“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.”
-Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell
Yesterday, super entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, launched the Falcon Heavy, from Cape Canaveral. With 27 engines, the Falcon Heavy is a massive rocket and currently the world’s most powerful. During the launch, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” pumped in the background. Even quirkier, behind the rocket’s upper stage dangles a red Tesla convertible with a spacesuit clad dummy named “Starman” in the driver’s seat.
This was perhaps the first ever piece of interstellar marketing. Accordingly, plenty of media was released around the launch. There are videos of the rocket taking off, a profile shot of the Tesla moving through the void, plus Musk’s epic Instagram that revealed a message printed on the Tesla’s hardware: “Made on Earth by humans.”
The most compelling view though comes from a camera situated behind Starman. This over the shoulder shot shows Earth receding in the background, as though Starman were flooring the Tesla in reverse toward the cosmos.
There’s something distinctly eerie about this view.
Starman’s faux-human form brings into relief the enormity of space and the tininess of our receding planet. It somehow humanizes the Falcon Heavy’s flight and yet, there is no human payload onboard. Sending a car with a dummy into space is a massive achievement, especially after Space X’s two prior, failed launch attempts. Yesterday opened a legitimately exciting new era of space exploration.
Yet Starman is a dummy, not a human.
For all the launch’s awesomeness, it was easy to forget — or perhaps difficult to remember fact that every single human being in existence lives on the planet receding into the background. That all of human history has taken place on this terra.
Watching our blue jewel of a planet recede on livestream inspired a distinct sense of humanity’s cosmic tininess. It reminds us of our absurd good fortune to exist on a life supporting planet, a freakish anomaly in the mind-bending vastness of space.
Though we’re exploring the stars once again, we’re not moving to the stars anytime soon. The footage from the SpaceX launch serves a visceral reminder that we’re all neighbors, that we’re all in this together, that Earth is the only home we have.
Let’s take care of it.
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