Why does this extraordinary painter want to train astronauts to travel to Mars?

Why does this extraordinary painter want to train astronauts to travel to Mars?

Reid Stowe is an artist, intrepid explorer, and shaman. Back in 2010 he shattered the record for the longest sea voyage in history: 1,152 days non-stop in the open ocean without resupply, out of sight of land. And for the last 846 of those days he never saw another human. It was all satellite verified. Now he’s encouraging Elon Musk to endorse tougher astronaut training at sea to prepare for the voyage to Mars.

As one who was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Stowe named that incredible voyage the “Mars Ocean Odyssey.” Now, his new mission is called the Mars Ocean Analog (MOA).  That’s because the qualities essential for surviving his dangerous experience are analogous to the psychological and physical demands that it will take to complete the nearly two-year Mars round trip proposed by Musk. The MOA crews on Stowe’s schooner are challenged to live in a constantly moving small space, get along with their team members, work with limited resources, and face their fears of the unknown as they sail into the open ocean.

This week, Stowe and his crew of three “analog astronauts” sailed his 70-foot Starship Schooner Anne from Musk’s “Starbase Texas” launch site and docked in Manhattan at Pier 81. However, along the way they were hit by the quickest-moving black squall that Stowe had ever experienced. Tornadic winds shredded the mainsail and the schooner heeled over so that its rail was underwater. “Such a sudden surprise shocks your reality,” he pointed out. “But this is exactly what every astronaut should experience. The whole point of MOA training is to toughen your mind so that when an unexpected event happens in a dangerous environment, you can work through your fear and focus on the solution.”

Stowe was doubly concerned because in the schooner’s cargo-hold was a collection of his powerfully expressive abstract paintings. They survived and are now at the Landmark Arts Building at 547 West 28th Street in Chelsea where they will remain on exhibit through the month of July. This is a private popup, so those wishing to see the paintings must make an appointment with Peter Hastings Falk, Chief Curator and Editor of the art magazine Discoveries in American Art (call 203.245.2246).


Many of the paintings began their life on the schooner during his epic three-year voyage. Some of them bear the scars of that journey, such as when a giant rogue wave completely flipped his schooner as he passed around the treacherous Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of Chile. Many are large, composed with acrylic paint, sand, and collage fragments from blown-out sails. These compelling expressionist paintings are quintessential examples of how art not only reflects his own daring expedition but empowers new exploration. And that leads to Musk’s mission to Mars. Stowe named his MOA mission “Resilience” because it promises to explore the psychology of humans going into space on a similarly long mission. In order to experience analogous conditions of confinement, isolation, and vulnerability he is replacing the starship in space with his schooner on the high seas.  MOA participants on several earlier test trips declared their experience to be “life changing” and “tougher than other analog experiences” on land.

Stowe began his long Mars Ocean Odyssey in 2007 but he first realized how intimate were the connections between the ocean and space environments when he sailed to Antarctica in 1987. “When you’re at sea at night there are stars above and stars below — phosphorescence in the water — and anything could happen at any time,” he said. “I think I’m the only one who really knows how to keep both mind and body fit after the second and third years in that environment. That’s the knowledge I can share that will help humanity to become a multi-planetary species.”

Stowe seeks Musk’s support for the MOA program in order to better prepare astronauts who will be leaving the Earth. At the same time, he feels that the publicity surrounding a full program will create a far greater public awareness about the type of consciousness that is required for humans who want to venture into space.

Call 203.245.2246 thru July
to schedule a private viewing
appointment in Chelsea with
Peter Hastings Falk, Chief Curator

Read the fantastic life story of Reid Stowe at DiscoveriesInAmericanArt.com
where you can also view his paintings.

Follow MarsOceanAnalogs.com