Book Club Picks Space

Mars Exploration Is Coming Back

The actor Brian Blessed recently made a much anticipated appearance on the comedy video podcast Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP). He took a moment to speak passionately about the space program and his involvement in it. You can watch the episode here, but here also is a transcript, which reads like a powerful inspirational essay that should give you a little spring in your step.

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“My biggest love in life is space. As you’re sitting  here now, people say, ‘Well you’d never get me, Brian, going into space. You’d never get me in a rocket ship.’ Well, you’ve got no choice. You’re traveling at 57 thousand miles per second as you sit here. And so is the solar system. And so is the Milky Way. So, every time you wake up, you’re in a different part of the universe. You’re space travelers! And we’re young! We are the children of stardust, yearning for the stars. It’s in us. We’re only beginning. There’s so much out there.”

“It’s astonishing that we can now see all these continents on these moons and on these planets. There are mountains on Mars four times higher than Mount Everest. Olympus Mons, the size of Spain. I want to go there. I want to climb it. I want to be there.

“At the age of six, I was told by our infant teacher Mrs. Gummersol that there were other worlds besides ours. I thought they were painted, the stars. No, no, no, they’re real! I painted Mars when I was six years of age all red. I wanted to go there, so I saw things like Flash Gordon and I saw things like Angry Red Planet, The Man From Planet X, Journey into Space. I yearned and yearned and yearned.

“I said to NASA and the Interplanetary Society the other day, ‘I was heart-broken at seven because I couldn’t go there and I’m still heart broken. Get off your f*cking a$$es!’ They were shocked, but they love me because of my passion, because of my love.”

“And Zubrin, who’s doing Mars Direct, he’s building sheds and things on Devon Island in the Arctic and training people for Mars, and I’m part of the Martian program. I inspire them. I wore Martian prototype suits, 27 million quid each.

“So I said to Ken[neth Branaugh], ‘I’m going to get four or five mountaineers, the best in the world, I’m going to get NASA on board, I’m going to get the Russians on board, the Chinese on board, microbiologists, geologists, the lot. I’m going to go. We’ll film in Russia, we’ll train in Russia. I’ll be trained completely as a cosmonaut. Total training. And we’ll go to Reunion Island in the Pacific. And we did. Massive tents. Helicopters.

“I write my own scripts. What I want to do, I will not be restricted.

“We got there. These suits that are made are being made by the man who designed Predator. Kevin Hall, who is the Predator, seven-foot-four, and he was there: it was lovely. We wore Martian prototype suits when we were in training. Where this volcano is on Reunion Island. It’s called terror. It erupts a lot. It’s a plate volcano like you’ll find on Mars, we trained on there. I was with Catherine Destivelle, the great woman climber who climbs in France, Yosemite alone without a rope. She’s climbing with me. I’m with all these microbiologists and biologists.

“You wear these suits and they’re very tight. They have veins inside so you don’t have to sh*t, you don’t have to pee. It takes it out of your body. It’s amazing.

“So I’m training with them all and then one day we’d climbed a few cliffs and I said, ‘Golombek, we’re running out of oxygen.’ Now the oxygen cell is that big and they go in there, there, and there. They’re very refined. So I said, ‘They’re empty. Where’s the oxygen?’ We’re in our helmets and all that, about fifteen of us.

“He says, ‘Use your compass, Brian.’

“I said, ‘I can’t use a compass.’

“‘You’re a mountaineer. You’ve been to Everest and all this and you can’t use a compass?’

“I said, ‘No, you have to understand, of course I can’t use a compass. There are no magnetic fields on Mars.’

“And Golombek, and Zubrin, and the whole of NASA said, ‘God f*cking dammit! We’ve got the best f*cking guy who’s got the best f*cking brain, we’ve got NASA here, and we’ve got this c*** telling us that there’s no magnetic field on f*cking Mars? Why didn’t some f*cker think of that?!’

“That’s why they love me. I point out simple things to them. My relationship with NASA is wonderful. They’re lovely, wonderful people.

“Just… for Christ’s sake. In the fifties and sixties, we had Blue Streak, Black Night, and Black Arrow. It was the labor party (I’m not criticizing the labor party, it just happened to be the labor party) who cancelled it all. We were training at the Woomera Rocket Range in the 1950s. We were ahead of Wernher von Braun. We would have been on Mars. We cancelled it. The European rocket Ariane, that’s Blue Streak.”

“We have brilliant young scientists all over the country and they’re out of f*cking work! I used to talk to [Colin] Pillinger before he died about this. It’s tragic, but at last, I’m working in Abington with Skylon building space planes for the moon and Mars, and we’re coming back. We’re coming back.”

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Brian Blessed is not the author of any pop science books per se, but he has written several memoirs and true stories about exploration that you can buy. I myself really enjoyed Absolute Pandemonium on audio. The Panther in My Kitchen is his newest publication.

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