Planetary Resources is establishing a new paradigm for resource discovery and utilization that will bring the solar system into humanity’s sphere of influence. Our technical principals boast extensive experience in all phases of robotic space missions, from designing and building, to testing and operating. We are comprised of visionaries, pioneers, rocket scientists and industry leaders with proven track records on—and off—this planet.
In Travels in Hyperreality, the Italian writer Umberto Eco notes that “the pleasure of imitation, as the ancients knew, is one of the most innate in the human spirit; but here we not only enjoy a perfect imitation, we also enjoy the conviction that the imitation has reached its apex and afterwards reality will always be inferior to it.” Eco was speaking of Americans’ love of themed environments such as Disneyland, but I can’t help but wonder if Florence provided a corollary argument, that once an imitation has seemingly established the apex of perfection, any reality that exceeds it can’t help but seem fake itself. This was authentic-plus-one.
When Doug Mack picked up a 1963 edition of Europe on Five Dollars a Day, he stumbled on an inspired idea: to boldly go where millions have gone before, relying only on the advice of a travel guide that’s nearly a half century out-of-date. Add to the mix his mother’s much-documented grand tour through Europe in the late 1960s, and the result is a funny and fascinating journey into a new (old) world, and a disarming look at the ways the classic tourist experience has changed- and has not-in the last generation.
“And the future, to be honest, is already the past. Futurism is a very old fashioned concept. That whole idea of futurism is 19th century. So I really like to give it that twist, to say “OK, it’s not really important where it is on the timeline, it’s important if it makes sense in its elements”—Uwe Schmidt - The Ecstasy of Simulation (Wire 793)
Take a look at the source code. A keyword search for “envatowebdesign” will turn up a prompt comment from the site’s theme seller telling the person who bought it how to customize. Only whomever built the thing for Pyongyang didn’t bother. It’s a bit like leaving the plastic overlay on your fancy new TV telling you about the screen size. A quick check on the source code of the IgniteThemes “Blender” templateconfirms that it’s what North Korea built. Price check? $15.
Not exactly a web presence that screams, “We’re an elite nuclear power that must be respected.” In fact, it took a Fordham University computer science undergrad a couple minutes’ sleuthing to determine the embarrassing origins of the site design.
I also think about the morning of May 5, 1961, the day that Alan Shepard was scheduled to become the first American to fly into space, an act that would help commit his country to a full-fledged moon race. That same morning, newspapers all over the country showed a picture of a bus set ablaze by white racists wishing to quell a movement by black and white civil rights activists to ensure racially integrated travel on interstate bus lines in the South.
At the time, the tendency was to think of such events as being at best mutually exclusive. I think they are now both logical and synchronous outgrowths of the human impulse to break down barriers and move ahead. The less afraid we are to think outside the box scientifically, the less afraid we are of other barriers, other things that constrict our natures
The modernist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the final cohesive chapter in the culmination of linear history. When post-modernism was ushered in following WWII, philosophical and aesthetic movements ceased to develop according to linear trajectories, and instead diverged into a multifold network of parallel and intersecting paths. But even the end of linear time has an ending. In the beginning of the 2nd millennium A.D., it became apparent that the aesthetic impulse was one that was less and less engaged in direct dialogue with the present and more and more haunted by the icons and vernacular of the past (now doomed to reincarnation under the veils of Kitsch and Nostalgia). Surface disembodied from form, form disembodied from spirit, spirit disembodied from gesture… …From this partial womb, Ghost Modernism is born.
Greek fire. Damascus steel. These are two technological innovations whose secrets are said to be lost to time. Even the original schematics for the Apollo missions have disappeared into the mists of history, forever hidden inside hopelessly obsolete computers. How do we lose technologies that were once so important? Some say that they aren’t really lost, and are working on rediscovering them.
Certainly, the specific techniques and materials required to construct some of the famed inventions of the ancient world (and the late 1960s) can be lost. And it’s definitely true that people can forget how some ancient invention works for hundreds, even thousand of years. But the history of technology is very much the history of ideas, and as you’ll see, ideas are pretty much indestructible - even in the face of truly terrible record keeping.
“If anything’s missing, it’s actually more the explanation. I mean there is some stuff that will never be found again, but it’s all there, and the stuff that isn’t you can sort of figure out backwards. Sometimes you need the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone, because sometimes the way we think today is not the way they thought back then. Sometimes you need an index or a document that explains how they did things or their nomenclature. That’s the one thing that’s sometimes hard to find is what I call a bridge document, an answer guide to how they did the thing back in the sixties. There’s no FAQ.”—Technologies that we’ve lost - and the quest to find them again
Doctors examined 27 astronauts who had flown long-duration missions with the US space agency and found a pattern of deformities in their eyeballs, optic nerves and pituitary glands that remain unexplained.
In this blog, I will describe many space missions and programs that never were. I’ll seek to place them in historical context, and to explore why they failed to make the difficult jump from plan to reality. Along the way, I’ll write about our evolving knowledge of the Solar System, NASA’s symbiotic relationship with the Soviet space program, and intricacies of the U. S. political process. My posts will tend to run long, and some might be serialized over several weeks. Above all, they’ll be a meaty treat for my fellow space fans and, I hope, a window into a new world for people who have seldom given spaceflight more than casual consideration.
“In the simplest terms, these photographs tell a story about men and women who show up to work every day and launch spaceships. It is a marvel, a symbol of the United States’ twentieth century dominance. But it is a tragic story. The U.S. is abandoning not only its manned spaceflight program but the individuals behind it whose ingenuity, bravery, and attention to detail made the program not only possible, but reliable… In looking back, we can look ahead to find the next adventure over the horizon.”—notes.husk.org (via iamdanw)
Proto-surrealism was a fugue caused by the imagined future (postmodernism) clashing with reality. We expected jetpacks and flying cars; what we got were iPads and wars fought by drones. The previous generations had a clear vision of how the future would be, but that future did not come to pass. Proto-surrealism mashed up the old expectations with the new reality. The result is an art form designed to elicit a frisson of excitement. You recognize the old concepts, but realize the possibilities that exist when they are given new form.
We expected giant robots and wonderous devices but were unable to make them with electronics, so we dreamed them out of brass and steam. A better example of proto-surrealism might be the photoshopped WWII posters, like the one below. It’s an old style poster, right at home in the 1940’s, and with the ‘Big Brother’ tones that they expected the future to hold…but it stars a pink pony made out of computer vector art. The old, repurposed and blended with the new, is proto-surrealism.
But now there’s the New Aesthetic, and I believe it is a response to proto-surrealism. Instead of blending the old aesthetic with the present not-quite-what-we-imagined reality, the New Aesthetic is looking at the present with fresh eyes and insisting that there is beauty there.
In my opinion, the New Aesthetic is a reboot and a transitional period. Post-modernism failed. Proto-surrealism tried to resuscitate it. New Aesthetic finally brings in something new. Whatever comes next, building off of and perfecting the New Aesthetic, will make epic works of art. Can’t wait.
“Instagram is the narrative of now, I don’t feel particularly precious about them, I don’t tend to go back and look through old photos. It doesn’t matter that the shots I shoot with it are of lower resolution with a cameraphone lens, that they have filters, these are my transient photos (I understand this isn’t the case for everyone and Instamatic photos can be an art). I don’t need a central place where I can always find them, instead it’s a pooled visual stream of consciousness of myself and the people I know.”
By the way, I’d posit that for most people, most of the time, this is what photography was like before Flickr.
It’s explicitly non-retro, even more so not retro-future, or retro 8 bit. The look overlaps with this season’s aztec fixation, but even appropriating such imagery ruled a piece out of consideration. Sometimes it’s just the right colours, or the cut. It’s more gradient fill than pixels. It’s things that couldn’t be made 5 years ago. Supersymmetry and asymmetry. It’s not about the ‘machine vision’ that the New Aesthetic references, but it’s hard to see how that will not be appropriated and re-emerge into fashion as something not necessarily technically correct but aesthetically interesting.
It requires close attention. If you want to engage with the New Aesthetic, then you must become involved with some contemporary, fast-moving technical phenomena. The New Aesthetic is inherently modish because it is ferociously attached to modish, passing objects and services that have short shelf-lives. There is no steampunk New Aesthetic and no remote-future New Aesthetic. The New Aesthetic has no hyphen-post, hyphen-neo or hyphen-retro. They don’t go there, because that’s not what they want.
“It’s contemporary. It’s temporal rather than atemporal. Atemporality is all about cerebral, postulated, time-refuting design-fictions. Atemporality is for Zenlike gray-eminence historian-futurist types. The New Aesthetic is very hands-on, immediate, grainy and evidence-based. Its core is a catalogue of visible glitches in the here-and-now, for the here and for the now.”—An Essay on the New Aesthetic
My point is, all our metaphors are broken. The network is not a space (notional, cyber or otherwise) and it’s not time (while it is embedded in it at an odd angle) it is some other kind of dimension entirely.
But meaning is emergent in the network, it is the apophatic silence at the heart of everything, that-which-can-be-pointed-to. And that is what the New Aesthetic, in part, is an attempt to do, maybe, possibly, contingently, to point at these things and go but what does it mean?