SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is evidently a big fan of sci-fi legend Iain M. Banks; he named two drone boats after spacecraft from Banks’ stories.
According to Ian O’Neill of Discovery News, the robotic landing platform boats are designed to receive the first stage rocket return system that SpaceX is currently testing, and have been named “Just Read the Instructions” and “Of Course I Still Love You.” The two names were originally dreamed up by Banks for his Culture universe, a sci-fi series which follow various characters through a futuristic, alien-inhabited society.
Visionary writer of the Culture series
The Culture books feature “Just Read the Instructions” and “Of Course I Still Love You” as General Contact Vehicles (GCUs), with both appearing in a novel entitled “The Player of Games.” The strange names are thought up by characters known as Minds, which control the spaceships. Unfortunately Banks died of gall bladder cancer in 2013, at just 59 years old, but he will live on through the cutting edge drone boats that SpaceX is working on.
Musk himself paid tribute to Banks in a tweet published on January 23. “Repairs almost done on the spaceport drone ship and have given it the name ‘Just Read the Instructions,’ In honor of IMB, RIP.” He later added: “West Coast droneship under construction will be named ‘Of Course I Still Love You.’”
SpaceX drone boats: A dramatic start to life
“Just Read the Instructions” had to be taken in for repairs after being damaged during the crash landing of the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. The floating pad was waiting to receive the rocket in the Atlantic Ocean after it had launched a SpaceX Dragon cargo pod up to the International Space Station in January 2015.
The rocket almost completed a safe, soft landing but lost control as it approached the landing pad, causing extensive damage. If SpaceX can successfully recover and reuse the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket, it would significantly reduce the cost of space travel and potentially open up new frontiers for manned space missions.
It is hard to imagine a more fitting tribute to a science fiction visionary than to be involved in the latest developments in the human exploration of space. Rest In Peace, Iain M. Banks.