The cosmic explorations of Elon Musk, David Bowie and Blind Willie Johnson – Colorado Springs Independent

Posted: December 3, 2020 at 4:55 am


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A Bowie-inspired mannequin circles the sun in a Tesla, blasted into space just because.

The longer I live, the more I am inclined to believe that this earth is used by other planets as a lunatic asylum, wrote George Bernard Shaw back in the early 1900s. And now, more than a century later, Elon Musk is planning to return the favor.

Last week, the billionaire eccentrics SpaceX program launched its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, the latest step in Musks mission to send 1 million people on commercial flights to Mars by the year 2050.

Meanwhile, Starman, the Bowie-inspired mannequin thats strapped into a rocket-mounted Tesla Roadster, is celebrating its two-year anniversary by continuing to orbit the sun while listening to the song Space Oddity on infinite repeat.

Johnsons voice awaits listeners in the cosmos.

Bowie, who was even better at branding than Musk, released Space Oddity in 1969, a year after Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey and a week before the first man set foot on the moon. The song introduces Bowies character Major Tom, an astronaut whos losing contact with ground control as his capsule drifts aimlessly into deep space:

Though Ive passed one hundred thousand miles

Im feeling very still

And I think my spaceship knows which way to go

Tell my wife I love her very much

She knows.

Space Oddity was Bowies first single to chart in the States, and he followed it up with a number of other space-themed singles, including Moonage Daydream, Starman and Life on Mars. The most interesting was Ashes to Ashes, in which he recasts Major Tom as a junkie whos strung out on heavens high and hitting an all-time low.

Musk, on the other hand, is hitting an all-time high. In May, he and his partner, the Canadian musician Grimes, announced the birth of their baby boy, whom they promptly christened X A-12 Musk. The name might have seemed inscrutable, had Grimes not posted this helpful explanation on Twitter:

X, the unknown variable

, my elven spelling of Ai (love &/or Artificial intelligence)

A-12 = precursor to SR-17 (our favorite aircraft). No weapons, no defenses, just speed. Great in battle, but non-violent + (A = Archangel, my favorite song) (metal rat)

Last month, NASA officially certified SpaceX as the first commercial spacecraft system in history capable of transporting humans to and from the International Space Station.

As remarkable as all this may be, its worth remembering that Elon Musk wasnt the first to send music by earthlings into space.

Zillionaire Elon Musk and Claire Boucher (aka Grimes)

That distinction goes to NASA, which launched its Voyager 1 back in 1977. On board is a gold-plated disc that contains greetings in 55 languages, a variety of nature sounds, and a 1927 recording of Blind Willie Johnsons eerie Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.

The story of the Texas bluesmans ascension to the heavens is beautifully told in writer Gary Golio and illustrator E.B. Lewis Dark Was the Night: Blind Willie Johnsons Journey to the Stars. Published in August by Random Houses Pelican Young Readers division, the book describes Johnson as a musician playing his guitar and humming a tune of light and hope to whoever might be listening.

As of this writing, Voyager 1 is some 14 billion miles from Earth. To the best of our knowledge, Dark Was the Night has yet to be heard by any alien lifeforms, and may never be.

The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space, wrote Carl Sagan, who supervised the compilation. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.

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The cosmic explorations of Elon Musk, David Bowie and Blind Willie Johnson - Colorado Springs Independent

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December 3rd, 2020 at 4:55 am

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