How centuries of sci-fi sparked spaceflight | Alex MacDonald

  • Published on Apr 18, 2019
  • Long before we had rocket scientists, the idea of spaceflight traveled from mind to mind across generations. With great visuals, TED Fellow and NASA economist Alexander MacDonald shows how 300 years of sci-fi tales -- from Edgar Allan Poe to Jules Verne to H.G. Wells and beyond -- sparked a culture of space exploration. A fascinating look at how stories become reality, featuring a goose machine sent to the Moon.
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  • Science & TechnologyScience & Technology

Comments • 157

  • martin02031958
    martin02031958 5 days ago

    Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was inspired by a Russian Orthodox Christian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov and a Russian philosophical and cultural movement called Cosmism. It is a long story that I can’t present in a short comment. To simplify it: Cosmism combined Orthodox religion and both Western and Eastern philosophy and speculated about future existence of cosmos and humankind. Foydorov supposed that science can extend life of people or even make them immortal, what implicated that surface of the Earth would be insufficient for them all to live here, so they have to move on other planets. This inspired Tsiolkovskij and less known Nikolai Kibalchich to study and examine and develop the rocket science add the astronautic theory. Kibalchich was a main explosives expert of Narodnaya Volya a Russian revolutionary organization conducting targeted killing of government officials. After they succeeded to assassinate Tsar Alexander II, Kibalchich was hanged being 27, so he could not continue work in sciences... Some Cosmism adherents were more religious than scientific and they supposed it would be possible to travel through the Cosmos by force of prayers. Years ago some people in Moscow told me that they considered as suitable device for travelling by the force of prayer the church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye, because of its rocket-like shape

  • Great-heart Charity
    Great-heart Charity 10 days ago

    AstroNots never went to space or the moon. Here's why!
    #flatearth NASA!
    EV' DAY
    ,.Nope, you need air to transmit the sound. (& Heat)
    ..Well, this proves the Astro'NOTS would die in min' from the heat.
    & NO, we don't radiate heat

  • Great-heart Charity
    Great-heart Charity 10 days ago

    Deep State manages TED now.
    See comments.

  • Ben B
    Ben B 10 days ago

    I agree.

    Science fiction was ruined by the "new wave" which like any path to H--- started with good intentions.
    Yes, they wanted to make more human stories than adventure stories. Yes, women, minorities needed more than token or stereotype representation. Yes, editors were near suicidal with a pile of 1000 "I wanna be the next Edgar Rice Burrough - this is uh James Champion of ... Planet 20...!" scripts.

    But it turned into nihilism and hard to read tokenism and now just slurps up the stuff and regurgitates. Mocks and de-constructs the past but still holds on for dear life on publishing and patents to make money. Bashed and blacklisted authors who didn't turn PC but then hid the actions of one of their major "Woke" authors - Marion Zimmer Bradley and her Husband...

    We do need new stories that show a good future and space travel no matter how far the distances or how difficult to pierce the speed of light or get the first 'warp engine' going. This should be looked back on as the "Nihlist" era.

  • Mr. Derek Gets it!
    Mr. Derek Gets it! 14 days ago

    THE COLUMBINE SHOOTERS MOM GETS A CLIP. That loser should be jailed! No comments allowed so I'll leave a comment on every video! DO NOT CELEBRATE LOSER PARENTS THAT STOOD IN THE WAY OF HELP, when parents are responsible for their kids actions then we will see less death! SICKENING TO APPLAUD COLUMBINES SHOOTERS MOM SHAME,

  • Leonidas666
    Leonidas666 18 days ago +1

    Watch x1.5 speed.
    Much better.

  • B Welkinator
    B Welkinator 25 days ago

    After all the dreck ... finally a talk that renews my hope for TED.

  • Itsnot mine
    Itsnot mine 26 days ago

    A ted talk about stories and science I am down

  • 8KAIJU8
    8KAIJU8 28 days ago

    Imagine the things that SpaceX or sci-fi movies of now will inspire 300 years from now but Earth would probably be screwed by then anyway

  • Jayson Smihth
    Jayson Smihth 28 days ago +1

    Barracks white guy suit ain't fooling no one

  • Cooper Bradford
    Cooper Bradford 28 days ago

    Need to get me one them goose

  • Native Things
    Native Things Month ago

    It's a cool story, subscribed!)

  • Constantine B
    Constantine B Month ago

    The story that I have been thinking is about colonisation which has occurred through human history. Most colony's resolved in becoming independent. I believe that if colonisation occurs on Mars eventually within a 200 hundred year period of colonisation. Residents of Mars will debate there independence from Earth 🌍. This may be the first War of the World's for human beings in there history depending if Earth is dependant on resources of Mars. Anyone agree with my statement?

  • taha pipino
    taha pipino Month ago

    9 Things in the US That puzzle Most foreigners

  • Aura Sheet Metal
    Aura Sheet Metal Month ago +1

    The moon, we've never been . Keep imagining we did. Hahahha

  • chellya2004
    chellya2004 Month ago

    Should start with the bible. The concept of the heaven where gods live and is a place that's too forbidden for us to enter. In there, there's a lot of stories! And how the 'heaven' slowly transformed into an 'empty space' worth exploring. That's a huge shift!

    • Ivone de Figueiredo
      Ivone de Figueiredo 27 days ago

      chellya2004 Well before that their was the mythology of the ancients, Greeks, Romans, Nordic lands etc. No, the Bible has little to offer in terms of science, or science fiction for that matter, or progress. Lots to offer in terms of fiction though, so there is that to hold onto.

  • Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery Month ago +2

    He talks like Obama

  • John Collado
    John Collado Month ago

    Alex MacDonald's mannerisms and his voice remind me so much of Carl Sagan when he spoke.

  • Lindenlc10
    Lindenlc10 Month ago +1

    " The stories we tell ourselves can transform the future."

  • John Arnold
    John Arnold Month ago

    Yes ..we may have accomplished space flight but the middle East has surpassed us, they have developed time travel....they can in a matter of minutes transport you back to the middle's called Islam.....🤔🤔🤔

  • yexela
    yexela Month ago

    This talk overrates the sci-fi as a driving force of technological progress and undermines the actual effort of millions of scientists and engeneers involved into the R&D. It's not some "passion" and "dreams" that drives the progress, but rather hard work of millions of people funded mainly by the government. Space technology was developped for well known reasons: political and military competition between the US and the USSR which had nothing to do with early sci-fi dreams of spaceflight. "Passion" sci-fi motivation is just a wishful thinking.

  • Jaime Castro
    Jaime Castro Month ago +1

    Buenas tardes sería posible poner subtítulos en español gracias

  • Brendan K
    Brendan K Month ago +1

    His mannerisms remind me so much of Obama

  • Tiberiu Vicol
    Tiberiu Vicol Month ago

    Conrad Haas (1509-1576) a pioneer of rocket propulsion. His designs include a three-stage rocket and a manned rocket.

  • dunoze
    dunoze Month ago +1

    Space travel is still science fiction . We never went to to the moon and still can't .

  • JustWasted3HoursHere
    JustWasted3HoursHere Month ago +4

    Storywriters don't get bogged down with the details of how things would or could be accomplished, which is why they work so well as inspirations to the scientists that would come later.

  • graphicism
    graphicism Month ago

    Maybe spaceflight is sci-fi to this day.

  • Ruby Moon
    Ruby Moon Month ago

    *in the grim dark future there is only war.* *There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods* *WarHammer 40k*

    • Ruby Moon
      Ruby Moon Month ago

      ​+Николай Каретников Steven Pinker is a heretic according to the Inquisition Acolytes rule book XD

      am joking of course

    • Николай Каретников
      Николай Каретников Month ago +1

      Steven Pinker certainly does not think so

  • Roland Felice
    Roland Felice Month ago

    A truely worthwhile video.

  • DubQWST
    DubQWST Month ago +5

    Even Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge.

  • David Furr
    David Furr Month ago +1

    This guy has the same rhythm and sound when he speaks as Barack Obama

    • Seeyay
      Seeyay Month ago

      Also similar to Carl Sagan.

  • Make Brooklyn
    Make Brooklyn Month ago +11

    Has NASA even tried geese? I think not!!

  • raphsere
    raphsere Month ago +14

    "You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"
    - Terry Pratchett

    • Constantine B
      Constantine B Month ago

      Correct. This is evident through the amount of technology that never came from scientists. Scientist formally trained in science subconsciously become bound to the parameters of there education. Thinking outside the square is more likely to come from those who are not formally trained or educated

  • Miles Coverdale
    Miles Coverdale Month ago

    Nothing ever grows from dull people. Only those who imagine to dream a dream sow the seed of what is, and what shall be, and the seed grows.

  • Bjørnar Iversen
    Bjørnar Iversen Month ago

    Finally a sane speaker.. so tired of the twisted feminist sjw activists.

  • Tyler Welch
    Tyler Welch Month ago

    TED talks aren't what they use to be, they should do a talk about organizations giving talks and sticking to bias.

  • Jaime Castro
    Jaime Castro Month ago +1

    Buenas tardes sería posible poner subtítulos en español gracias

  • Poptree
    Poptree Month ago

    We need to start to write storys with positive technological futures? Has this person lived under a rock for the last 50 years? We have houndreds if not thousands of sci-fi stories like this today, in books, TV-series and movies. Star Trek, hello!?!

    • Aaron Rosenberg
      Aaron Rosenberg Month ago

      Maybe because of this talk, more people will read those stories now.

  • Alexis Gervais
    Alexis Gervais Month ago

    From where is this video's still image from?

  • John Bray
    John Bray Month ago

    "sci-fi" is a derogatory term in the Science Fiction community, as it refers to poor media, not the written featured work in this talk. It makes many SF fans cringe.

  • koning tim
    koning tim Month ago +1


  • Lumian
    Lumian Month ago +1

    What about Von Braun?

  • mick coomer
    mick coomer Month ago

    Geostationary orbit was something first thought of by Arthur C Clark. So I suppose he’s the father of sat nav.

  • Jarrod Brecht
    Jarrod Brecht Month ago +1

    I think I remember this talk from 30 years ago.

  • Stosh James Peterson
    Stosh James Peterson Month ago +1

    Minds eye?

  • Scott B
    Scott B Month ago +1

    *ahem* Jack Parsons Blood and Rockets *ahem*

  • Roenie
    Roenie Month ago +1

    How to make a very interesting subject very hard to listen to.

  • Lunareon
    Lunareon Month ago +10

    Yes! Let's tell more stories that inspire and encourage, instead of all these recent cautionary tales of horror that are originally meant to frighten children into obedience.

  • Fartun Cisman
    Fartun Cisman Month ago


  • Rennis Tora
    Rennis Tora Month ago +6

    Jules Verne was legit a great science fiction writer, including his works that basically predicted how submarines would works.

  • Prophet Pepi Islamovic-Muselmaier Allahut Nacktbar

    Spaceflight is Sci-Fi. They never did it and they never will do it, because it's just a Sci-Fi story.

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago

      Prophet Pepi Islamovic-Muselmaier Allahut Nacktbar yes, unfortunately, you are correct!!
      My note

  • Your Favorite Lifecoach

    It’s always been like this.
    Storytellers inspire scientists.

    • Constantine B
      Constantine B Month ago

      Well through history technology came from those who weren't Scientists. Most Scientists stay within the boundaries of there University teachings where as many inventors through time had no formal teachings so they were not bound by parameters.

  • Stefan Nikola
    Stefan Nikola Month ago

    You have really cute little ears, by the way.

  • Stefan Nikola
    Stefan Nikola Month ago

    *ascending into the heavens

  • RemusKingOfRome5
    RemusKingOfRome5 Month ago

    YES, new stories of Globalisation ,where everyone holds hands around the world, chanting love CRAP ... while in reality, muslim extremists rape and murder whites at will, in their own countries. Reality is alot different to socialist fantasy.

  • Dave
    Dave Month ago +1

    It's the dreamers, that eventually discover & Prove Reality....

  • H N70
    H N70 Month ago +1

    Isaac Arthur 🙂👍

  • Mike Hagarty
    Mike Hagarty Month ago +5

    Stories Help develop dreams, & people love to follow their dreams!

  • phaniraj sharma G
    phaniraj sharma G Month ago

    Where we can find lost Marvel Avengers

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago

      phaniraj sharma G you can find them! Ask the Astro'NOTS!! In a HOLLYWOOD studio

  • abdullah Qh
    abdullah Qh Month ago +1

    You are a despicable person and the knowledge of all people and sects Why racism and barbarism put the translation of all languages ​​and allow Arabic to tell you that the Arabs are makers of science and civilization and will return, God willing, better than before
    👎👎 You are bad and racist

    • samanjj
      samanjj Month ago

      abdullah Qh did you see the same TED talk we did?

    • abdullah Qh
      abdullah Qh Month ago

      Let the Persian benefit you



  • Zac Martin
    Zac Martin Month ago

    Ted talks are full of posh wankers... Zzz

  • Peace be with you. Godspeed.

    Ted was taken over by DS a couple years ago... Resist! This platform has been compromised...

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity 10 days ago

      Peace be with you. Godspeed. They are complete azz-holes
      At Twitter I'm
      Yeshua WEpray99

    • Peace be with you. Godspeed.
      Peace be with you. Godspeed. 10 days ago

      Great-heart Charity your comment to me just showed up on my screen as a reply... lol They held it for this long..

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago

      Peace be with you. Godspeed. Deep comment! We already know that!
      See my

  • Claudette S
    Claudette S Month ago

    I really liked that. Thank you.

  • Syn's Arcade
    Syn's Arcade Month ago +3

    Anyone who learned how to mimic Sagan in their presentation and style will always have my ear.

    • Syn's Arcade
      Syn's Arcade Month ago +1

      The Talker reminds me of an Agent Smith impersonation. :D

    • Syn's Arcade
      Syn's Arcade Month ago +1

      +Peace be with you. Godspeed.
      Oh no.
      Please make it stop. ✋
      No Republicrat b.s. here please.
      I only remarked on the cadence and enunciation of the Talker.
      Thanks for understanding.

    • Matt Goldstine
      Matt Goldstine Month ago +1

      Its like a weird mix of Sagan and Obama.

    • Peace be with you. Godspeed.
      Peace be with you. Godspeed. Month ago

      Syn's Arcade Even a paid shill who supports a secret cult? What’s on Von Braun’s tombstone? Your not going to like it when the truth comes out.. Perhaps you might want to start doing your own research...and figure it out before you trust the people stealing 50 mill a day from your country..

  • Charles Dickens
    Charles Dickens Month ago +4

    Only it's all lies - the rockets could never penetrate the Val Allen belt, the equipment would be fried from the radiation. Also, we couldn't livestream from the moon today, let alone in 1969.

    • None of your Business
      None of your Business Month ago +3

      @Dickens: Yes, because there is no material known to mankind suitable for shielding any kind of radiation. Like the metal grid in your microwave or the tin foil hat on your head. Neither of them works.
      Also, we could never launch satellites into orbit, as they would fall from the sky, so there is no way for the GPS in your mobile phone to work. And so we have no means of transmitting communications via satellite, which means you cannot read this comment here, which makes it okay for me to call you an ignorant moron, because you will never know I did, so I am not offending anyone.

    • Hi
      Hi Month ago +1

      Oh whoa! A non-scientist who knows something that people with thousands of days of experience don’t.
      Cars actually have solid tires too, because air can’t support thousands of pounds. Even water can’t support a car because it sinks! That’s you. That’s what you just did.

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago

      Jarrod Brecht Agree, we can't go/ we never went!!!!!!!
      read my note , TOP, for more facts about 'space'.....LOL

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago

      Charles Dickens Agree, we can't go/ we never went!!!!!!!
      read my note , TOP, for more facts about 'space'.....LOL

    • Jarrod Brecht
      Jarrod Brecht Month ago

      +Charles Dickens you didn't, but that doesn't mean it's not flat

  • paul bruce
    paul bruce Month ago +2

    NASA needs to use there imagination like the science fiction writers because they definitely have a vision

    • Hi
      Hi Month ago

      You’re so different and special. The chosen one. Learn to think for yourself, Heimsker

    • Peace be with you. Godspeed.
      Peace be with you. Godspeed. Month ago +1

      paul bruce A Satanic vision... of lies... Don’t be the last to find out... Secrets cults taught you to love their lies... What’s on Von Bran’s tombstone? Why would he choose that quote? Do you think perhaps you’ve been lied to about space?

  • Kavita Khush 24
    Kavita Khush 24 Month ago


  • 2garv2
    2garv2 Month ago


  • Sheila Blake
    Sheila Blake Month ago +8

    If only NASA could remember how to get us back there! 🤔

    • Hi
      Hi Month ago

      It’s not NASA that is the problem, of course they want to explore space. It’s politics that prevents it

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago +2

      Never went to the moon.
      It's been a scam . AstroNots admit it!

    • Stephen Stilwell
      Stephen Stilwell Month ago +4

      It won’t happen because they’ve never been there.

  • Axel M Tanquino
    Axel M Tanquino Month ago


  • Patrick J Dougan Sr
    Patrick J Dougan Sr Month ago +2

    They don't invent things after and programs like space travel and high tech inventions they use programs like these to try to break to the public easy so that everyone doesn't panic if we had any idea of what is really going on this planet would be in total chaos

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago

      Patrick J Dougan Sr yes...see my note

    • Witch Hunter
      Witch Hunter Month ago +1

      that is what i have been saying for years. the technology that is published to us today was invented decades ago but people only saw it from movies and when its shared people are already used to the idea, i think thats also whats going on with aliens. why would everyone share the same vision of the alien if no one ever saw one right ?

  • Ethan Krauss
    Ethan Krauss Month ago +2

    If you click on the purple channel icon to the left, you can see a patented ion thruster that can lift its onboard power supply from the ground, just like in sci-fi! This one is just a rough prototype, but it is a working model.

    • Ethan Krauss
      Ethan Krauss Month ago

      Hi Paul,
      It's the round channel icon to the left:).
      Ethan+Paul Garcia

    • Paul Garcia
      Paul Garcia Month ago

      Ethan Krauss I’m color blind though

  • Victor ST
    Victor ST Month ago +1

    It's all Operation Mockingbird anyways

  • Bryan Teh Su Yang
    Bryan Teh Su Yang Month ago +72

    Stories are not just human imagination, but they’re references and ideas that keep pushing humanity foward

    • any thing
      any thing Month ago +3

      And ideas are just human imagination until you actually do it

    • any thing
      any thing Month ago +2

      Nah they are just stories that we interput in anyway we want only actual geniuses use it as a way to push humanity forward but they are still stories we should credit the people not what "story" they read that lead them to do what they did

  • x- o
    x- o Month ago +1

    When you practice your speech too much...
    O the artificial pathos, o the robotic lifelessness, o the obamaesque hand gestures,... :-)

  • Bill
    Bill Month ago +19

    Even comic book writers.. If anyone is old enough to remember Flash Gordon.

  • Corey Suffield
    Corey Suffield Month ago +6

    that is great but he left out probably the most important name, Von Braun and other german rocket engineers that pioneered rocketry with the V2, and the true driver of space travel which was war. if Russia didn't put up sputnik would the U.S. even have bothered creating NASA?

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago

      Corey Suffield They are in a partnership....Google operation FISHBOWL!!
      Don't be a brainwashed idiot!

  • GamingTV
    GamingTV Month ago +1

    centuries of science not sci-fi

    • Hi
      Hi Month ago

      They both take ideas from each other

  • Gary Hubbard
    Gary Hubbard Month ago

    What else do you think our intelligence would do 🤔

    • x- o
      x- o Month ago +1

      Elect capable presidents.

  • Jose Villegas
    Jose Villegas Month ago +2

    this is inspiring for me as a writer

    • Peace be with you. Godspeed.
      Peace be with you. Godspeed. Month ago

      Jose Villegas Let me know when your ready for your next lead...

    • Jose Villegas
      Jose Villegas Month ago +1

      +Peace be with you. Godspeed. thanks :)

    • Peace be with you. Godspeed.
      Peace be with you. Godspeed. Month ago +1

      A writer should do his own research.. Say.. von braun tombstone? This is your first lead...

    • NOMAD
      NOMAD Month ago +3

      +x- o ?? I like the way he talks. He'd be awesome in rod serlings part if Twighlight Zone rebooted.

    • Jose Villegas
      Jose Villegas Month ago +1

      +x- o haha I sure do hope so too

  • Tuba Jesus
    Tuba Jesus Month ago +2

    Go sci fi!

    • Hi
      Hi Month ago

      To The Expanse

    • x- o
      x- o Month ago +1

      But where...

  • Jacob Hansen
    Jacob Hansen Month ago +7

    A proper TED talk?
    What is this wizardry!

    ART BY ACT Month ago +2

    Centuries of sci fi was propaganda for the false heliocentric mythos. Theoretical science is not reality.

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity Month ago

      ART BY ACT Agree, read my note , TOP, for more facts about 'space'.....LOL

  • Chuck's Astrophotography

    It's amazing in the history of science how so few people have pushed the human race forward, but when they did it was in a major way.

    • Florin-Daniel Rada
      Florin-Daniel Rada Month ago +3

      +Peace be with you. Godspeed. Just buy a telescope and look at the moon, if you look very carefully, you can find the lander and other things that have been sent to the moon and used ON the moon since then.

    • meamZ
      meamZ Month ago +4

      +Peace be with you. Godspeed. Faking the moon landing would have been a much bigger challenge than just going there at the time...

    • Nebby1989
      Nebby1989 Month ago +4

      +Peace be with you. Godspeed. Sounds like you need some psychological help. I feel sorry for your situation.

    • Peace be with you. Godspeed.
      Peace be with you. Godspeed. Month ago

      When they own the public teaching centers and teach you their lies and entertain you through TV programming your entire life... Then make you believe they are amazing with fake awards so you idolize them... Reseach the first video of the astronauts being interviewed right when they returned from the “moon.” Do you think they are acting like they just went to the moon? Let me know once you view the video..ok? Having Discernment will set you free.

    • x- o
      x- o Month ago +11

      And even more people have pushed in minor ways.

  • Desert Ants
    Desert Ants Month ago +3

    Funny how the old sci fi writers were right... we literally vertically land rockets now..

    • Malcolm Lockridge
      Malcolm Lockridge Month ago

      Fireball XL5 landed horizontally.

    • Desert Ants
      Desert Ants Month ago

      Watch my video I uploaded like a month ago of Israel's moonshot. (Sucks they didn't soft land) I see that crap from by backyard. We as homeowners give a darn about it too. As such an event effects all of us if it fails. (Space x is making me feel safer, as they have a halfway decent track record).

    • Desert Ants
      Desert Ants Month ago +1

      +x- o damn right xD

    • x- o
      x- o Month ago +4

      Space Force will land the first Trump on the sun.

    • ART BY ACT
      ART BY ACT Month ago +2

      We really dont though, they would like you think that but its all fake trickery. Dont fall for space propaganda, its not reality.

  • Lil' Smith
    Lil' Smith Month ago

    First boy!!

  • Long Legs Legs
    Long Legs Legs Month ago +40

    It’s amazing how all of the best things start with a good imagination.

    • Constantine B
      Constantine B Month ago +1

      well the ION drive which has been used in Space actually originates from a TV show known as Star Trek

  • Night Owl
    Night Owl Month ago

    Thank you

  • MiniDaLimi
    MiniDaLimi Month ago

    1st u hoes

    • Long Legs Legs
      Long Legs Legs Month ago

      MiniDaLimi nope. I was one minute ahead of you. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  • Long Legs Legs
    Long Legs Legs Month ago

    Yay I’m first!

    • x- o
      x- o Month ago +1

      Not mentally.