President Trump has been the energizing force behind what can sometimes seem like ceaseless protests. The day after his inauguration, millions of women (and men) gathered in the United States and all over the world for the Women's March. In fact, even before Trump officially took office, people hit the streets to object to announced nominees for his administration. On April 22, professional scientists and science enthusiasts will join the March for Science — an international event to push back against governmental threats to a thriving scientific community. To their creative credit, the Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN) has devised a truly singular mode of anti-Trump protest: doing so from near space.
ASAN attached a printed-out tweet from its own account quoting Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut from the Apollo 14 mission. Mitchell shared how the experience of being in outer space impacted his views of life on Earth. "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." ASAN took Mitchell's next line for its space-flying protest tweet, as he said being in space made him want to grab politicians and say: "Look at that, you son of a bitch."
ASAN is a "community based" organization apparently open to anyone interested in space exploration. They count themselves as the ideological heirs to the now-defunct Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA), which operated from 1995 to 2000. The group believes in a decentralized approach to outer space missions, declaring that everyone is already an astronaut, and conveying a decidedly critical view of the vice-like grip exercised over outer space access by governments and corporations.
All two hours and twenty-six-plus minutes of the tweet's journey upward can be viewed on YouTube. ASAN attached a camera that keeps Mitchell's words as the centered focus throughout, as the earth spins ever further away with the weather balloon's rise.
The background music provides for some interesting speculation. ASAN chose to set the first part of its tweet's journey to the opera Falstaff. For those who haven't brushed up on their Shakespeare lately, Falstaff is a character featured in a few of the bard's plays. He's an overweight, mendacious drunk who charms other characters (as well the audience) before getting them in trouble. Trump has been compared to Falstaff before.
The final part of the tweet's ascending pilgrimage is set to Mozart's Symphony No. 40. I'm not a classical music scholar, but I did find some quotes from the more learned. According to Charles Rosen, this work by Mozart is "a work of passion, violence, and grief." But perhaps it is the interpretation of Michael Steinberg that prompted ASAN to choose this particular symphony, as he said of the finale that it “must at last be the force that stabilizes, sets solid ground under our feet, seeks to close wounds, and brings the voyager safely – if bruised – into port.”
As a metaphor for this particular mission, and certainly the country that it travels from, such an outcome to this chapter of history would be a welcome one indeed.