“Ad Astra” –Thirty Years After a Doomed Expedition, Secrets Challenge Our Place in the Cosmos

 

“Our form of life and intelligence,” observes Silvano Colombano at NASA’s Ames Research Center, “may just be a tiny first step in a continuing evolution that may well produce forms of intelligence that are far superior to ours and no longer based on carbon machinery.”

Which takes us to fear and longing in the Milky Way: “Ad Astra” is a paranoid thriller and mythic hero’s quest that follows Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) on a mission to the edge of our solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition in search of extraterrestrial life that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

“Faster alone, further together,” Brad Pitt murmured during an interview with the New York Times Kyle Buchanan while seated opposite each other on the lowest level of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, inhabiting a closed-off exhibition called “Depths of Space. Over his left shoulder hung Mars, observes Buchannan, reddish-brown and heartbreakingly small, while to his right, the much grander Jupiter was lit up like a disco ball.

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The search for intelligent life has been underway at least since Roy’s haunted father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), led the Lima Project to the outer edges of the solar system, only to disappear, along with his ship and crew. Roy was a teenager when his father went missing, and, cast in his shadow, has grown up idolizing him.

 

 

There are striking action sequences as Pitt’s character combs the galaxy in search of his missing astronaut father. But “Ad Astra” is more concerned with its protagonist’s inner life than the magnificent starscape outside his spacecraft, and long stretches pass with only Pitt onscreen, his voice-over pondering life’s profundities.

“A number of Roy’s encounters are little more than devices for dispensing information,” writes The Hollywood Reporter, “cluing him (and us) in to the truth about his father and his ill-fated mission. However brief and pointed, they give terrific actors opportunities to punctuate the Roy-centric mood with fresh emotions and welcome friction. The indispensable Donald Sutherland delivers a beautiful mix of dire warning and rue as a retired colleague of Clifford’s, and Ruth Negga is all steely, grief-fueled determination as a Mars native with a connection to the doomed Lima Project.”

NASA Kepler Mission Astronomer Warns: “Extraterrestrial Contact Could End Life on Earth” (VIDEO)

If technologically-advanced alien civilizations are indeed out there, would they be friendly explorers, or destroyers of worlds? On February 10, 2017, The Galaxy reported that according to astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz, who works on NASA’s Kepler mission, making contact could be catastrophic for the human race: “There’s a possibility that if we actively message, with the intention of getting the attention of an intelligent civilization, that the civilization we contact would not necessarily have our best interests in mind.”

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“It could be something that ends life on Earth, Walkowitz concludes, “and it might be something that accelerates the ability to live quality lives on Earth. We have no way of knowing.” But our current searches for intelligent life have pressed onward with only limited time and funding, searching for a relatively limited set of specific signals.

“While scientists are often loathe to say that we live in a special time,” she observed, “in some sense we do: we stand at the dawn of knowing that the universe teems with worlds, but not yet knowing if we are alone. At this moment, we must be keenly cognizant of how far we have to go. Otherwise, our assumptions about the completeness of our search, the universality (or not) of the values we hold, and our inability to communicate even with species we share the same swimming space with, will blind us to the possibilities— and limitations— of what we might come to know about life in the universe.”

The Daily Galaxy via The New York Times, Ad Astra Movie, and Do Dolphins Dream of Space Travel 

 

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