The Last Frontier Of Tourism
The boundaries of space tourism, billionaire cosmonauts, terraforming at home, faked missions, interstellar trips with cryosleep radio, bedroom ars astronautica, lunar embassies, star spangled skins and a lot of space junk.
The most plain answer to the ET question is that aliens aren’t coming form outer space, they are just tourists. And that contrary to some speculation, the invading tourist doesn’t put an end to the archetypal ufological conundrum.
It is quite true that extra-terrestrial life-forms could be evil tourists, mimicking all those white big game hunters from African safari ventures, geared with deadly weapons and perfect camouflage based on the Predator model crazed for human trophies. That appeared in the middle of earthly conflict areas; the spots where tourism itself has been reshaped. Tourism now has a green hue. If aliens are biped, greenish, macrocephalous beings, then the western tourist counterparts are covered in x-tended tan lotion and newly confronted with war-torn areas in the heart of the tropical paradises they once cherished and raided for a long while.
Space Tourism became feasible only when the past exotic resorts and those cheap vacation plans turned highly explosive and easy to detonate. Suddenly Tourism in Bali and other places became the realm of extreme sports. Tourism is certainly an extreme sport when it embarks on organized tours to such extreme ideological reserves as North Korea via Koryo Airlines.
The most risky tourism in the world always gravitates towards the opposites.
It is not a rough, anaerobic business, but rhymes with everything possible, quiet, spacey, cosmic and accessible with the help of significant funding.
Through space tourism we reach the ultimate frontier of the taxpayers pocket back on Earth. Tourism pushed to its limits makes that possible, and it enables people to have all that they miss at home – detachment, imponderability and media exposure on a cosmic scale. Even if you already have it, it won’t hurt to have access to a bit more of it. Little green men are also behind the para-technological exegesis applied to sacred texts by Erich von Däniken. The techno-critical approach of his Ancient Astronaut Theory conveys the same general message: they were once here and they have returned many times since.
No wonder they are generally accused of rape and vivisection. Again, we are confronted with depredation done by tourists coming from other worlds in search of underprivileged victims living under poor economic and social conditions. The capital is launching these tourists on a lawless trip to the third or fourth worlds where they are received blindfolded and with open arms. It’s a mechanism that fuels the rockets only when the ideological engine purrs in single-minded acquiescence. Space tourism bends the whole scientific mission of space conquest, and hurls in your face the fact that exploration missions were always political missions, with the flag waving under zero gravitation, giving it the appearance of flying in the inexistent breeze. We could say we always behaved like tourists, staying speechless in front of space missions, like a couple of idiotic tour-travellers. We peeked at missions whose words we didn’t understand, we cried when something went wrong and consumed a lot of explanatory animated movies briefing us on why you had to make so many tests before lift-off and on why the Mars probes are so easily trashed. You don’t have to get over there. Just send in the monkeys, the probes or the Mars mini-rovers. All the data, the mission details, when and if we understood trickled down to this - why the yoyo doesn’t spin on the end of the loop in zero gravity or how sex is going to affect space crews on long, intimate and ultimately boring missions.
Like any tourist bastard that throws his Coke bottle on top of the Everest, the space junk is already branded; we do know some of the culprits who left it there. If he was an astronaut (the American name for an imponderable tourist) or a cosmonaut (the Soviet version of the same tourist). We know for sure that Mir dumped about 200 bags of rubbish in space during its first ten years. We also know that astronaut Edward White lost his glove that nearly became the most dangerous man-made object in orbit travelling with speeds up to 28.000 km/h. High up there, a lot of things stopped functioning, for example about 2700 discarded satellites. We live in a world where the sky is already a celestial dumping ground, with orbital junk that may not come down for another 100 years. And when it finally hits the atmosphere, it flares into a faked meteor.
Space tourism starts here on earth, where people, some of them good friends, already live in a sort of cryogenic deep-space sleep, which I also like to dive into. One of them is Dragos Botezat who created an example of ars astronautica, in his Berceni flat (Bucharest, Romania). Space art in a former communist flat – modelled after the dreams of every space city inhabitant. It has trompe oeil spaceship windows, alien stone eggs in the kitchen and H.R.Giger window panes with posthuman vertebrae patterns. Another one is in Vienna – he is Johannes Grenzfurthner – a big enthusiast of the ultimate frontier and a committed disciple of Carl Sagan. In the 80s Carl Sagan was for both East and West the first to explain the universe in an informative and compelling way. Carl Sagan reminisced in his encyclopaedic PBS series Cosmos his own relationship with the Martian imaginary initiated by the early books of E. R. Burroughs. As an eight-year-old, Sagan was stretching his arms towards Mars/Barsoom in the middle of a football field, hoping that the planet would beam him up.
Johannes is a founding member of Monochrom – a group of artists and theoreticians digging for unexpected answers about obscure and immensely beneficial technologies. Monochrom made Carl Sagan’s childhood dream come true in 1999. Besides that, their ‘Gonna Go Mars’ film features the very worst of spatial pathos that burdens every mission, however tiny, dingy or arid with a messianic air of unspeakable cosmic valour and outer-limits patriotism. In the spirit of reproducible and easily applied tourism, Mars is visualized with the help of any sunglass furnished with red lenses acting as a reality filter.
Mars is the neighbour’s back yard. It is every barren ground on this Earth. The flag is also part of the backdoor cocktail. ‘Gonna Go Mars’ is a majestic fakumentary – it is full of key moments explaining why space jet propulsion projects next to military applications are the most advanced and dedicated technological endeavours on the planet. Our space saga is tricky business.
Its mental launch pad is full of patches, supervisors, expert hands and people starring at the sky. The industrial-military-complex ideology is most eager when the final countdown starts. With an estimated population of 8 billion by 2020, many will eventually have to become permanent space tourists. Contemporary ‘spaceoptimists’ are the ones who have reached the conclusion that the only viable solution is freeing the planet from/of (all) the unwanted elements. On the planet where emigration is a highly restricted activity, on this Earth where Fortress Europe is ever more present, only the Lunar Embassies can deal with the facts. Lunar Embassy Space Headquarters boasts the largest following of space enthusiasts and leaders of extraterrestrial real estate on Earth. But how couldn’t you become an instant enthusiast when you think you can own a piece of the only natural satellite the home planet has ever known. Or you could just use the proper documents framed in your house or office as ‘a great conversation piece’ (see Lunar Registry – copyright of the Lunar Republic SA). As predicted, capitalism under gravitation zero tumbles down to earthly desires; planetary investment, acknowledgement from the American Congress and winning a Chrysler Prowler plus membership to the most exclusive club in the world. If you follow closely, all these tickets to the future and all that parcelling down gets stuck to the background; the star spangled screensaver, the night sky online skin. For all ye earthly passengers, if you want to make sense of all this, I say watch for the cosmic skin, peel it and you will maybe find a way out of the blue box.
Space ambient muzac from Steve Roach to Biosphere and also Vidna Obmana furnish the perfect template for aural space journeys. Radio streams from such sources like Cryosleep Radio(bluemars.org) provide for a transcendental calm during prolonged interstellar travel in your own flat. As a space tourist you only need a bluish, punctured sheet on your window in case you don’t want to wake up just yet.
Dennis Tito flies the Soyuz Agency from Baikonur, not Cape Canaveral. The first official space tourist is a Californian billionaire that paid his 20 million $ worth travel ticket. The debate over who’s the first space tourist puts a big question mark on the whole space adventure programme and all the hedonist and narcissist triggers behind it. Whenever politicians (Jake Garn, Bill Nelson) end up floating in space – it’s not a good sign. And also when others get to pay your ticket (Toyohiro Akiyama). The bad omen is also due to Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth (the second official space tourist) and Greg Olson (the next in line) who really paid for their worth just to get to the scientific International Space Station, already worth some 100 billion $. But in the meantime Space Adventures Ltd. makes an announcement about its newest entrepreneur Dice-K (Daisuke Enomoto) from China/Japan, currently being trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia.
More interesting are the rituals developed by the Russian Space Agency – where everything is important, even pissing on the wheel of the bus carrying the cosmonauts to the launching pad. Because everything counts, such gestures, first done by Yugi Gagarin 40 years ago, are seen as proprietary. Poverty promotes tourism.
The Chinese missions also have a free-ride meaning to it – because the state pays it all. It seems that general lack of funds is the biggest incentive for space tourism. Tourism is also an old theme for famous SciFi writer Ray Bradbury. He is the one to make the next bold step ahead from E. R. Burroughs with his Martian Chronicles of the 50s. In his Lord Byron-sounding story ‘The Moon Be Still as Bright’, earthly invaders marching along the same lines as the WWII marines are confronted by their own mates who have become critical about the whole space adventure enterprise. Spencer is the one who ‘becomes’ the Martian in the absence of any surviving natives. He harbours a strong guilt linked first to his mom & dad image as tourists in Mexico. As a child he remembers them as sluggish, huge, well fed and perpetually complaining invaders.
Most of the times, tourism looks for what he missed at home.
Terraforming is a process for modifying planets. The Red Colony forum for Mars colonization and terraforming (redcolony.com) is also keen on this method because ‘you already have enough concerns with things like terrorism, hurricanes, wars and your own employment prospects’. Coming also out of SciFi writings (Jack Williamson, 1951), terraforming is at home on Earth. We actually managed to drastically change the climate on our planet in a truly disastrous way. But everybody knows that if you want to change the temperature on any other planet of the system you need to apply the green-house effect. In a terracentrist view, the Earth is the model for the other moons and planets that really want to improve on themselves – by becoming tourist resorts. These are better, liveable places, because the preferred candidate for terraforming got so completely alienated from all those unwanted changes happening over here. Only Mars suffers because of its lack of green-house effects. That is why we turn back to our extra-Earth men, having just arrived, because – just as Roland Emmerich told us on Independence Day – their homeland is wasted, exploited without recovery, so they are forced to come here. And the outer limits always seem a bit greener than the developed worlds they have left behind. Obviously for the tourists I mean.
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/People/rgs/pmars-tabl e.html – 'A Princess of Mars' by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Project Gutenberg).
http://ww w.bluemars.org/cryosleep.php – Cryosleep Radio: most people who underwent croyosleep have reported that the mind seems to naturally retreat into a place of infinite tranquility.
http://www.monochrom.at/mars – 'Gonna Go Mars', a fakumentary full of love and dedication for all those abandoned Mars missions (German language).
http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/history/flag/flag.htm – A paper about the political and technical problems of placing a flag on the moon by Anne M. Platoff.
Proof-reading: Francesca Birks.