Edgar Mitchell, the sixth person to walk on the Moon, died nine months before Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States.
But knowing his distaste for politicians and love of heights, it’s safe to assume the Apollo 14 astronaut would be happy with his role in the world’s first-ever space protest.
This latest act of resistance involved one of Mitchell’s beautifully blunt quotes.
“From out there on the Moon, international politics looks so petty,” he once said. “You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.'”
Obviously, that would be an especially frightening form of kidnapping. But the Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN) did the next best thing.
Paraphrasing Mitchell, they tweeted at the President. They then attached a copy of the message to a weather balloon, which they flew 90,000 feet above the world’s surface.
“LOOK AT THAT, YOU SON OF A BITCH”
The organization, a worldwide space community that promotes independent space projects, uploaded the video in honor of Yuri’s night, an international celebration on April 12 commemorating the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin.
They also offered it as a way of standing (flying) in solidarity with the upcoming March for Science, which will feature more than 425 rallies around the country protesting “budget cuts, censorship of researchers, disappearing datasets, and threats to dismantle government agencies.”
Interestingly, Donald Trump has proposed a budget that would preserve almost all of NASA’s funding while chopping a third of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget (an unprecedented cut that would put conservation resources at their lowest in 40 years) and a 31% cut to international affairs spending.
“Almost half a century ago our brave astronauts first planted the American flag on the moon,” Trump said in March. “That was a big moment in our history. Now this nation is ready to be the first in space once again.”
How can we be the first in space again? That remains unclear.
Trump’s team has expressed a desire to fund more manned missions to the moon and maybe Mars, but wants to eliminate four of NASA’s climate science missions and the agency’s educational funding.
In this context, it seems ASAN was trying to remind the president that one of the biggest reasons we look at space is to gain perspective on Earth.
The mindset change caused by seeing Earth from above — a tiny dot suspended in nothingness — even has a name: the overview effect.
The term was first coined by author Frank White when he was flying an airplane across the country in the 1970s.
“Anyone living in a space settlement … will always have an overview,” he said. “They will see things that we know, but that we don’t experience, which is that the Earth is one system. We’re all part of that system, and there is a certain unity and coherence to it all.”
Unity and coherence might be hard to imagine after the year we just had, but look at that:
Next, check out these the breathtaking photos NASA’s $1 billion probe just sent back from Jupiter. Then learn about the space agency’s bold new plan to make Mars habitable.