Writing

Exploring the Planets Enriches Us at Home

NEW YORK — NASA’s newest marvel, a one-ton rover named Curiosity, has been set down with all the delicacy of a carton of eggs on the surface of Mars. The perfect landing came after a complex series of automated maneuvers … Continued

When the Chains of Gravity Were Broken

Op-Ed Contributor By MICHAEL BENSON Fifty years ago Tuesday, an obscure Soviet Air Force lieutenant named Yuri Gagarin climbed onboard an eminently conventional form of transport — a converted city bus — and headed toward another order of vehicle altogether: … Continued

Landscape and Trajectory

by Michael Benson   Future historians may perceive that the cascade of insights and innovations which finally led to powered flight at the turn of the 20th Century – and ultimately, space travel – occurred virtually simultaneously with the invention … Continued

The Artist is Present: Marina Abramovic at MOMA

By Michael Benson   To witness the exhibition “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” at the Museum of Modern Art – the institution’s first major performance art retrospective – is to experience both the ultimate victory and the last gasp … Continued

Let’s Build a Stairway to Mars

Op-Ed Contributor By MICHAEL BENSON Human space flight is at a tipping point. Next September, after 29 years of flights, the Space Shuttle is scheduled to be launched for the last time. The future of U.S. crewed missions is currently … Continued

Send It Somewhere Special

Consider the International Space Station, that marvel of incremental engineering. It has close to 15,000 cubic feet of livable space; 10 modules, or living and working areas; a Canadian robot arm that can repair the station from outside; and the … Continued

The beeping ball that launched the Space Age

Sputnik at Fifty  By Michael Benson Fifty years ago today, to the delight of many and the consternation of more than a few, the Soviet Union launched something like a silver volleyball with four swept-back antennas into Earth’s orbit. That … Continued

Is NASA in Outer Space?

Not After a Surprise Round of Budget Cuts By Michael Benson In 1996, for the first time since Balboa spotted the shimmering Pacific from a high Panamanian hill in 1513, a vast new ocean was discovered — an ice-covered body … Continued

Just Hang On a Second

Op-Ed Contributor By MICHAEL BENSON Ljubljana, Slovenia SOMETIME between the opening seconds of Tuesday and the closing ones of Friday in Geneva, the world’s greatest watch-making center, a decision will be made that has profound consequences for our way of … Continued

Don’t look now, but Europe is in outer space

Feats of European Aerospace   Op-Ed Contributor   by Michael Benson   LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Predictably enough, the first flight of Airbus’s elephantine double-decker A380 “super-jumbo” was a major media event. But the continent’s recent achievements in the skies of … Continued

Will NASA put an end to astronomy’s golden age?

Op-Ed Contributor   by Michael Benson   LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — In October 2003, the sun exploded with some of the most violent eruptions on record, spewing billions of tons of particles and gases into the solar system. These expulsions, which … Continued

A World in Words Europa: The Ocean Moon

Book Review   Europa: The Ocean Moon By Richard Greenberg Springer-Praxis, 380 pages, $89.95   by Michael Benson   1. Unlike the luminous sphere visible at the moment from about half of the Earth’s surface, the moons of other planets … Continued

Exploring outer space : Save the Hubble telescope

Op-Ed Contributor By Michael Benson LJUBLJANA, Slovenia— We are living in the greatest age that astronomy has ever seen. New technologies both on the ground and in space have revolutionized our ability to peer into the heavens. Over the last … Continued

Scientists and Bush : When science was thwarted before

Op-Ed Contributor By Michael Benson LJUBLJANA, Slovenia— For anyone who ever spent time in the old Soviet Union, the recent statement by 60 of the top scientists in the United States had an eerie ring of déjà vu. The accusatory … Continued

Can the Heavens Wait?

By MICHAEL BENSON About two-and-a-half miles above the Pacific, the world’s biggest observatory complex dominates the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Among other instruments at this site are the Kecks, the largest optical telescopes in the world; each possesses … Continued

Forget the Moon–Go Directly to Mars

Op-Ed Contributor   by Michael Benson   Ljubljana — Earth, as we have known for only a small part of the trajectory of the human species, hangs in an inconceivably vast space. That void isn’t empty, however; it’s spangled with … Continued

Seeing the Solar System as Never Before

In the end, after the observations of the ancients and the meticulous mathematics of Kepler, after the comet-frescos of Giotto and the telescopic discoveries of Galileo, after Sputnik, Ranger, and all the far-flung probes of four decades of space flight … Continued

How Slovenian is it?

by Michael Benson LAIBACH USED TO BE A FORCE to reckon with. To begin with, the band–if you can call this ensemble of sophisticated politico-cultural provocateurs simply a “band”–were the only group from the socialist world ever to make it … Continued

WHAT GALILEO SAW

ANNALS OF EXPLORATION by Michael Benson   For the past eight years, the vintage spacecraft known as the Galileo Orbiter has been tracing a complex path between Jupiter’s four large moons. During this time, it has made detailed scientific observations … Continued

September Song: Requiem for a Space Probe

From the point of view of the vintage Galileo Orbiter, which has been tracing a complicated, cat’s-cradle trajectory among the four largest moons of Jupiter for eight years now, September 21st is bound to be an interesting day. If the … Continued

A Space in Time

Click for the universe … Your home computer, thanks to the windows that NASA has poked in space, is the site of the greatest show on earth. A deskbound cosmic pilgrim beckons us to an available sublimity by Michael Benson … Continued

A LOOK BACK AT DAY ZERO

<nettime> Zero gravity theater To: “Nettime” <nettime-l {AT} Desk.nl> Subject: <nettime> Zero gravity theater From: michael benson Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 14:48:42 +0000 A week ago today, what has to be one of the most radical theater exepriments of … Continued

Pre-Apocalyptic Non-Modernism

We are come not only past the century’s closing, he thought, the millennium’s turning, but to the end of something else. Era? Paradigm? Everywhere, the signs of closure. Modernity was ending. – William Gibson, Virtual Light All the pieces are … Continued

The Gift of Sound and Vision

“Derrida said ‘The image always has the last word,’ but did he go far enough? Did the delight of his wit spoil the continuation of his logic? The word is after all an image.” – Peter Greenaway   Of all … Continued

Into The Divine

Paris, rising in a frozen haze above its grand boulevards, is dreamlike in the first days of 1997. The city has always seemed to be a compound of the earthy and the erudite. But the closing years of the century … Continued

Out of the Present: Andrei Ujica

Ask Andrei Ujica about what it was like to shoot his second feature documentary, Out of the Present, and you won’t get what could be called a “pedestrian” reply. A Romanian expatriate academic living in Germany, Ujica is not a … Continued

Neue Slowenische Kunst: The “State in Time”

All art is subject to political manipulation except that which speaks the language of the same manipulation. – Laibach, 1984 By now it doesn’t seem bizarre that independent and visionary artists would emerge from what was once loosely referred to … Continued

The Work of Art in an Age of MECHANICAL DESTRUCTION

THE SPINNING WHEELS AND GEARS THAT DEFINED THE 20TH CENTURY IN BENJAMIN’S time have given way to the icy hum of computers and the static winking of fibre-optic communication. That which still turns is miniaturized. It’s only a truism that … Continued

Of Transmitters and Receivers

I see cinema today as more interesting than any other form. Except that its power has been usurped. There’s been a usurper: television. That’s how I see it… with the acquiescence of accomplices – who are us, ourselves. Or versions … Continued

Predictions of Fire dialogue list

What follows is an entirely accurate account of all discernible written, spoken, sung or shouted words within the 95-minute running time of Predictions of Fire. FIRE FILM VOICE: To make a fire, we need a flammable substance, air, that is, … Continued

The Future is Now

And so, for almost fifty years, the people of the camera obscura, of the darkened rooms, have burned the imaginary to warm up some reality. Now reality is taking revenge, demanding real tears and real blood. -Jean-Luc Godard   The … Continued