“Make no choice, and you have chosen. Failure to decide, because you lack the right, is itself a decision” – George R.R. Martin, Tuf Voyaging
In this essay I am going to be examining and comparing the ethnographical day-to-day life of Haviland Tuf with the documentary Comet Catchers. Haviland Tuf is a fictional character from the popular novel Tuf Voyaging by George Martin. In which he beautifully creates this world of self-discovery, learning and adventure. This theme perfectly ties in with the premise of the Rosetta Mission. Although Tuf’s spacecraft, The Arc, is imaginary so in reality is far more complex than our knowledge at this time. I will be exploring Tuf Voyaging and Comet Catchers versions of experience and also how they differ in the wide scope of space technology. Arguing the question, are the scientist of today getting any closer to a future like Haviland Tuf.
Tuf Voyaging features the notorious Haviland Tuf, a solitary space trader who owns The Arc. A 30 kilometre long ’seedship’ with ecological engineering capabilities. The entire premise to the novel is a segment of Tuf’s life and his day-to-day mischief concerning his job. His customs and habits are for the most part quite regular and normal. Although some are a little different to what we may see toady. He loves to better himself with learning and reading. Each day is different from the last with Tuf.
There are five important focus points I want to touch on first before I go more in-depth. They include technology, science, imagination, experience and culture. I want to briefly compare Tufs relevance to the subjects with some aspects from comet catchers. Doing this made it possible to see which topic I could talk more about concerning my argument. One that was a possible choice was imagination, Tuf uses imagination in his everyday life by coming up with clever answers to problems. He creates creatures to combat issues but needs to make sure they don’t cause even more issues. This is quite similar to how the scientist think in Comet Catchers by coming up with inventive solutions. For example using the four prog device on their harpoon was a brilliant idea because they knew the surface on the comet was very brittle but weren’t sure how much. Imagination is a huge part to both Tuf and the scientists way of life without it they would achieve nothing, so considering this and humans imaginations we could possibly reach a future likes Tufs. The only thing holding is back is our scientific knowledge. This was another contender for my chosen subject. Science in Tufs universe is far more complex than our own he and can quickly clone new animals even ones that don’t already exist. Something that we just haven’t accomplish yet and although the scientists are ahead in Comet Catchers they just don’t share the scientific knowledge that Tuf does, maybe in our future perhaps but not now. This point argues that maybe we couldn’t actually have a future like Tufs maybe that is just to far out of our reach. Contradictingly we have no idea what will happen in the future. In Comet Catchers Rosetta is a self-sustaining craft which generates power off the sun much like The Arc which also self sustains creating food for both Tuf and his cats. Our technology is certainly not to a Tuf standard but from the documentary you can see that we are certainly getting there. The scientists broke records with the longest burn ever attempted of a spacecraft, it was also the first to match a comets speed. Could this mean that the scientist will continuously break records? Could we reach a technological achievement similar to a universe like Tufs?Perhaps. Tuf experiences failure on a regular basis it’s what helps him to move forward and improve. His experiences help him to overcome challenges. At first he has no experience but by failing he forces himself to improve. This works with Comet Catchers also which gives us hope that maybe one day we can have a more technologically advanced future. For example in the documentary its starts by waking Rosetta up because there previous attempt failed, which made the scientists try even harder this time and they became more creative in their thinking. Lastly is culture, Tuf himself has little culture he is simple, solitary man. The culture in the novel comes from the planets he visits, they share new habits and customs with him which extend his thinking. Different cultures are also quite important in our thinking it allows us to see in different ways. In Comet Catchers there is little culture to analyse, the technology itself doesn’t have much culture but the technology does create culture. In the sixties the moon landing were a huge worldwide voyage and infected everything from music to fashion. Culture affects everything and everyone sometimes without us even knowing but is it going to help us get to a scientifically more advanced level. In the way we think it certainly could help…
Now looking in to a scene from Tuf Voyaging in which technology is spoken about which is when they first come across The arc. A seedship floating in space which they needed to board to save their own lives from suffocation. The crew recognise that this is a battleship which has the capabilities of being ‘priceless’ yet with a wealth of knowledge. Tuf explains that ‘though perhaps abandoned and derelict, it is nonetheless dutiful. Witness the efficiency with which it defended itself against our approach.’ ‘The seedship had vast cell libraries and cloning materials from literally thousands of worlds preserved in a stasis field’. Anittas worry about entering the ship was completely reasonable. She explained ‘even the most sophisticated systems can go down from time to time, experiences failures and glitches.’ Although there was nothing else that could be done and they had to enter. On board it was complete ‘intellectual fascination’ for all, the ‘instruments were incomprehensible’ even for the experienced crew members.
A comparable scene in Comet Catchers is when they find out that their chosen comet is made from a material which could resemble ‘gravel soup or a gravel cloud. Where this stuff is loosely bound by gravity’. A scientist mentions that ‘the dusty regions are not like anything we experience on earth’. This new issue they face is a difficult one, they have no idea what the material is like with this different gravity and ‘if Philae lands in one of these regions then its ice screws may not work’. The scientists need to find a way to keep the spacecraft on the comet long enough to take samples. They struggle on this idea but finally reach a moment of clarity, using ‘two copper barilium harpoons to secure Philae to the surface. Moving at 201 miles per hour’. It may work but they could’ t be completely sure until the much awaited time comes.
Technology is rife in both my subjects. In Tuf Voyaging he uses technology to assist him in his trading business but also to help other planets out. For example the cloning machine that is spoken about is used frequently in the book to combat problems and create new animals like his menagerie of cats. Of course Tuf is living in an imaginary world where technology is limitless so his will always be better that ours. Comet Catcher was aired in 2014 so only a couple of years ago now and although we have progressed significantly from then it is nowhere near the scope of Halivand Tuf’s world. We do share similar tropes to Tuf including failure and self-doubt among technology. In a quote by Anitta, Tufs crew member, she says that ‘even the most sophisticated systems can go down from time to time’. It is true for us, in the end the Rosetta’s mission did fail. The scientists learn a lot on this year-long task but in the end the technology we had just couldn’t get the results we needed. Maybe in a hundred years with the amount of progress we are making now with technology that dream can come true. The more we fail the more we can learn and improve which only takes time. So in the future having a universe similar to Tufs doesn’t seem that far off.
When Tuf first begins his new life on The Arc he has little experience but through immense reading, failure and commitment to learning he gains so much more. Toward the end of the book there is a scene where Tuf goes back to a planet he failed to save twice before. His knowledge has gotten to his head and feels like he can defeat anything, he feels almost god like. He says to Tolly Mune, a crew member, ‘twice i failed as ecological engineer. Now I suppose to succeed as the god that S’uthlam requires. Should I approach the problem as human a third time, I would surly fail a third time, and then your difficulties would be resolved by gods ruler than myself. Therefore, I must set aside my humanity, and act as god’. Tuf feels as though will his wealth of experience and knowledge he can act as god, choosing life or death. Experience brings knowledge and knowledge brings power, with that power you can make almost anything happen.
Looking at experience in Commit Catcher is difficult. The whole mission isn’t off experience, it is the first time the scientists have ever attempted this. ’30 years of planning, $1.7 billion of investment and the reputation of some of the worlds most influential scientists and engineers. Rosetta was launched over 10 years ago. Its mission to chase down and plant a lander on a comet. Thought in order to save power she was shut down nearly 3 years ago. No one has heard from her since.’ There is so much at stake with this mission, the fact that it has never been done before leaves a lot of questions to be answered. Even to attempt this mission they need a certain amount of experience in space travel to pull this off. Their experience imperative to the success of this mission. Through out the programme they have learnt a lot from their mistakes and hopefully this willingness to achieve will bring them into a more scientifically advantage place in the future. Perhaps like Tufs…
Everybody gains experience from life. The scientists gain experience through trial and error, much life Haviland Tuf. The way in which the scientist from the Rosetta mission move forward in their technological knowledge is through experimentation. From the 60’s we have come leaps and bounds in space travel, we have achieved so much. Our questions are being answered which teachers us so much more. If we continue to experience and learn at this rate there is no reason why we couldn’t reach a future like Tufs. He gains knowledge the same way we do, he is only human. But being human can have there draw backs. The speech from Tuf where he talks about himself as god, shows the more experience you have the more confident you become, the more risks you take. If we as humans keep gaining this confidence we could continue making great strides in space technology.
In conclusion to my question Are the scientist of today getting any closer to a future like Haviland Tuf’s? the short answer is yes of course. There is obviously no way of actually telling if we can reach a future like that, its in the future and we can’t see that. Although from what I have looked at in Comet Catchers and comparing to Halivand Tuf’s world, although fiction, we share similar characterises to him. We as humans experience, we learn, we grow. The documentary shows that we may have failed in the end but we have so much courage and enthusiasm to succeed with that we can do anything. With our ever improving technology we can surely reach a more scientifically advanced future, perhaps one like Halivand Tufs.
Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin (1986) Baen Books
- Comet Catchers: Rosetta Mission (2014) National Geographic Channel