Escape from the Earth and Human Foibles


I need to give you advance warning of a book about to come out, which describes the work of my father Frank Malina and his leadership of the team that launched the first human made object to reach outer space.

Ironically his mistreatment by the US governement of the time, during the so called “Mc Carthy” period, led to his becoming a political refugee in France. He became a full time artist, funded through the start up aerospace company Aeorojet that he co-founded. He became an early pioneer of the art and technology movement that now seems like basic cultural common sense today.

He founded the Leonardo artscitech publications that have championed and documented the work of transdisciplinary misfits whose work naturally crosses the arts, sciences and emerging technologies.

Escape from Earth:
A Secret History of the Space Rocket

by Fraser MacDonald

taken from

“”The long-buried truth about the dawn of the Space Age: lies, spies, socialism, and sex magick.
Los Angeles, 1930s:
 Everyone knows that rockets are just toys, the stuff of cranks and pulp magazines. Nevertheless, an earnest engineering student named Frank Malina sets out to prove the doubters wrong. With the help of his friend Jack Parsons, a grandiose and occult-obsessed explosives enthusiast, Malina embarks on a journey that takes him from junk yards and desert lots to the heights of the military-industrial complex.

Malina designs the first American rocket to reach space and establishes the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But trouble soon finds him: the FBI suspects Malina of being a communist. And when some classified documents go missing, will his comrades prove as dependable as his engineering?
Drawing on an astonishing array of untapped sources, including FBI documents and private archives, Escape From Earth tells the inspiring true story of Malina’s achievements–and the political fear that’s kept them hidden. At its heart, this is an Icarus tale: a real life fable about the miracle of human ingenuity and the frailty of dreams. “”

Frank Malina’s best friend at the time at Caltech, was Qian Xuesen who was expelled against his will back to china, around the time my father became a political refugee in France. Qian Xuesen went on to found and head the Chinese Space Program.

My father’sPhd advisor was Theodore Von Karman . In a wonderful irony of history, the Chinese recently landed the first rover on the back side of the moon.

And they landed in the Von Karman crater !!! Arthur C Clarke, a good friend of Frank Malina named one of the spaceship captains in his books after Frank Malina. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

History is cruel, but perhaps this book will help develop a different narrative of the space age at a time that the leadership of space exploration is transitioning from the western powers to the eastern powers and commercial companies. Frank Malina was a co founder of UNESCO, and part of a generation that advocated that outer space should be the common heritage of human kind- an idealistic vision that our current systems seem unable to grapple with.

Leonardo for a number of years has held space and the arts workshops , in collaboration with the International Federation of Astronautics Technical Activities Committee for the Cultural Utilisation of Space.

Ironically in ealier workshops there was much discussion of the “Space Option” argued by space artist Arthur Woods, , arguing that human survival might require emigration from earth. With the near term crisis of climate change , within the next generation, space tourism is unlikely to be the approach needed to make space a common heritage of mankind.

Yes indeed
“At its heart, this is an Icarus tale: a real life fable about the miracle of human ingenuity and the frailty of dreams. “” but also the victory of mathematics as a tool for human survival. Von Karman is particularly known for demonstrating that mathematics could be use to understand and use turbulent and complex phenomena ;this made rocketry possible for human aims at a time when mathematics was not fully part of “STEM”. Today we debate the integration of the arts and humanities into STEM, or STEAM. Yes history is cruel, but perhaps reality is more exciting than fiction.

The multidisciplinary, and somewhat weird, team that founded a succesful aerospace start up company, led to the founding of JPL, the Leonardo artscitech movement. My father advocated ‘a high degree of tolerance for strange people’. Sometimes they are geniuses expelled from the Academy, and yes sometimes they are nut cases. Bucky Fuller was part of the Leonardo founding group, now we name molecules after a strange person !

Roger Malina

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