Saturday, 7 December 2019

le projet ozma

Among the first official accolades that the crew of the Apollo 11 Mission were awarded outside of the ticker-tape parades and immediate fame was the astronomical portion of the Prix Guzman—on this day in 1969, an honorarium provided for by the estate of Marc Guzman and established in the will of his widow Anne Emilie Clara Goget in 1891. Arguably the astronauts won by dint of a technicality—the one-thousand-franc prize to be given to a person or group that succeeded in communicating with another celestial body, which the Eagle did with Mission Control in Houston.
Interest accumulated in the meantime and that premium was awarded every five years or so to an individual who had made significant contributions to space exploration, as adjudged by the Académie des sciences of the Institut de France. As many people believed at the time of Madame Guzman’s death that Mars was inhabited by intelligent beings, communications with that planet were specifically exempted as not worthy of the challenge and would be established in the immediate future (see also). The title and related paradox refer to the precursor programme to SETI started by Cornell astronomer Frank Drake, named after Princess Ozma whom L Frank Baum channelled by radio to learn of events in the Land of Oz after his first-hand accounts ended. The problem that arises from such a two-way communication with extra-terrestrials is the lack of a frame of reference and thus no means of conveying basic ideas of orientation, right and left, and parity. The other honorarium, to be awarded for the development of a treatment for the most common forms of heart disease, has yet to be given out. Regardless of Madame Guzman’s intent, the accomplishments of Apollo were certainly no mean feat.