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Editorial Dreaming of escaping to outer space? You’re not the only one

Illustration by Patrick Dale Carrillo

Given everything that’s going on in the world today — politically, for the most part — it’s difficult to blame those who wish to escape to somewhere less chaotic. Outer space may seem like an extreme destination, but not to certain individuals.

Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Julio Orta, for instance, would like to install an art gallery on the moon. The Museum of Contemporary Art on the Moon, or MOCAM, was conceived in 2016 in response to the inevitable creation of human communities on Earth’s only permanent natural satellite in the near future. “Although governments and private entities are working on tourism and colonization of the moon, they seem to have no concern whatsoever for the arts because they are not seen as a source of profit,” according to the MOCAM website. 

The inaugural show, “Mystic Hyperstitians in the Heart of Empire,” was curated by Joey Cannizaro who, along with Orta, believes that the Museum of Contemporary Art on the Moon represents a very real “anti-capitalist future” that artists can imagine. As Cannizaro writes in his essay, “At the dawn of Trump’s aggregate neoliberal-fascism...it’s impossible for the creative community to dodge accountability for this lack of imaginative futures.”

True to its name, MOCAM intends to build this gallery on a 20-acre plot located south of craters Helicon and Leverrier.

SpaceX, the ambitious rocket company headed by Tesla boss Elon Musk, could just be the one of the private entities that are “working on tourism and colonization of the moon” that MOCAM was referring to in their mission statement. Musk, after all, wants to send two tourists around the moon and back to Earth before the end of 2018. Should the feat succeed, the passengers would be the first humans to venture that far into space in more than two decades.

In a recent telephone news conference, Musk revealed that these two private individuals approached the company to see if SpaceX would be willing to send them on a weeklong cruise. This journey would see one of SpaceX’s Dragon 2 capsules fly past the surface of the moon but not land. The spacecraft would then continue making its way outward before gravity turns it around and brings it back to Earth for a landing. It is said that the travelers would undergo training for emergencies.

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Of course, the gutsy project has its share of skeptics. Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a space advocacy group consisting of aerospace companies, says the planned trip around the moon is risky. “I find it extraordinary that these sorts of announcements are being made when SpaceX has yet to get crew from the ground to low-Earth orbit,” Dittmar told the New York Times.

Elon Musk’s entry into the aerospace industry with SpaceX sees his company competing with and working alongside NASA, which as a US government agency can sometimes be slowed down by bureaucracy. SpaceX, on the other hand, can be seen as a startup on steroids. It’s expected that other aerospace groups will view SpaceX as a threat, especially when Musk’s zeal — bordering on madness — is taken into account. Like NASA, he also wants to colonize Mars within the next 40 to 100 years.

Is the dystopia brought about by political uncertainty around the world making ideas such as space tourism more attractive and less absurd? Aside from scientists, are more and more people becoming less and less ashamed to be perceived as insane when they talk about their obsession with discovering life “out there?”

Astronomers have found at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star 40 light-years away. The bleaker the situation gets here, expect those newly discovered heavenly bodies to appear much closer than they really are.

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