what's the timeline on "solving all problems"? Ten years? Fifteen?

Some don't want space to be the final frontier.

In a setting where Casual Interplanetary Travel and/or Casual Interstellar Travel exists or will exist soon, there can be people opposed to going into space, arguing for humanity to remain on Earth.

There can be lots of reasons for this mindset. Some people might be an Evil Luddite against such technology, some may argue that humanity simply isn't ready for the social, cultural & political ramifications of space travel, some don't think it is worth the costs, and yet others argue that humans will negatively affect any planet or intelligent lifeform they encounter.


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    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • The alien race known as the Daxamites hold this position. A xenophobic race by nature, Daxamites have traditionally avoided interaction with other space-faring races, but exceptions have been made, in order to secure the defense of their planet. To that end, they have forbidden space travel of any kind and shun any among them who break that cultural taboo.
    • In the comics, Krypton had two different reasons for abandoning space travel. Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was because the scientist Jax-Ur had accidentally blown up a colony on the moon with an experimental rocket. Post-Crisis, the scientist Kem-L used an alien device called the Eradicator to modify the DNA of every Kryptonian, ensuring that they would die if they ever left Krypton.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Project Sunflower: The backstory has a variant — the fic itself is set in 2038, meaning that mankind has long since done some basic exploration of local space. However, more recently, Earth was struck by a faulty probe from another world, which started using nanotechnology to perform Hostile Terraforming on the planet, per the instructions it contained, prompting it to be dubbed "the Black Tide". Seeing no way of stopping it, mankind started work on massive "space arks" for a Homeworld Evacuation. The trope came into play when the arks were sabotaged by members of the "Earth-First" terrorist organization, who insisted that the arks were "the coward's way out" and a waste of resources that could be better spent fighting the Black Tide instead.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Contact, the first attempt at launching the wormhole device obtained by aliens is stopped stone cold by a fundamentalist suicide bomber destroying the facility. He rants in the Video Will he leaves behind that his actions make no sense right now but they will in the future, after mankind has endured Doomsday and regained its faith in God.
  • In Man of Steel, it is revealed that Krypton once had a mighty space colonization program, but as time went on society stagnated by its own genetically-engineered dividing between houses, they just allowed it to die (as well as many colonists who were cut off). This is one of the big reasons why, when the planet finally exploded, Kal-El was the only survivor.

  • The Star Trek novel The Final Reflection features the Back-to-Earth Movement, which calls on humans to withdraw from space because of the hardships they've suffered and fear of war with the Klingons.
  • In the (out-of-print and hard-to-find) 1964 book The Moon-Doggle: Domestic and International Implications of the Space Race by sociologist Amitai Etzioni, the author criticized American efforts to go into space. He argued that the research into space travel would come at the cost of other sciences.
  • In Isaac Asimov's novel The End of Eternity, a time traveling conspiracy controls the development of human history, preventing social and technological developments that it considers to be against humanity's best interest. It's specifically mentioned that the Eternals have ensured that manned space travel never gets developed to any serious extent, regarding it as too risky. This eventually results in humanity's stagnation and extinction, prompting the protagonists to derail Eternity's timeline by helping create the atomic bomb in 1945.
  • In Asimov's 1939 short story "Trends", a demagogic religious fanatic and his followers oppose science in general and research into space travel in particular, clashing with the story's rocketeer protagonist. The anti-space-travel faction's opposition culminates in a literal "space travel veto", a law outlawing research into rocketry (and eventually nearly all scientific research). In his afterword to the story in the collection The Early Asimov, Asimov claims that "this was the first story in history that predicted resistance of any kind to the notion of space exploration", which would make it the Trope Maker.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction novella "If This Goes On—" the story's narrator refers to the theocratic dictatorship which rules the future United States as having forbidden space travel as "a sin against the omnipotence of God" (although he notes the real reason space travel was abandoned was simply that it was losing money and the government of "the Prophet" didn't want to subsidize it). It's also only the United States of America which has totally abandoned space travel; the "infidels" in other countries at least send out the occasional research ship, and the protagonist is thrilled to learn that there are even still human beings on Mars and Venus.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Captain Kirk briefly discusses this trope with Dr. McCoy in "Return to Tomorrow":
    "They used to say if man could fly, he'd have wings... but he did fly. He discovered he had to. Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn't reached the moon, or that we hadn't gone on to Mars or the nearest star? That's like saying you wish that you still operated with scalpels and sewed your patients up with catgut like your great-great-great-great-grandfather used to."
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: The xenophobic terrorist group "Terra Prime" is a downplayed example; they oppose human contact with aliens, believing that it is corrupting our way of life, rather than space travel in general (though they did protest the launch of Enterprise). Originally a fringe group, they experience a brief resurgence of power after the Xindi attack on Earth until disbanded by Captain Archer and the authorities.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "Family", Robert Picard voices his opposition to René wanting to do like Jean-Luc and join Starfleet to go into outer space. This is more because Robert prefers an older, traditional lifestyle, eschewing technology such as food replicators. Ultimately downplayed as while Robert doesn't abandon his faith in older technology, he does relent on the possibility of René going to Starfleet Academy.
    • In "First Contact" (the episode, not the movie), Chancellor Durken of Malcor III reluctantly shelves his world's space program upon deciding that his people aren't yet ready for contact with other civilizations like the Federation. He does, however, plan to increase funding for education and social development so they will be ready in the not-too-distant future.

  • Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey on the Moon" is a bitterly sarcastic expression of the "not worth the costs" point of view about space travel.

    Video Games 
  • Empire Earth: The "Eye of God" mission in the expansion's future campaign has you send resources up to a Martian colony while fighting off attacks from religious terrorists (the titular Eye of God) who think mankind needs to stay on Earth and are willing to kill you to ensure it.
  • Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak: Kiith Gaalsien is a clan of religious extremists who believe the kiithid were placed on the harsh desert world of Kharak as a divine punishment, and that any attempt to leave will incur the wrath of god. Unfortunately, since the planet is suffering an ecological collapse, this inadvertently makes the Gaalsien an Apocalypse Cult. The events of the original Homeworld, one-hundred years later, show that the Gaalsien's religion is based on a distortion of ancient history — the kiithid's ancestors were exiled to Kharak four millennia ago on pain of extermination, and the kiithid's eventual completion of a hyperspace-capable mothership prompts the Taiidan Empire to torch the surface of Kharak.
  • Phantasy Star II: An accident happened ten years before the start of the game, involving two spaceships crashing into each other which killed Rolf's parents. After that, interplanetary space travel in Algo was prohibited.
  • Infinite Space: Panfilov, the ruler of main character Yuri's home planet, forbids his subjects from going into space. The game starts with Yuri contacting a "launcher" named Nia to smuggle him offworld to begin his adventures as a Zero-G Dog. Nia compares the ban to the Adisian religion, which preaches against space travel and reserves such things for its clergy. The religion was founded to extend the life of the universe by preventing humans from observing all of it and thus triggering its decommissioning by extra-dimensional Overlords

  • In Grrl Power the galactic community will not help Earth reach the stars
    Cora : If you can't sort out the basics like learning to take care of your planet or resisting the urge to exterminate yourselves with war... Well then, to be blunt, we don't want you hanging out with us.
  • xkcd often throws shade at this trope and its real-life adherents.
    • In "Realistic Criteria", White Hat argues that we need to solve all our problems on Earth before we can afford to go to space. Cueball sarcastically asks how long it will take to "solve all problems", the implication being that it will never happen even if we don't go to space.
    • The Alt Text for "65 Years" points out the inevitable outcome of such a sentiment: human extinction.
      The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space—each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.

    Western Animation 
  • Superfriends: In the 1973 series episode "The Androids", Dr. Rebos has this motivation in sabotaging Earth's space program. He says that Earth should solve its own problems before going into outer space.

    Real Life 
  • This is Truth in Television: many people believe that humanity shouldn't bother going to space, for a few reasons.
    • One argument is that the money spent on space exploration and colonization could be better spent on improving the lives of people on Earth, apparently forgetting the fact that spending money on space does improve our standard of living on Earth through the development of new technologies, and that NASA only gets about half a percent of the American federal budget to play with each year.
    • More cynical adherents to this trope argue that humanity doesn't deserve to expand into space, and that if anything the universe would be better off if we went extinct. Thankfully, this group is a pretty small minority.
  • A common sentiment, even among space enthusiasts, is that robotic missions like the Mars rovers are more cost-effective than crewed missions, which are much more expensive due to the life support requirements. This group would generally prefer to put greater emphasis on uncrewed space missions, which would continue to learn more about the universe without putting human lives in danger.
  • Then there's the issue of First Contact. It has been theorized that contact with another intelligent species may not go well. Either humanity might exploit, hurt or kill the aliens... or they might do the same to us.
  • Given humanity's history of pollution on Earth, concerns have arisen about human colonists adversely affecting the natural environments of other planets.