Barely more than a week after SpaceX founder Elon Musk smoked weed live on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Hulu’s new series The First details the efforts of a different privatized effort to send a crew to Mars.

The First Season 1 landed on Hulu Friday, September 14 and Inverse spoke with James Ransone, who plays pilot and astronaut Nick Fletcher, just before release. For anyone tired of Elon’s antics and looking for an inspirational story about the future of space travel, The First offers a refreshingly optimistic outlook. According to Ransone, the show recognizes that “centralized government is a hindrance now,” which is why we need private companies like SpaceX and Vista, or their fictional alternative, Vista.

Comparing Vista to SpaceX and its leader Laz Ingram (Natascha McElhone) to Elon Musk might seem apropos, but Ransone assures us that The First captures a kind of exuberant idealism that the real-world can’t match.

Nick Fletcher (James Ransone) is one of five astronauts chosen as part of the Vista program to colonize Mars in 'The First'.
Nick Fletcher (James Ransone) is one of five astronauts chosen as part of the Vista program to colonize Mars in 'The First'.

“Comparing her directly to Elon Musk might be an unfair comparison,” Ransone tells Inverse. “I don’t really pay attention to what’s going on with Elon Musk in the news because most of it’s just entertainment. She’s someone who has a STEM background and who built her own company at the great loss of other things in her personal life, but the comparisons sort of end there.”

Ransone compares figures like Musk and Ingram to new age “robber barons”, business tycoons of the late-19th and early-20th centuries who essentially built modern society and accumulated great wealth, often at the expense of their workforce.

“That’s not to say we should just let loose bloodthirsty capitalists to do whatever they want,” Ransone says, “But in the spirit of cooperation, that’s how things are going to get done. We can’t, as informed citizens of any country, just rely on people we voted into office to take care of everything for us.” Space, it would seem, is one of those achievements that citizens need to take into their own hands.

Natascha McElhone as Laz Ingram, the CEO of commercial launch provider Vista in 'The First'.
Natascha McElhone as Laz Ingram, the CEO of commercial launch provider Vista in 'The First'.

“The thing that I think Beau gets right, that’s really interesting to me, is the inefficiency of a centralized, bureaucratic government,” Ransone says, referencing showrunner Beau Willimon, who also created House of Cards. “It’s so out of control that we’re going to have to start thinking cooperatively and dealing with people in the private sector about how we can get those things done.”

NASA might be hindered by government funding — or lack thereof — but privatizing these ventures offers a different route to the stars.

“We have to think bigger about our collective humanity than race or our country or those identitarian boxes we so often put ourselves in,” Ransone says. “With this mission, it’s about humanity going to a place where the greater good is put forward. If we want to move forward as a species, we have to think like people that came before us like Magellan. What is left? What can we explore? How can you work together with all your personal differences to achieve something bigger than yourself?”

The First is surprisingly space-lite, instead focusing on the dramatic stories of the crew and those associated with the Vista program leading up to the expedition itself. Even so, the show offers an uplifting message for the future that feels just out of reach today. But for anyone still hopeful about the future of space travel, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The First is currently available to stream only on Hulu.