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"I'm here, I'm here"

An image of Britain's "Beagle 2" on the Martian surface.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In advance of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, I wrote one of several articles analyzing the occult overtones in the preparation for the games.

One of those articles – “A park. A celebration. An alchemist. A musician.” – one of the subjects was the “musician” – Damon Albarn of the Britpop band Blur. Albarn, in recent years, has publicly acknowledged his fascination with Elizabethan alchemist and court magician Dr. John Dee.

As Albarn – also of Gorillaz and a solo artist who wrote and recorded an opera, Dr Dee – told New Scientist of his interest in Dee – “Dee was a huge figure in the reign of Elizabeth 1, and here we are at the end of another’s Elizabeth’s reign, her twilight years – and the empire has sort of evaporated. I think there’s a real connection between these two moments.”

In 2003, the creative quartet was asked to “program a piece of music to be played on a space mission to Mars,” in this case a European Space Agency craft called the Mars Express, which had the Beagle 2 lander attached to it, the probe that was to land on the Martian surface. Beagle 2 is a reference to the ship that carried naturalist Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery in the 1830’s.

Blur excitedly accepted the challenge and, as we wrote in May 2012: “(H)ad it worked, (Blur’s composition) would have had a ‘signal’ for the Beagle 2. As Blur bassist Alex James explained to the BBC in 2002, the composition – a “call sign” – was “loosely based on a mathematical sequence’ and has overtones of the Dr Who theme music and tracks taken from Blur’s 13 album, including ‘No Distance Left to Run.’” Check out this Telegraph article talking about Blur's recording project for Beagle 2. (Hear Blur's melody, which was probably played on Mars - here. h/t Jeremy David Stone).*

Blur (along with rivals Oasis) helped export Anglo-centric rock n’ roll in the 1990’s. Albarn remains busy and has a new album Everyday Robots, which made many Top Albums of 2014 lists. In December, his Sydney Opera House gig was postponed due to the Lindt Cafe siege where, synchromystically enough, a self-described "black magician"  held patrons and workers in the chocolate shop hostage. Two people died, in addition to the hostage-taker.

But back to Blur ... when Beagle 2 detached and fell through the Martian atmosphere on Christmas Day 2003, it was never heard from again – another victim of the notorious “Mars Curse.”

Britain’s chance to explore another world – following its long-acknowledged imperialistic ambitions – seemed to fail that Christmas 11 years ago.

Talking of John Dee with UK’s Guardian newspaper, Albarn noted that “(Dee) was responsible for creating the concept of the British empire, so he affects all our lives in one way or another.”


And yet today we learn in The (UK) Telegraph that the Beagle 2 was discovered on the Martian surface thanks to high-imaging cameras aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“The photos show the craft landed safely on Mars and partially deployed – but was unable to fully deploy and start communicating,” reports the Associated Press.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, reports that while the solar panels on Beagle 2 “malfunctioned,” “it is likely to still have some power and may have taken readings.”

As Beagle 2’s mission manager Prof. Mark Sims of Leicester University said, “(Beagle 2) still might be saying, ‘I’m here, I’m here.’”

It also may be playing that Blur track from the surface of the Red Planet. One wonders if Albarn’s creative energy and Dee’s magical influences are having some effect on Beagle 2 as it reminds us all here back on Earth that there are new worlds to explore and new discoveries to be made.

Fortunately, a new rover is being built by the ESA and will be sent to Mars in 2018, landing there – if all goes according to plan – the following year, where it will explore the geochemistry and mineralogy of Mars, seeking out evidence of past life.

And while we may not know – in our lifetimes – what Beagle 2 discovered, Dr. Jim Clemmet told The Telegraph that he knows Beagle 2 “inspired young people to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology.”

Let’s hope the 21st century is one where there is a real renaissance of exploration and discovery here on Earth and amongst the cosmos.

For more on space travel, Mars and doppelgangers, read our piece "Dark side of Iapetus."

(*Update: 2:25 p.m. January 17, 2015)

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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