What is happening in the Constellations series

Constellations is a new sci-fi series that is being shown right now on the Apple TV+ streaming service. At first, it’s about an experiment on the International Space Station. However, later on, the story reveals mystical and rather dubious from the point of view of science and extremely disturbing things. We have watched the first five episodes and are ready to share our review with science fiction fans.

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Constellations series

On February 21, 2024, the sci-fi series Constellations was launched on Apple TV+ streaming service. The episodes are released weekly and there should be 8 in total, so it’s impossible to say for sure where the authors will take the plot in the finale.

The series has a rather interesting cast: the main role is performed by the Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (What Happened to Monday?, Black Crab), and the NASA scientist was portrayed by Jonathan Banks, known for his participation in the series Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

However, the story is quite interesting and deals with space, so for those who are not sure whether the series is worth watching, we will tell you what happens there and analyze it from the point of view of science.

МКС в серіалі показана цілком реалістично

The ISS is shown quite realistically in the series

The events take place on the International Space Station. In general, it is shown very realistically, as are the spacewalks, the Soyuz spacecraft, and how it returns to Earth. In particular, one of the episodes shows that the spacecraft cannot simply undock and deorbit; maneuvers require reentry parameters that change all the time.

However, it is immediately striking that there are five astronauts on the station. Nowadays, this is virtually impossible, as crews arrive either on three-seat Soyuz or four-seat Dragon. However, this is only a trifle compared to what happens next.

Strange things

And they show some really strange things. It all begins quite routinely with a physical experiment that astronauts perform at the request of scientists. There is nothing unusual about it, it really looks like routine work on the ISS. However, at the time of the experiment, something crashes into the station. Of course, such coincidences are highly improbable, especially since the astronaut Johanna Eriksson (the main character), soon discovers that the ISS was damaged by the body of a woman in a Soviet space suit.

У серіалі станцію пошкодила мертва радянська космонавтка
In the series, the station was damaged by the corpse of a Soviet cosmonaut

However, the outright devilry on the screen only begins and does not end even when all the crew members end up on Earth in the second episode. Because the appearances of ghosts, memory lapses, and strange coincidences and inconsistencies go on and on.

The series explains all of this in an unsystematic and confusing way, but it is quite possible to deconstruct the plot into several components. The first is various conspiracy theories. In particular the authors of the series exploit the rumor of some Soviet cosmonauts who died in orbit and then were deleted from all documents. This tale is not mentioned directly but is implied. There are also stories that the higher you go above the Earth, the more strange things happen around you… some ghost voices allegedly appear on the radio, when you discern meaningful words in the white noise… and, of course, the astronauts see something extraordinary in orbit.

Marginal science

The second stone on which the story in the Constellations series is based is theories of varying degrees of scientific validity. They all stem from Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in one way or another. It says that the state of an elementary particle is determined at the moment when researchers determine it. This leads to several interesting hypotheses.

The first of them is quantum entanglement. This is a very real phenomenon: if we take a particle in an indeterminate state and divide it into two, and then determine the characteristic of one of them, the second one will be determined at the same moment as the first one.

Теорії, згідно з якими інтерференційну картину можуть бачити лише деякі люди наука не розглядає
Theories postulating that only a few people can see the interference pattern are not considered by science

In this case, the state of the second particle will be completely determined by the state of the first. Quantum entanglement is a well-proven phenomenon, but scientists are not sure whether it can manifest itself in the way shown in the series or have any significant impact on processes in the macrocosm.

The second theory, which relates to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, is the multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics by Hugh Everett. It has not been directly mentioned in the series, but it has been implied quite transparently.

This theory states that when the quantum state of any particle is determined, not just one random event is realized, but all possible scenarios are realized at once. Only each of them ends up in its own separate universe. Thus, our reality is constantly branching out and there are an infinite number of its variations.

This theory is very popular among fans of mysticism and science fiction, but scientists treat it as marginal. The fact is that it does not meet one of the main rules of science — Popper’s criterion of falcifiability.

Тема двійників займає важливе місце в серіалі

The theme of doppelgangers plays an important role in the series

Every scientific theory must provide for the possibility of an experiment, one of the results of which will clearly indicate that it is wrong. And in the case of the multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics, we cannot do this as a matter of principle.

In addition, the series expresses the idea that different people can see different things even in the already processed experimental data, and this is not due to their psychological state, but to the fact that the world is really different, depending on who is “looking” at it.

Science rejects this principle altogether. Knowledge of the world is based on the repeatability of results. Therefore, the situation where one person sees an interference picture and another does not — is of the realm of psychiatry, not physics.

But in the series, all these things become real. Or unreal. Because even the characters themselves could not answer themselves whether all the strange things around them really happened, or whether this is how their psyche reacts to traumatic events and lack of oxygen. But whatever the case, the events around them are beginning to resemble a nightmare.

The political component of the series

Constellation has another aspect that should be mentioned: the political one. And it is no less ambiguous than the scientific one. On the one hand, the protagonist Johanna Eriksson is an astronaut not of NASA, but of the European Space Agency. And it is a rather rare case when representatives of this organization play a key role in a series about space, rather than being relegated to the background.

Головна героїня серіалу — шведська астронавтка

The main character of the series is a Swedish astronaut

Although the series shows that ESA is largely dependent on its “senior partners” (NASA and Roscosmos), it is a serious organization in its own right.

What’s even more interesting is that the main character is Swedish, because usually the ESA is represented in films by Germans, French or Italians, as if other countries are not members of this organization. The Swedish language even plays a role in the series.

On the other hand, one cannot help but notice that in Constellation, ESA continues to actively cooperate with Russia and sees no problems with this.

The astronauts in the series are not just forced to share the ISS space with representatives of the savage country, as is the case in reality, they work as a team and even have friendly relationships. And in general, Roscosmos looks as a pretty decent organization in the series. If it is shown from a somewhat ugly side, NASA is not much better.

However, on the whole, the series is still watchable. Though it’s not so much the “good Russians” that sucks as the general atmosphere of mysticism and horror. Although, perhaps, this is what many people like.