I had to think a lot about rockets lately. About leaving the safe atmosphere of our planet and heading out into unknown territory. Astronauts say that god was cruel because he made it possible to reach space but he made it so difficult that it was barely possible without breaking physical and chemical rules. In order to escape the gravitational pull of our planet a rocket must accelerate to over 40 000 kilometers per hour. Reaching this incredible speed is the most challenging task in space flight which still relies on chemical propulsion systems. A tremendous amount of fuel is necessary to generate the thrust needed to propel a rocket into an orbit around earth.
When walking past The Shard lately I wondered how much energy it would take to catapult this enormous glass palace into the sky. I imagine taking a space trip on The Gherkin during lunchbreak to better understand my home planet. Looking down from above is reported to be an enlightening and life-changing moment. At least that’s what astronauts say. The first man in space was Yuri Gagarin who orbited earth in his Vostok 1 capsule on April 12 1961. Before that the job was done by a dog that sadly never returned to earth. Entering orbit on The Shard or The Gherkin would make me the first man going to space on a building. However, no matter which way you go up there, travelling to space is dangerous. It’s cold, there’s no oxygen, the levels of radiation are quite worrying. It seems everything out there is hostile and dangerous and almost impossible to cope with and probably this is one of the reasons why it appears so interesting to us.
The sheer idea of leaving the planet on top of a cigar- or penis-shaped vehicle is an odd yet disturbingly coherent thing in itself but what else can rockets tell us about ourselves and about the future? The rocket might entail the concept of escapism. The image of a launching spacecraft communicates the feeling of leaving something behind. Like Superman leaving his dying home-planet Krypton, we are leaving a world behind that we have maneuvered towards the edge of an ecological collapse.
I used to watch documentaries about nature from a very young age and when I was a kid my parents always thought I’d definitely become a biologist or zoologist one day. I was always out in the woods building sheds, searching for bones and feathers or just trying to spot animals. I was also obsessed with caterpillars that I would bring home and care for until they would develop into a chrysalis and subsequently into a butterfly. There were lots of butterflies back then. Unfortunately this has changed dramatically. Revisiting the spots where I used to find lots of different species as a kid is a shocking experience. There are hardly any left now. Biodiversity is degrading at a fast pace and while everybody is sinking into the ones and zeros of the binary realm the organic world is slowly melting away. The thought of nature not being able to heal, not being able to repair the forests and the waters is haunting. Like chocolate the future is sweet but it’s slowly melting between our teeth.