Space Rock and Terrestrial Tripping: The Space Project
by juli boggs
This month I’ve been reading Andrew Chaikin’s phenomenal book A Man on The Moon, an ultra engaging account of the Apollo space program based on in-depth interviews with 23 of the first NASA astronauts. The stories are detail-laden and fascinating, conveying the immense amount of groundbreaking work that went into getting humans to the moon and, even more, what it took to get them back. What’s most interesting though is how floating in the vastness of space and looking back at the Earth so profoundly affected the souls and minds of those who saw it. The photo “earthrise” taken during the Apollo 8 mission was the world’s first glimpse at just how infinitesimal our planet really is, and how interconnected we all are on this pale blue dot.
But even as those in space look longingly back at Earth, we still look to the stars. I’m not sure what’s out there to explore, but just as some men are pulled to the sea as Ishmael recounts in the first pages of Moby Dick,
“Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land?”
so are many of us pulled towards the heavens. Maybe in both cases what we go great distances to discover is ourselves.
April 12 has been marked as the International Day of Human Spaceflight. The United Nations General Assembly declared the observance in 2011 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961. In celebrating this year, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (Uh, what? New dream office!) will be releasing their third edition of a series of messages from astronauts to future generations. Together, the messages create a sort of autograph album with photos of the space explorers alongside scanned images of their handwritten notes to inspire future explorers.
April 19 marks the release date for a new compilation from Lefse Records entitled The Space Project. The release features artists using sounds collected from the Voyager I and II space probes, the crafts released in 1977 to photograph Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons, and which are now navigating the depths of space some 12 billion miles from home. With contributing artists including Beach House, Youth Lagoon, Spiritualized, and Jesu, the songs vary from thematic, atmospheric pop to long, meandering electronic bits where the Voyager sounds figure prominently. Of course, “sounds” is a little misleading. Within the vacuum of space the only sound is silence, so the audio was created by “translating” the space probes’ recordings of electromagnetic radiation fluctuations put out by the stellar objects into their magnetosphere. Just as each planet, moon, and asteroid is different in size, mass, and elemental makeup, so the “sound” they radiate is unique.
The 14-track compilation is being released on Record Store Day as seven separate 7-inches, one each for the celestial bodies of Jupiter, Miranda, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Earth, and Io. The Space Project will be available for purchase individually on vinyl, CD, and digital download, and also as a limited run 7” box set that I am deeply coveting.
Stream the whole album now at NPR’s First Listen, giving special attention to Youth Lagoon’s “Worms” and Spiritualized’s “Always Together With You” performed under the moniker The Spiritualized Mississippi Space Program.