A Space Fan's Guide to San Diego Comic-Con 2019

Every year the San Diego conference center is filled to quite literally bursting point, the streets of the old Gas Lamp District are packed with people and the carnival atmosphere is in full swing, drenched in the Southern California sunshine, Comic-Con has arrived once again. 

In order to help you avoid getting lost in a maelstrom of marketing at this year’s Comic-Con, we've scanned the schedule and pulled out the can’t-miss panels and screenings you should make your top priority. 

Thursday, July 19

"Star Trek: Year Five: The Writer's Room"

Step into the writers' room of the critically acclaimed “Star Trek: Year Five” comic series. Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and Jim McCann discuss their collaboration on the first issues of the series and the wild places the Enterprise will go on its way back home.

Time: 11am to 12noon 

Place: Room 28DE

"Terminator: Dark Fate"

The first of the big panels this year. The Terminator is back with a panel for the franchise reboot, “Terminator: Dark Fate,” which sees Linda Hamilton return as Sarah Connor. We can expect a glimpse of new footage, along with a new trailer.

Time: 11am to 12noon 

Place: Hall H

"Stargate Atlantis 15th Anniversary"

It’s been 15 years since the premiere of “Stargate Atlantis” and San Diego Comic-Con is celebrating. Enjoy a look back at the five years of adventures the intrepid Atlantis team encountered through the gate. There will be exclusive clips and never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage and personal anecdotes from the cast.

Time: 1pm to 2pm 

Place: Room 7AB

"Farscape: The Official 20th Anniversary"

A frelling awesome panel where creators and actors discuss their favorite moments from the award-winning, sci-fi series, now available on Amazon Prime. Ben Browder (John Crichton) and Gigi Edgley (Chiana) are among the cast members present. Executive producer Brian Henson and creator Rockne S. O'Bannon will also offer their insight and possibly one or two amusing anecdotes.

Time: 3pm to 4pm 

Place: Room 7AB

"The Science of Star Trek"

Panelists Dr. Morgan Cable (NASA planetary scientist), Tiffany Kataria (NASA exoplanet scientist), Erika Lippoldt (writer and producer for “Star Trek: Discovery”), Phil Plait (SYFY's The Bad Astronomer) and Andre Bormanis (science consultant for “Star Trek”) discuss the real science behind sci-fi's most beloved universes.

Time: 5:45pm to 6:45pm 

Place: Room 6DE

40 Years of Alien"

Take a deep dive into the origins of “Alien” and its fandom with documentary director Alexandre O. Philippe (“The People vs. George Lucas”), Diane O'Bannon, Will Linn, David Baxter and others as they discuss Philippe's upcoming feature documentary “Memory: The Origins of Alien,” and the sustaining power of Ridley Scott's masterpiece. Also expect the trailer debut from the documentary.

Time: 7:15pm to 8:15pm 

Place: Room 6BCF

Friday, July 19

"Warner Archive Celebrates V: The Original Mini-Series"

The groundbreaking 1983 “V: The Original Mini-Series” was a science fiction classic and to celebrate the newly-remastered Blu-ray presentation coming later this year, showrunner Kenneth Johnson, star Marc Singer and “some possible surprise guests” will share memories. 

Time: 10am to 11am 

Place: Room 6DE

"Entertaining Science: The Real, Fake, and Sometimes Ridiculous Ways Science is Used in Film and TV"

Physicist Dr. Rebecca Thompson (author of “Fire, Ice, and Physics: The Science of Game of Thrones”), chemist Dr. Donna J. Nelson (author of “The Science of Breaking Bad”), and physicist Dr. Clifford Johnson (science advisor for Marvel) discuss the science behind some of the most remarkable scenes on TV. What do they get right? What do they get wrong? And what's it like to be a science advisor on set?

Time: 12noon to 1pm 

Place: Grand 12 & 13, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

"Ripped from the Pulp: Real-World Threats to Mankind"

Do recent shows like “The Hot Zone” and “Chernobyl” pique your interest in what calamities the human race may face in the future? A group of scientific experts and advisors will discuss some of the real challenges facing mankind and how to separate fiction from fact. Featuring Dr. Elaine Seasly, (NASA deputy planetary protection officer), Special Agent Edward You (FBI biodefense countermeasures program), Dr. Gregory Bernard (former assistant director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office) and Dr. Whit Anderson (deputy director, NOAA Geophysical Dynamics Lab). 

Time: 1pm to 2pm 

Place: Grand 12 & 13, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

"Alien Worlds: NASA's Quest for Life"

We’ve all seen aliens in science fiction – take ET, Jabba the Hutt and the Predator, for example, but did you know NASA takes the search for extraterrestrial life very seriously indeed? Dr. Morgan Cable (NASA planetary scientist), Dr. Cynthia Phillips (NASA's Europa mission), Dr. Tiffany Kataria (NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program) and Dr. Robert Hurt (visualization scientist at Caltech) will talk about new planets found beyond our solar system and the latest news in the search for life on alien worlds. 

Time: Friday July 19, 2019 4:30pm - 5:30pm 

Place: Room 26AB

"What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek Deep Space Nine"

“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” showrunner Ira Steven Behr, filmmaker David Zappone and cast members, including Andrew Robinson, Aron Eisenberg, Penny Johnson Jerald, Cirroc Lofton, and Chase Masterson, present an in-depth journey into the acclaimed documentary feature about “Star Trek”'s darker entry into the franchise. The panel will also feature footage not included in the film's theatrical release.

Time: 7pm to 8pm 

Place: Room 32AB

Saturday, July 20

"Project Blue Book"

The History Channel’s hit UFO drama series returns to SDCC as fans gear up for the second season. Series stars Aidan Gillen (Dr. Hynek), Neal McDonough (Cpt Quinn) and Laura Mennell (Mimi Hynek), along with the show’s producers, share details and a look into what to expect for the sophomore season. 

Time: 11am to 12noon 

Place: Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront

"Enter the Star Trek Universe Panel"

The second of this year’s big Hall H events features cast members and producers of “Star Trek: Discovery” talking about the highly anticipated new series “Star Trek: Picard” starring Sir Patrick Stewart, plus the new animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks.” Executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Michelle Paradise and Heather Kadin will be present, along with Sonequa Martin-Green and Tig Notaro from “Discovery.” Joining them from the new “Picard” series will be Sir Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora.

Time: 11:30am to 1pm 

Place: Hall H

"The Expanse"

It’s been so long since we had any “Expanse” news that we’re really looking forward to this. The series has had an incredible journey since San Diego last saw the crew of the Rocinante. They return with news from beyond the Ring Gate and from their new home on Amazon Prime Video, thanks to a massive effort from fans to save the series. Panelists include, Steven Strait (Holden), Wes Chatham (Amos), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Chrisjen Avasarala), Cas Anvar (Alex), Dominique Tipper (Naomi Nagata) and writers Naren Shankar, Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham.

Time: 1pm to 2pm 

Place: Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront

"The Orville"

The surprise sci-fi smash-hit of the last year begins principal photography in the fall, but before then, the entire crew of the USS Orville descend on San Diego. Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Jessica Szohr, J Lee, Mark Jackson, and Chad L. Coleman, along with executive producers David A. Goodman, Jon Cassar and Brannon Braga, look back at season two and look forward to season three.

Time: 2:30pm to 3:15pm 

Place: Ballroom 20

"They Came for the Moon: 50 Years of Apollo 11 from Those That Built It"

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that first put humans on the moon, this panel brings together some of the engineers who actually built the spacecraft that got us there. Moderated by Benjamin Dickow, president of the Columbia Memorial Space Center, and science educator Ray Hedgpeth, several former members of the Apollo program, including retired engineer Jerry Blackburn, talk about the excitement and challenge of getting astronauts to the moon. 

Time: 3:30pm to 4:30pm 

Place: Room 5AB

"Marvel Studios"

Marvel Studios has a lower-profile than usual at SDCC this year and they’re keeping the details under wraps. According to the official schedule, president or Marvel Kevin Feige and “surprise panelists” will provide an inside look at the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Who knows what that could mean.

Time: 5:15pm to 6:45pm 

Place: Hall H

"The Year in Space and Beyond"

Reviewing the incredible year of discoveries, advances, and milestones that include the EHT black hole image, more super massive black holes and exoplanets confirmed, gravity waves, evidence of quantum entanglement, private space flight milestones and the results of the "space twin" study. Moderated by Stuart Volkow, project manager for the Ax Center for Experimental Cosmology (ACEC) at UCSD and featuring some of the leading scientists in the cosmology world.

Time: 8pm to 9pm 

Place: Room 25ABC

Sunday, July 21

"Star Trek Eyewitness: An Hour with 1964 Pilot Director Robert Butler"

With the characters of Cpt Pike, Number One and Vina once again appearing in “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Dr. Trek” Larry Nemecek presents a rare public appearance by Robert Butler, the last of the key creatives from 1964's original “Star Trek” pilot “The Cage.” Hear firsthand about that seminal moment in “Star Trek” and the choices made in pop culture history 55 years later, plus his thoughts on the 2019 reincarnation.

Time: 12noon to 1pm 

Place: Room 29AB

"No Tow Trucks Beyond Mars"

David Rosing (NASA Mars Sample Return system engineer), Shonte J. Tucker (JPL thermal engineer), Kobie Boykins (JPL Mechatronics Engineer) and Laura Kerber (NASA Mars research scientist) discuss how they go boldly where there's no one around to fix it. Hear stories about close calls and adventures of real-life solar system exploration. 

Time: 2pm to 3pm 

Place: Room 32AB

"The League of Extraordinary Scientists and Engineers: More Science in Your Fiction"

Jeane Wong (founder and educator, LXS) has a long history of teaching young minds about science, from tiny insects to deep ocean creatures to robots, rockets, and more. She’ll be joined by Dr. Tom Darlington (NanoComposix), Ben Frable (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and Dr. Sunny Fugate (Naval Information Warfare Center), plus many others to discuss how comics and science fiction push scientists and engineers to rocket past what we know is possible and into an otherwise unimaginable future.

Time: 3pm to 4pm 

Place: Grand 12 & 13, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

Plan of action

The first and most important thing to remember if you've never been to San Diego Comic-Con before is that you won't be able to do everything, there's just too much going on. The convention isn't solely limited to the conference center; there are events, talks and panels held in venues all around the Gas Lamp District and downtown. Even Petco Park, the nearby baseball stadium is sometimes used for special events. So, the way to guarantee maximum enjoyment is to carefully plan your itinerary and factor in time to get from one location to another. 

Hall H is something of a legend. This is the single biggest room in the San Diego Convention Center with a capacity of over 6,000 and is used for only the very biggest and most high-profile of panels. Queues for Hall H wrap around the building, along the waterfront and beyond. To ensure you get into the event you want to see, you'll be required to spend the best part of a day in line. Consequently, if you're attending on your own, you'll have to sacrifice everything else that's on. As veterans of SDCC, we recommend you go in groups of a minimum of four, if possible; two make camp under a beach umbrella – you'll be thankful you brought one along – and the other two wander off and watch whatever they want. Then, after a little while, you swap. Agree beforehand who wants to see what and make a fair plan accordingly.

Top tips and tactics

If you're not prepared, SDCC can turn into a desperate struggle to survive and often the littlest things will make the biggest difference. 

Hand sanitizer – you're going to be tired and exhausted come the end and this goes some way to reducing the chances of coming down with something.

Sharpies, black and silver – you will run into celebrities and industry icons, so be prepared before the chance to get their autograph slips away.

Extra battery for your smartphone – you'll be relying on your iPhone for a lot – camera, phone, maps, social media – and it will get drained, you might even want to bring two extra batteries.

The power of Twitter – news of a celebrity spot travels like wildfire at Comic-Con, by keeping a close eye on #SDCC you can find the cool parties and the awesome giveaways.

Finally, wear comfortable shoes and bring sun cream, sunglasses and a poster tube.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.