Penny For Your Thoughts // July 2013

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Why aren’t we going into space, man… 

It’s usually with a wide-jawed, jaded yawn that I thumb right past Justin Bieber newspaper stories on the bus to work each morning but one morning recently was different. “BIEBER BECOMES ASTRONAUT,” ran the headline, the star reported to be travelling with Richard Branson on one of Virgin Galactic’s inaugural commercial flights into orbit in 2014. After a swell twenty minutes daydreaming up a frankly-fucking-awesome Planet of the Apes remake in which the pop pin-up’s space mission goes wrong, returning to Earth years later to find the pet monkey he abandoned in German quarantine has risen up and enslaved humanity – hit me up for the rights to that one, Hollywood – it suddenly struck me. Somewhere along the line, western pop culture’s fascination with the final frontier has boldly gone to shit. From Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ to Super Furry Animals’ ‘Colonise the Moon’, from Patti Smith’s ‘Space Monkey’ to Ash’s ‘Girl from Mars’, our music constellation was once packed with star-gazers. This time 15 years ago, as the sci-fi sounds of Babylon Zoo’s (HORRENDOUS) ‘Spaceman’ was still blaring out on FM radios, blockbusters Armageddon and Deep Impact were doing big business at cineplexes. But in 2011, NASA’s space shuttle program was shut down and a disappointing opening weekend last month for JJ Abram’s Star Trek: Into Darkness, taking a meagre $70.8m worldwide, seemed to suggest that films about space travel can no longer live long and prosper at the box office. The ‘Starships’-singing Nicki Minaj aside, the music world nowadays rarely looks to that great big fuck-off black abyss above us, with all its infinite mystery, for inspiration. That’s a shame, right? As a kid, even the neon blue sky above Cape Canaveral seemed so exotic and full of possibility to me. Which is why I’m entrusting Bieber with sparking new interest in space for a generation whose main interest in stars are the ones on the cover of gossip rags. Godspeed, dude.

Al Horner