|Original Airdate:||November 12, 1993|
|Written by:||Chris Carter|
|Directed by:||William Graham|
When Mulder and Scully are told of sabotage attempts to NASA Space Shuttles, the agents investigate the reports and find that the space agency may be under alien control.
The episode opens with news footage from 1977, showing the discovery of water on Mars, as well as what appears to be a face sculpted into the landscape. Lieutenant Colonel Belt, the commander of the mission, is today a supervisor of the shuttle program, plagued by flashbacks of something that took place during the mission, and experiences nightmares of the face.
FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are approached by Michelle Generoo, a communications commander for NASA's mission control center, who believes that someone within the space agency is sabotaging launch attempts. A recent space shuttle liftoff was aborted seconds before commencement, and Generoo fears that the next launch will be similarly compromised. She also has a personal interest, as her fiancé will be aboard the next mission. Mulder and Scully travel to NASA and meet Belt, who is a childhood hero of Mulder's. Belt dismisses the agents' concerns, stating that nothing can possibly go wrong with the mission. He allows the agents to watch the launch from Mission Control. However, contact is lost with the shuttle once in orbit.
While driving with Mulder and Scully through heavy rain in order to reach Mission Control, Generoo sees a ghostly face come at her through the windshield, causing her to crash. Mulder and Scully tend to Generoo, and the three continue to Mission Control.
The shuttle is revealed to have moved into direct sunlight and mission control are unable to rotate it into a safe position, a situation which will cause the astronauts to burn up in short order if it cannot be rectified. Generoo believes that the uplink is being sabotaged by someone within mission control. Belt orders the uplink to be cut, allowing the astronauts to rotate the craft manually, a bold move which pays off. Although the mission is now very risky for the astronauts Belt orders them to proceed, angering Generoo and the FBI agents. Belt then goes on to lie to the press about the status of the mission. Mulder confronts him about this, and Belt states that the shuttle program will likely be cancelled if the mission is not completed successfully.
Belt returns home and has another flashback, screaming as some sort of astral presence leaves his body and flies out the window, heading into the sky. The astronauts aboard the shuttle then report hearing a thump outside the shuttle and begin to experience an oxygen leak. One of them reports seeing some sort of ghostlike entity outside the ship.
The agents examine the records, which show that Belt knew about the equipment flaw and possibly the O-ring failure on the Challenger. Belt collapses, saying the astral force lived in him, controlling him. At his urging, they alert the shuttle to change its trajectory and they are able to land it successfully. In hospital Belt continues to wrestle with the presence possessing him, and eventually leaps from the window to his death, experiencing a lengthy flashback to his last space mission as he falls.
Mulder theorizes that, while Belt was compelled to sabotage the launches by the entity possessing him, he was also the one who sent Generoo the evidence of what was taking place. He lauds Belt's final sacrifice, stating that in the end he gave his life for the mission, as befits a true astronaut.
- Chris Carter was influenced to write this episode after seeing the "face on Mars" photograph and thinking how weird it would be if the face came down on him, as happens to Colonel Belt in the episode.
- After the series had exceeded its budget on some earlier episodes, "Space" was designed in part to be an inexpensive installment of The X-Files, using NASA footage that was relatively cheap to acquire. For instance, Lt. Col. Belts dream sequences are a simple recoloring of footage of Ed White's Gemini 4 space walk. However, the construction of the large mission control set ultimately made this the most expensive episode of Season 1 to produce.
- The X-Files' pilot episode was first broadcast in September 1993, while this episode was being filmed. As a result, the production personnel were somewhat overwhelmed with reviews and other input pouring in.
- Chris Carter was dissatisfied with this episode and was frustrated by certain logistical constraints, such as the fact that the endangered astronauts in the space shuttle could not be shown as the production personnel only had an eight-day television budget. Today, this is widely considered to be one of the worst episodes of The X-Files.
- Tom McBeath as Scientist
- Terry David Mulligan as Mission Controller
- French Tickner as Preacher
- Norma Wick as Reporter
- Alf Humphreys as 2nd Controller
- David Cameron as Young Scientist
- Tyronne L'Hirondelle as Databank Scientist
- Paul DesRoches as Paramedic