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“To Venus and Mars” by Rodney Rawlings – Sandra Flores-Strand, Mezzosoprano

“To Venus and Mars” by Rodney Rawlings – Sandra Flores-Strand, Mezzosoprano

The New Renaissance Hat
Rodney Rawlings and Sandra Flores-Strand
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Description by Rodney Rawlings: Performed by mezzosoprano Sandra Flores-Strand with pianist John Massaro in rehearsal for Voices of Vienna concert of April 13, 2018, in Fountain Hills, Arizona. A video of the concert is expected to become available soon. This song is in tribute, and counsel, to those adventurers who push out the boundaries of our one and irreplaceable existence.

Watch an earlier performance of “To Venus and Mars” by soprano Amanda Noelle Neal here.

“TO VENUS AND MARS”

While children down here in the fields
Catch fireflies in jars,
So grown men chase evening light …

… To Venus and Mars
Someday a brave man will go–
Someone who can bear to be launched
And leave us below.

But deep in the sky
He will lose sight of the earth
Ere catching that one final glimpse–
Stuff of memoirs–
Knowing he’s bound on a course
To Venus and Mars.

—-

Now he must seek higher realms instead.
It was time for those last looks to end.
Echoes remind him of what they said
When he first heard their call to ascend:
“Do you find most of this globe absurd,
“With its throngs, restless passions, and tears?
“This world is vain, as we’ve often heard.
“Do you long for a mission that’s one-way
“To Venus and Mars– to Venus and Mars–?”

—-

Near Venus and Mars
Yet might he grow ill at ease
To gaze on them–visions of Earth
Taint all that he sees?

This trav’ler may soon
Dream he will one day return–
To mingle on streets full of life,
To chase falling stars
And quite serenely look up to Venus and Mars.

(Spoken:) And quite serenely look up
(Sung:) to Venus and Mars.

© 2018 Rodney Rawlings

Rodney Rawlings is a Toronto writer and composer/songwriter. He arrived at the concept of hypercomplex numbers independently, using Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism to guide him.  See his YouTube Channel

Terraforming of Mars – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Terraforming of Mars – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Ekaterinya Vladinakova


“Terraforming of Mars” by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Left-click on the image for a fuller view. You can also download this painting (3200 by 800 pixels) here.

This piece was painted by Ekaterinya Vladinakova in January 2016 as a tribute to Space X’s reusable rocket success. As a result of these pioneering steps, perhaps humankind will someday, hopefully during our lengthened lifetimes, establish settlements on Mars like the ones depicted in this painting. This painting is available for viewing and download on Ekaterinya Vladinakova’s DeviantArt page here.

Artist’s Comments: Being able to re-use a rocket has the potential to make space travel MUCH cheaper, by a factor of a hundred. The reason is because the fuel costs something around 200,000 dollars, while the rocket costs millions. The problem with today’s rockets is we use them once, and then they are thrown away. An analogy would be using a 747 aircraft for only one trip; think of just how expensive it would be.  The significance of SpaceX’s second launch was that it was done on a floating platform. The benefit of such a platform is that it would save more fuel for the rocket, since the ocean platform can move, and less fuel overall is spent navigating the rocket back to base.

Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter. See her gallery here and her DeviantArt page here.  

“To Venus and Mars” by Rodney Rawlings – Amanda Neal, Soprano – World Premiere

“To Venus and Mars” by Rodney Rawlings – Amanda Neal, Soprano – World Premiere

The New Renaissance Hat
Rodney Rawlings and Amanda Neal
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Soprano Amanda Noelle Neal performed Rodney Rawlings’s song “To Venus and Mars” at New Brew Chicago’s “A Warm Welcome” concert on May 16, 2017, at The Elbo Room, Chicago, Illinois. This was the first live, public performance of the full song.

Watch the video of Ms. Neal’s performance here


Description by Rodney Rawlings (March 22, 2004)

“To Venus and Mars (The Spaceman’s Lament)” is another song from my musical The Watcher on the Shore, offered in the hope of sparking interest in the play’s production. The theme of the song is the homesickness that would undoubtedly be felt at times by a lone explorer of deep space—especially if he thought he might never return to Earth. Utterly alone and impossibly far from one’s home planet, would the thought of perhaps never again experiencing earthly life be bearable?

Of course, many pioneering spirits would not be afflicted with thoughts like this; their deep-seated passion to explore and learn would overwhelm all other considerations. In fact, in the play, the song is sung by one who does not wholly identify with such spirits. But one must admit that the case of outer space is extreme, and I can’t help but think that even the strongest souls might now and then succumb to such a sentiment. Especially in the coming early years of interplanetary travel, travelers may have to contend with a new malady consisting in a soul-destroying longing and nostalgia.


Lyrics for “To Venus and Mars” (May 29, 2017)

While children down here in the fields
Catch fireflies in jars,
So grown men chase evening light …

… To Venus and Mars
Someday a brave man will go,
Someone who can bear to be launched
And leave us below.

But deep in the sky
He will lose sight of the earth
Ere catching that one final glimpse—
Stuff of memoirs—
Knowing he’s bound on a course
To Venus and Mars.

—-

Now he must seek other realms instead.
It was time for those last looks to end.
Echoes remind him of what they said
When he first heard their call to ascend:
“Do you find most of this globe absurd,
“With its throngs, restless passions, and tears?
“This world is vain, as we’ve often heard.
“Do you long for a mission that’s one-way
“To Venus and Mars—to Venus and Mars—?”

—-

Near Venus and Mars,
Yet might he grow ill at ease
To gaze on them, visions of Earth
Taint all that he sees?
This trav’ler may soon
Dream he will one day return
To mingle on streets full of life,
To chase falling stars
And quite serenely look up to Venus and Mars.

(Spoken:) And quite serenely look up
(Sung:) To Venus and Mars.


Rodney Rawlings is a Toronto writer and composer/songwriter. He arrived at the concept of hypercomplex numbers independently, using Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism to guide him.  See his YouTube Channel

***

Amanda Noelle Neal is a Chicago-based lyric soprano with degrees in Vocal Performance from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts and Loyola University New Orleans. While pursuing her Master’s Degree at CCPA, Amanda performed the roles of Genovieffa in “Sour Angelica”, Ariadne in “The Abandonment of Ariadne”, and The Unseen Voice in “The Deliverance of Theseus”, both by Darius Milhaud.

Amanda has sung lead and supporting vocals in multiple bands in Chicago. She is a member of the all-female opera-improv troupe Forte Chicago. See her YouTube channel.

The Martian – Movie Review by Edward Hudgins

The Martian – Movie Review by Edward Hudgins

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
October 13, 2015
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The Martian, from director Ridley Scott, is an exciting film about an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet. It celebrates the heroism that comes from human reason. And it points to what it will take for humans in coming decades to make Mars a new home for humanity. With the film coming on the heels of NASA’s confirmation of liquid water on the Martian surface, that home could be closer than you think!

“I’m not gonna die!”

The Martian is based on a novel that author Andy Weir originally published himself online and offered as a free download. The author and the film take care to be as scientifically accurate as possible in the context of a fictional offering.

Martian_1The movie opens with the third crew to land on Mars rushing back to their landing craft ahead of a sudden sandstorm that threatens to destroy it and them. (In reality, Mars’s thin atmosphere would mean such a storm would annoy rather than kill. But then there’d be no story!)

Unfortunately, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris from some destroyed communications equipment and blown away. Sensors indicate his suit’s seal has been breached, meaning his oxygen has escaped and he’s likely dead. The rest of the crew takes off without searching for his body to avoid being killed themselves.

They begin their sad, year-long journey home after informing the world of the tragedy.

But Watney is alive! The breach in his suit was sealed by blood and the debris lodged in his side. He gets back to the habitat the astronauts had used as their base. But his future still looks grim. He is out of contact with Earth and his shipmates. The next Mars mission is not scheduled to arrive for four years and will land 3,000 kilometers from where he is. He has nowhere nearly enough food rations to survive that long. But he declares, “I’m not gonna die,” and we see his mind at work in the video logs he makes of his efforts.

Intelligence for survival

“Let’s do the math!” he says as he figures out that he must grow three years’ worth of potatoes on a frozen planet where nothing grows and find some way to water and fertilize his crops. But he’s a botanist and he declares, “Mars will come to fear my botany power!” He converts part of the hab into a makeshift greenhouse. Human waste—what the crew left in its short visit and what he will produce in the years ahead—will be his fertilizer. The water will come from a jury-rigged setup that extracts it from other substances at hand in the hab.

Martian_2

Watney contemplates how to get his tractor, which needs batteries recharged every 35 kilometers, to trek a hundred times that distance, how to carry enough supplies for that journey, how to contact Earth, and many other challenges. And he declares, “I’m gonna have to science the s**t out of this!”

Director Scott does not give us wishful thinking, mere muscles, unconvincing machismo, or deus-ex-machina miracles. He gives us intelligence as the key to survival.

Will they succeed?

Meanwhile, back at NASA, satellite photos show activity at the hab, meaning Watney is alive. Scientists on Earth observe him trekking out into the desert and guess, correctly, that he’s searching for a decades-old Pathfinder probe to try to revive its old radio system, which he does. Now they can communicate.

But Watney’s farming efforts are cut short by an accident, and NASA’s plan to send an unmanned resupply ship does not go as planned. The one slim hope, which NASA opposes, is for his shipmates to swing around Earth rather than land as they’re supposed to and return to Mars to rescue him. Will they do so? Will they succeed?

Optimism, intelligence, ingenuity

Many elements of The Martian are familiar from other movies. Gravity (2013) gave us drifting in space, trying to return to a ship. Apollo 13 (1995) was a film version of real-life astronauts with a disabled spacecraft trying to get home safely from an aborted lunar mission. The Martian, like Apollo 13, gives us a vision of the heroic that comes from the same source that allows humans to travel to other worlds to begin with: the human mind.

Some might think that a film about the how hostile Mars is to human life would discourage people from ever wanting to go there, much less live there. I disagree. Humans are explorers and achievers.

In 1996 Robert Zubrin published The Case for Mars, outlining an innovative plan for getting to the Red Planet for a fraction of the cost of a NASA mission. He founded the Mars Society, which runs conferences and simulations of Mars missions in the arctic, in preparation for the real thing. Other groups such as Explore Mars have sprung up in recent years. Other innovative mission models have been proposed, including one from Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. And Mars One proposes to send settlers to the Red Planet on one-way trips, to be permanent occupants. Private entrepreneur Elon Musk founded his rocket company SpaceX with the goal of establishing permanent settlements on the Red Planet. And NASA’s confirmation of water on the surface of Mars opens further possibilities for future colonies.

The Martian is an uplifting film that does not minimize the challenges of life; indeed, Watney explains that he knew going in that space travel was dangerous and that he could be killed. But he says that once you acknowledge that you might die, you deal with the problem at hand and the next and the next. This is humanity at its best. Damon as Watney gives a fine performance. His character must keep up his optimism—without maudlin emotionalism or self-deceiving bravado. He must demonstrate intelligence and ingenuity. In all this we see the best of the human spirit!

Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar for The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism in Washington, D.C.

Copyright, The Atlas Society. For more information, please visit www.atlassociety.org.

The Science Fiction of Scarcity – Article by Sarah Skwire

The Science Fiction of Scarcity – Article by Sarah Skwire

The New Renaissance HatSarah Skwire
October 6, 2015
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We Have Such Abundance That We Fantasize about Having Less.

***

We all know the scene. The urbane starship captain steps up to the console and requests, “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” He waits a second or two until a steaming, perfectly brewed cup shimmers into existence.

From medieval dreams of the Land of Cockaigne, where roofs are shingled with pastries and roasted chickens fly into our waiting mouths, to the Big Rock Candy Mountain’s “cigarette trees” and “lemonade springs,” to Star Trek’s replicator, we have imagined the bright futures and the glorious new worlds that would give us instant abundance.

The “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” type of scene is such a standby it even has its own parodies, where instant preference satisfaction is not exactly … satisfying.

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism, and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. (Douglas Adams, Restaurant at the End of the Universe)

If we didn’t know what was supposed to happen, and if we didn’t fully expect the future to fulfill our fantasies, and if we didn’t have a certain amount of frustrated experience with modern machines that promise wonders but deliver things that are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike them, the scene wouldn’t be funny.

But I find science fiction most compelling when it goes in the other direction — when instead of imagining the end of scarcity, it imagines the end of abundance. The movie Total Recall imagines life on Mars, where even the air is rationed. The gritty reboot of the television series Battlestar Galactica puts us in world where fewer than 50,000 humans have survived and escaped from an enemy attack. The survivors spend much of their time trying to subsist in space amid constant and growing shortages of food, water, fuel, ammunition, and pretty much everything else.

In works like these — and yes, I know their imaginings are as romantic as the imaginings of Star Trek — we get to watch human beings pushed to their limits, using every bit of their ingenuity in order to survive. It was no accident, after all, that Gene Roddenberry called space “the final frontier.”

The latest iteration of this kind of scarcity science fiction is Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, the movie version of which premiered October 2. I first learned about The Martian through the XKCD webcomic strip describing the plot as made out of “the scene in Apollo 13 where the guy says ‘we have to figure out how to connect this thing to this thing using this table of parts or the astronauts will all die.’”

I was sold.

And it’s no spoiler to say that this is precisely the plot of The Martian. Astronaut Mark Watney is one of the first people to visit Mars. When the mission goes awry, his crew has to evacuate, and Mark is left behind. Everyone thinks he’s dead.

He’s not, though, and the remainder of the book is caught up in the details of the scarcities he faces, his creative attempts to overcome them, and our nail-biting suspense over whether he can survive one more hour, one more day, and maybe long enough to be rescued. Mark describes his situation like this:

I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab [the atmosphere-controlled habitat in which astronauts from his mission could live without wearing spacesuits] designed to last thirty-one days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of these things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

Mark’s assessment of his situation, which ends with, “I’m f—ed,” appears on page 7 of the novel. We spend 360 more pages following his solitary attempts to science his way out of the problem. And if you’re at all like me, you won’t be able to put the book down until you find out what happens. Done well, the movie should convey that same nail-biting suspense.

The Martian, and scarcity science fiction in general, is a good reminder to all of us that the real miracle of the market is not the great individual with the great idea, bringing it to fruition and selling it to all of us. The real miracle of the market is that it reliably supplies us, every day, with all the necessities that Mark Watney has to work for so desperately. And it does that by allowing us to cooperate, and to broaden that cooperation beyond our immediate context, to the extended and anonymous world. That long-distance cooperation allows us to access so many different human skills, strengths, and abilities.

With only himself to rely on, Mark (who is primarily a botanist) is painfully aware of the skills he lacks, skills he relied on in his crewmembers who specialize in chemistry, or engineering, or other sciences. While it becomes clear that his botany skills will be a crucial part of his survival, so are all these others, and without any possibility of cooperating, he has to go it alone. He’s in the position of the folks who try to build a toaster entirely from scratch, or make a sandwich all on their own.

I loved reading The Martian, and I can’t wait to see the movie. Stories like this, and like Battlestar Galactica and others, allow me to explore the limits of the human ability to survive. I’m happy to visit those worlds and to entertain myself with their emotional and suspenseful visions of life on the narrowest of possible margins.

But the world I want to live in is the one where cooperation, through the mechanisms of the market, brings us movies about scarcity and survival, while outside the movie theater we enjoy real-life abundance. And also, maybe one day, a replicator that will allow my own cup of “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” to shimmer miraculously into being.

Sarah Skwire is a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

SpaceX, Neil deGrasse Tyson, & Private vs. Government Technological Breakthroughs – Video by G. Stolyarov II

SpaceX, Neil deGrasse Tyson, & Private vs. Government Technological Breakthroughs – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Mr. Stolyarov celebrates the May 22, 2012, launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule and responds to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s claims that private enterprise cannot make the biggest breakthroughs in science and exploration. On the contrary, Mr. Stolyarov identifies historical examples of just such privately driven breakthroughs and explains why private enterprise is more suited than a political structure for making radical improvements to human life.

References

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 – Video from NASA
Beautiful picture of SpaceX Falcon 9 flight
– “Neil deGrasse Tyson: Bringing Commercial Space Fantasies Back to Earth” – Video
– “SpaceX rocket on its way to outer space” – Marcia Dunn – The Associated Press – May 22, 2012
– “SpaceX rocket launch hailed as ‘a new era in space exploration‘” – W. J. Hennigan – Los Angeles Times – May 22, 2012
– “Neil deGrasse Tyson” – Wikipedia
– “SpaceX” – Wikipedia