28

I've been thinking about this since I saw the movie a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to put my finger on a definitive answer so I figured I'd ask here.

At the end of Interstellar

Coop leaves the Tesseract around 80 years after the mission started in our universe. He's spit out by Cooper Station which was by Saturn which was where the wormhole was located if I'm not mistaken. When he meets with the elderly Murph she tells him to go find Brand who is apparently alone on Edmund's planet just trying to do the whole plan B thing. This leads me to believe that no humans had made it to Edmund's planet yet.

Why hadn't humans made it to this planet yet? It seems like

As soon as the gravity equation was solved they'd begin their voyage as a species to this new galaxy and their new home

Am I missing some sort of time dilation effect that has stopped humanity from going there? Like word of this planet not reaching our galaxy yet?

27

I think the answer is simple: at the time Cooper was dropped off at Cooper station by the tesseract, Brand had only just arrived at Edmund's world, or was still making the trip there. I picked up the screenplay on Kindle, after Cooper and Brand did the gravitational slingshot around Gargantua to get Brand to Edmund's world Cooper said "That little maneuver cost us fifty-one years", so Murph would have already been an old lady before Cooper dropped into the black hole's event horizon. And as explained by Kip Thorne in chapter 30 of The Science of Interstellar, one of the rules Christopher Nolan had decided on for the film was that only gravitational waves could travel backwards in time, but physical objects including Cooper himself could not return to their own past (which is why Cooper in the tesseract was limited to viewing scenes passively or pushing things with gravitational waves the tesseract would send whenever he banged on the "world tubes" of objects like books and the watch).

So, the tesseract could not have returned Cooper to our ordinary 3D space any earlier than 51+ years after the last message he got from Murph, made just after Professor Brand died. It seems reasonable to speculate that it dropped him off as early as it could, which would mean the from the perspective of the outside universe, Cooper would have reappeared at Cooper Station only a short time after Brand had seen him drop into the black hole's event horizon (in relativistic terms I would imagine he was dropped at Cooper Station at a point in its history just slightly outside the past light cone of the point in spacetime where Cooper was scooped up by the tesseract). In Murph's speech to him at the end, she speculated that Amelia Brand was just now arriving at Edmund's world, saying "She's out there ... setting up camp...alone in a strange galaxy...maybe, right now, she's settling in for the long nap...by the light of our new sun...in our new home."

edited to add: I just realized that although this would explain why no one had yet come to rescue Amilia Brand, it wouldn't explain why there weren't already lots of other settlers on Edmund's world waiting to welcome her. But Keen's answer may be a reasonable explanation for this: mounting an expedition to the wormhole could have been a major logistical challenge and they might have wanted to focus all their resources on the space colonies (also, although their control of the gravitational constant allowed them to launch the colonies into space, getting such massive objects from Earth to Saturn would still probably take many years, since in that case the obstacle to moving the colonies would be inertia, not gravity). There is also the possibility that Murph discouraged space agencies from mounting another expedition to the Gargantua system until after the events that led Cooper into the tesseract had played out, out of fear of what might happen if anyone interfered with events she knew were necessary to their own history, although she did say that no one believed her about Cooper being her "ghost", and she probably wouldn't have known when he plunged into the black hole, whether it was in her past or her future. But Murph's last lines which I quoted above suggest they were planning to make Edmund's world their new home, for whatever reason they just hadn't made the journey yet.

  • 8
    It's also worth bearing in mind that the human race no longer had any pressing need to colonise a new galaxy - Murph's discovery and the technology developed after it seem to have prevented the immediate threats to human survival, and they all seem quite comfortable in their space habitats. Perhaps it was intended for the Plan B humans to make their own way in the universe (we can assume they are successful because they go on to build the tesseract - in fact, it may be necessary to leave them isolated to ensure the tesseract is eventually built). – Cugel Nov 27 '14 at 15:45
  • 2
    @Cugel - It may be true that Murph's comment about Edmund's World being "our new home" was thinking in terms of Plan B, but I don't see any reason to assume that the tesseract was built by the descendants of Plan B as opposed to the descendants of the people on board the colonies, or even more likely, a mix of the two (since I think some colonists would eventually make their own trip through the wormhole to settle on Edmund's world). – Hypnosifl Nov 27 '14 at 15:54
  • 1
    Anything's possible. Are they planning a sequel? – Cugel Nov 27 '14 at 19:05
  • 2
    @Cugel: I hope so but I also rather hope not. This feels like one of those movies that's best left to stand on its own, rather than been ruined by dragging it out with needless additional material. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 28 '14 at 23:33
  • After reading this I think that Brand just getting to the planet when Coop gets to Cooper station makes sense. This would mean that Brand hasn't sent much info back yet from the planet so humanity probably hadn't put together the mission to get to her yet. Since Coop is a friend of hers and sort of a renegade Murph thought it was natural to push him towards this next adventure of getting to Brand. Thanks everyone, great answers! – AlMar89 Nov 29 '14 at 16:22
10

Logistics. Once Cooper sent Murph the data, she then solved the gravity equations. They also were waiting for confirmation that Edmunds' planet was indeed safe. Then they had to build a bunch of the stations; they had one at the NASA facility, but they needed many of them to transport a decent chunk of humanity. So they built many of them, filled them up with people, they lifted them into orbit and began their journey to the wormhole.

All this would take years, and they couldn't really move forward until Murph solved the gravity problem and they knew they could travel to Edmunds' planet. It's also likely that solving the equation wasn't enough to immediately build the necessary gravity-manipulating technology, but the movie glosses over this detail.

Also, 80 years isn't the amount of time. 80 years is from when they left Earth to the end of the film. Murph received the black hole data around 23 years after they left. So it took Murph and NASA 57-ish years to make the scientific and engineering achievements necessary to tame gravity, complete the first of the stations (i.e. Cooper's Station), populate it with people and infrastructure, launch/lift it into orbit, and get it near Saturn. They also did not receive confirmation they could go to Edmunds' planet until the tail end of those 80 years.

  • 1
    Just because it wasn't 80 years for Coop doesn't mean "Coop leaves the Tesseract around 80 years after the mission started in our universe" is not an accurate statement. 80 years have passed for the people on Earth. He's clearly barely aged at all so the OP obviously didn't mean to suggest that 80 years had passed for the mission participants! – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 28 '14 at 23:51
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit Okay... Glad we agree. – user1027 Nov 29 '14 at 4:20
  • Even if humanity hadn't sent mass voyages yet which could be reasonably explained by this answer, why hadn't they sent small missions there yet? Was Coop really going to be the first one to go since Amelia? Did Amelia just start transmitting OK messages the day before Coop talks with Murph in the hospital or something? – Adam Johns Mar 21 '15 at 20:41
6

Literally hours have passed (for Brand and Cooper) between falling into the black hole and Cooper waking up on the Cooper station: remember, all the oxygen he had after ejecting from the shuttle in the black hole was the oxygen in his space suit. He was found with only few minutes of oxygen left (as the doctor on the station told him). So - when he woke up on Cooper station, Amelia was still on her way to Edmunds planet. Murph was expected to arrive on Cooper station "in a few weeks", so that bit of time has passed between waking up and the talk between Cooper and Murph. Even though Edmunds planet was "farer away in the field" (farer away from Gargantua), those few weeks were enough for Brand to reach the planet and to start setting up the camp. So far for the time line of Brand and Cooper.

Now how about Earth's time line, what happened there in all those app. 51 years, why does Brand not arrive on an already colonised Edmunds planet? I also believe the main priority after solving the equation was to get the people to safety, which does not necessarily include risky further expeditions when you have no clue, no confirmation whatsoever if there really is a habitable world on the other side. No one came back from the first expeditions before Cooper did. They have a comfortable life on their space station habitats now and sending an entire station through the worm hole is out of the question, I'd say - you would risk too many lives if you'd send send so many people at once on a station, i.e. on a huge vehicle, it would be exposed to high forces (remember even for the Endurance it was a rough trip). No one would risk something like that, I think. So we have to think smaller - smaller expeditions, on small vehicles with a couple of further explorers on it: why were none sent in 51 years?

It will be soon 50 years since humans' feet first touched the moon's surface. Why weren't "we" able to land on Mars even once in all those years?

My attempt to find an answer (for the movie now of course) would be rather simple: Priorites have changed. People safe on their stations, having normal lives, their children attending universities again, and still in their own solar system, nearby the planet that they can try (at least try, at least help) to "repair" after evacuation. A totally destroyed biosphere is nothing you can just repair in a couple of years nor decades nor even hundreds of years but humans do know their world is a jewel: sure, we're a throwaway society but even the film does not try to deny that, remember Coopers words when looking back at the spinning earth slowly getting smaller in the window on the Endurance.

That does not lower the yearning to go the next steps into space - into interstellar travel, but they needed a cause for that. Just imagine the mars rover would have found a microbe there, do you have an idea how quick suddenly NASA would have gotten the ressources from the gov to get a first crew there?

They needed a cause. Before Cooper was found near Saturn they had none. There was silence from the first missions, while their urgent needs were already met (equation solved, space stations working). Only after Cooper was found, they learned from him how their mission worked out, learned about Manns and Millers planets, and learned about Edmunds. We can absolutely expect that this has sparked the preparing of next missions ("our new home"). I would however not expect them to be space stations being sent through a worm hole, but Endurance-sized ships as backups for Brand. And even if Cooper was obviously not willing to wait that preparation time out, we must not think about having them to stay there alone for long.

(That being said, 51 years is still a lot for a society that just found the solution for gravity to not send further expeditions through a worm hole, agreed... but then again, almost 50 years since touchdown on moon, remember.)

But when thinking a bit further, an other possible reason shows up: what if there were next missions? Imagine an Endurance 2, with 3-4 people on board, a comparable mission sent as a repeat mission after they heard nothing back from the Endurance: imagine this next ship arriving at the other side of the worm hole. Now what. There will still be a very similar situation: Millers planet still "coming up fast", sending very promising data, still echoing its inistial status report endlessly. Manns planet will now be as silent as Edmunds will still be (as Brand will not yet be there, still making her slingshot around Gargantua with Cooper). Those both planets (Manns and Edmunds) could have suffered a transmitter failure. Or not. While the nearer Millers planet will be sending its echoes. So what will this crew do? The next mission after Endurance might be already on the other side of the worm hole, however still busy with orbiting Millers planet (and experiencing the time shift that this orbiting would cost), preparing to land there or having aready landed and being either already dead or - if survived for a couple of hours - on their way back to their orbiting ship, all caught in the time shift on Millers. If they had the same bad luck as Miller, how about the 2nd, 3rd expedition? All arriving on the other side and being faced with the same situation: a nearby planet too close to Gargantua but with "very promising" data, "still transmitting". While 2 other planets went silent. What I mean is: the fact that Brand arrives on an uncolonised planet does not necessarily mean there were no other expeditions at all, it can also mean they were either not successful or also experienced time shifts.

0

Simple answer,

They never got the warning that Mann's planet data was fudged. The first group through the wormhole went straight there, and boy didn't they get screwed. When the rest of humanity heard about it, they said "Hey, let's not be too hasty about this whole journey into the unknown stuff" The decision about where to go next, naturally, wound up in sub committee hearings, tabled, re-tabled. A strong but well funded surfing contingent kept pushing for the Wave planet, and so on.

They may have solved Gravity, but solving bureaucracy is a much more challenging problem.

  • This seems like speculation. Do you have anything to support this? – amflare Jan 25 '18 at 17:19
  • References svp? – Shreedhar Jan 25 '18 at 17:40
-2

Amelia couldn't transmit data back to the people of earth or Cooper station as they (the mission crew) was not able to transmit data back to earth for most of the movie.

So the only person who knew where she was or which planet was inhabitable if any was Coop.

  • This doesn't answer the question of why they hadn't sent any more missions to the various planets. – Valorum Apr 8 '15 at 7:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.