Elon Musk’s SpaceX team just made history by launching a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida that delivered a Dragon spacecraft into orbit and then successfully landed back on an autonomous drone ship in the Atlantic named “Of Course I Still Love You.”
First, that feat is an awesome scientific achievement, and as many have pointed out, being able to land and re-use rockets is the future. Not destroying a $60 million rocket every time something is launched into space could do a whole lot to make space travel less expensive.
But why was the ship the Falcon landed on named “Of Course I Still Love You?” And why is Musk’s other drone ship named “Just Read The Instructions?”
As Business Insider quant reporter (and sci-fi aficionado) Andy Kiersz pointed out when we first learned the names of these ships a year ago, both come from Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” series. As Kiersz said then, the series depicts an “incredibly technologically advanced interstellar civilisation, in which nearly god-like artificial intelligences housed in powerful starships coexist with a wide range of humanoid species.”
Specifically, both “Of Course I Still Love You” and “Just Read The Instructions” are the names of massive, sentient, interstellar starships inhabited by “Minds,” which are artificially intelligent beings that have their own personalities and interact with humans.
The minds choose their own names, too.
In this case, both come from Banks’ “The Player of Games,” the second novel in the “Culture” series. (It’s a great read.)
As Kiersz pointed out:
Given Musk’s worries about the possibility of uncontrolled or malignant AI destroying humanity, it’s heartening that he chose to honour a much more optimistic view of the possibilities of AI and space travel in the naming of his drone ships.
And now we get to celebrate a successful landing on one of those ships. Cheers.