The next business opportunity is out of this world
Mars has been on our minds a lot lately. NASA’s proposed 2019 budget refocuses attention on returning to the moon, a long-term exploration that’s supposed to help the agency send humans to Mars. It’s intriguing to see the influence of these space policy directives on American culture.
A Different Kind of Mars
In a recently published photo book called “The New Colonialists,” photographer Monica Alcazar-Duarte contrasts the quiet, small Pennsylvanian town of Mars with its planetary namesake. Her photographs of American suburbia appear mundane, yet share an ethereal quality. They’re often interspersed with other photos chronicling the efforts of research scientists in their long-term mission to colonize the Red Planet. This strange juxtaposition of images encourages us to muse on the Mars we currently know, and the Mars we one day may inhabit.
Mars on Earth
Photographer Cassandra Klos undertook a similar project by venturing into active Mars simulation habitats in Utah and Hawaii. She wanted to learn about the “Mars Mission” crew and their simulated expeditions in those earthbound versions of Mars. The dusty desert terrain and unchanging weather in these sites are characteristically Martian, providing research engineers and scientists with the perfect conditions to test our physical and mental ability to relocate to there. The photo series captures the human spirit of exploration and what life on the Red Planet might be like.
Our renewed attention to Mars is part of our bigger fascination with space. Now it’s even seeping into the food and drink industry. The newly opened Voyager Espresso takes inspiration from the Voyager space probes and claims to take “a scientific approach to coffee” by being precise and efficient. The space-themed interiors incorporate perforated aluminum counters, circular tables and metallic wall paint. Another eatery called Pasta Flyer knows exactly why it’s special, and says so in its tagline: “Old world Italian served at light speed.” The flying saucer forms its core identity and the restaurant displays the shape on its ceiling, door handles and menus.
Lunar Saloon, the creators of space-grade playing cards, launched a Kickstarter project that seeks to engage young children beyond the backyard and teach them the ABCs of astronomy through space-themed flashcards.
When Burak Ozcan ventured to create an all-inviting, all-inclusive makeup brand, he wanted to embrace diversity without sounding like countless other contemporary makeup brands. So he turned to space and began toying with notions of universal beauty. Instead of featuring women of all sizes and colors, he imagines non-human characters from other planets and galaxies. The packaging ditches photographs of real women for futuristic illustrations of bold, wild-looking, confident creatures. Because of the characters’ physical and racial ambiguity, Space Age’s brand story doesn’t speak to a particular kind of body type or skin tone. Instead, it challenges beauty standards and reminds you that you are the most beautiful organism in the universe no matter what you look like.
The idea is echoed in the space-age pink bob that Gigi Hadid and other models sported at Jeremy Scott’s recent New York Fashion Week show. Their brightly colored, razor-sharp, metallic baby bangs make them look like divine felines, like Milla Jovovich from 1997’s The Fifth Element.
Brands at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games seem to be at the top of their space game. As part of its global mobility initiative, Hyundai Motors commissioned the design of what is now considered to be the darkest temporary structure in the world. The entire pavilion is coated in “Vantablack” spray paint, a pigment so black that it’s nearly impossible for the human eye to perceive the shape of anything it covers. The result is a façade that creates the illusion of a window into space, with stars protruding from the surface as one gets closer to the building.
Snowboard brand Burton impressed the Olympic crowd by dressing up the U.S. snowboarding team in a NASA-inspired ensemble, complete with a pearlescent white puffy jacket and space gloves. Gold medalist Red Gerard in his swanky gear looked ready to either zoom down snowy slopes or embark on intergalactic expeditions.
Eye in the Sky
In a world where space billionaire Elon Musk has made affordable and reusable rockets a reality, the space race is no longer between countries but between private companies. Such innovation has opened up the playing field to businesses interested in democratizing space data and understanding our ever-evolving home planet as a single entity. Three former NASA engineers helped create and operate CubeSats, which are a fleet of tiny, cheap commercial satellites that capture images covering every location around the world. Whether such a feat is humanitarian or authoritarian is up in the air. Make that the stratosphere!
Aerospace startup Rocket Lab’s more artistic endeavor is called Humanity Star, a light-flashing artificial star launched into orbit as a reminder of “our fragile place in the universe.” The Star has raised some controversy among astronomers, who prefer to call it vandalism and “space graffiti.”
The government doesn’t have a monopoly on outer space expeditions anymore. Nor is space colonization any longer a distant reality. When purveyors of photography, food, games, fashion, art and architecture are all on a quest to emulate the extraterrestrial, we’re on the brink of a new normal. Regardless of how this story ends, terrestrials are witnessing Space Age Reloaded.