Space is big, we’re often told. But it’s also a bit of a dick. Over 30 ships are reported to have perished in one star system, known as The View, just days into a months-long expedition organised by Elite Dangerous players. This star system is called 'The View' because you can get some stunning galactic photos from one of its planets. But that planet also harbours a hidden danger for those seeking space selfies: a gravity three times that of earth. As a result, unprepared space instagrammers have been crashing onto the surface and perishing in a ball of flames.
What a tragedy. But hey, at least there’s a lot of people there to catch it on film.
Over 10,000 pilots recently signed up for the Distant Worlds 2 expedition, a massive interstellar journey that launched just a couple of days ago. But as we can see, the perils of space exploration have already claimed a number of those commanders, according to fellow travellers.
Here’s a video by Reddit user “TheNavajoBro”, showing one unlucky commander trying to fight with the planet’s 3.3 gravity. The ill-fated soul tries to guide their lumbering spaceship, a heavy Anaconda, back into the air after an abortive landing. But it soon stalls and crashes back to the surface.
It's the first confirmed “death” on the journey, but there are many more unconfirmed. One estimate puts the death toll in The View (or HR 6164 if we're being sciencey) at 33 pilots. That number was taken yesterday from Elite Dangerous Star Map, a website that lets you look at all the traffic zipping past your favourite suns. It also tracks how many ships were destroyed in each system (but doesn’t list the cause of death). It’s possible many more novice explorers have died due to the unexpected high gravity of this first space hurdle. Here’s what coming in heavy looks like from the cockpit of a ship that just managed to survive the hard landing.
It’s a tough landing just to get a neutron selfie, but the commanders of Elite are being characteristically helpful in trying to prevent more crashes. Here’s Reddit scribbler “DarthMarth” with a guide to high-gravity landings, for example.
As far as that death toll goes, let's not count out other space accidents either. At least one commander fell down a 10km fissure and reportedly died after a "botched" rescue attempt. The View system also houses a neutron star, which can be dangerous when trying to dock with a nearby outpost.
“The tourist installation is located extremely close to the neutron star jet-cone,” says the Star Map of the beautiful-but-perilous system, “falling into this cone in normal space will cause extreme damage to your vessel. Approach should be made with great caution.”
The death toll also doesn’t account for any pilots who may have died in nearby systems. In other words, these are estimates. But yes, some folks have definitely exploded. Rest in peace, spacepals.
The Distant Worlds expedition is the second such cross-galaxy mega-convoy that Elite players have organised. The first was back in January 2016, when 900 pilots banded together to reach Beagle Point, a hard-to-reach spot on the edge of the galactic disc. They’re aiming for the same place this year but with ten times as many pilots. It was always going to be a dangerous journey, and more pilots will likely succumb to fuel loss, marooning, hard landings, and the over-ambitious scooping of fuel from the surface of superhot stars. There is also some boredom to contend with, but the explorers are already finding wonderful space sights along the way. There are spinning neutron stars and misty nebulas and ringed earthlike worlds. Space is big and space is dangerous, sure, but it's also very pretty.