Review: When Homer Simpson Went to Space
"Deep Space Homer" aired only eight years after the real-life Challenger disaster.
In episode 15 of The Simpsons' fifth season, "Deep Space Homer," NASA decides to send an average Joe to space in order to boost its rocket launch ratings. The agency picks goofy family patriarch Homer Simpson.
Predictably, Homer's indomitable appetite and dumb willfulness cause chaos on the spacecraft, nearly destroying it after his contraband bag of potato chips and a run-in with an ant farm scuttle the shuttle's electronics.
There isn't much comedy potential in killing off Homer Simpson, so Homer ultimately manages to save his fellow astronauts as cluelessly as he doomed them. After narrowly avoiding disaster—and getting a charming James Taylor cameo—Buzz Aldrin declares Homer a "hero."
The episode aired only eight years after the Challenger disaster, the real-world NASA's catastrophic attempt to send an average person—social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe—into space. The NASA of "Deep Space Homer" has clear parallels to the NASA that tried to launch a teacher into space and ended up killing her instead. Both succeeded in increased launch viewership, but at a cost. While Homer Simpson's brush with danger ended happily instead of tragically, both highlight the hazards of taking high risks in space just to gin up support for NASA.