by Erik Loyer
Made with Stepworks
This visual poem sonifies every mission to Mars, from the earliest Soviet attempts in 1960 to the 2018 NASA InSight mission. The piece was composed during a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a NASA Social media team invited to Vandenberg Air Force Base to cover InSight, the very first interplanetary mission to launch from the US West Coast.
The piece starts with three indistinct chords, representing the first tentative attempts — all ostensible failures but still resulting in valuable learning and experience. Then, another three chords, louder and more directed in their movement, culminating in a high interval matching the first two successful Mars landings in 1975. Next come two low steps representing not only several unsuccessful missions, but also the long gap of time between those efforts and the beginning of what would grow into a golden age of Mars exploration.
As we enter the next series of launches, the proportion of successful missions grows by leaps and bounds, and we begin to get melodic phrases (including a partial quote of John Williams’ theme from Close Encounters, a film which my time at Vandenberg was reminding me of at every turn), rising to a single note marking the launch of the InSight mission.
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