Mars 2020: Opera Singer Writes an Anthem for Red Planet

It’s the summer of Mars. Three countries – newcomers UAE and China, along with veteran the U.S. – are separately aiming to launch robotic spacecraft to the red planet.

Mumbai, India-born opera singer Oscar Castellino has penned a national anthem for Mars, hoping to inspire future exploration of the red planet.

“Rise to Mars, men and women. Dare to dream, dare to strive,” he sings.

The 34-year-old former software engineer was commissioned by space advocacy group The Mars Society to write a fitting anthem for our neighbor in the solar system, working with the group’s founder Robert Zubrin.

But the baritone says it wasn’t until he thought of the anthem’s recognizable melody that the song began to take shape.

“I wrote a tune, and the tune just spoke to me and the lyrics sort of appeared. So, they were not the same lyrics that I’d written earlier. So, I mean, it was just very organic, so to speak,” he says.

Mars is often associated with war in culture. Mars was the god of war in ancient Roman myth and religion.

Castellino wanted something much more positive and rousing, presenting Mars as a common goal for all of mankind.

Castellino says Zubrin wanted a “Marseillaise for Mars”. The opera singer admits he did study a few other famous national anthems before penning his own.

“I don’t think ‘La Marseillaise’ is all that singable throughout it. I mean, you can remember a few bits of it. So, we wanted something that’s singable. And I thought; ‘Okay, something that’s singable has very short phrases.’ So, that is ‘Rise to Mars,’ easy, anybody can sing that,” he says.

The anthem was given its premiere in June 2017. Castellino performed with a full orchestra in Cardiff, Wales.

The opera singer hopes it may inspire future scientists and engineers in their quest to the red planet, helping people realize that crewed missions to Mars are a possibility in their lifetime.

NASA wants to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 and send them from there to Mars in the 2030s.

“We have done the moon 50 years ago, and we were already halfway there, in a sense,” says Castellino.

“So, to spread this message, I could probably send a documentary around, but another way is, and my medium is music.

“So, I thought that was very powerful and I could create a song that inspires people and educates people about our scientific ability as humanity and how far we have progressed.”

Castellino says the anthem has been translated into Welsh, Spanish and Polish. He’s currently working on a version in Hindi.

Lucinda Offer, executive director of The Mars Society, says music has a role to play in future Mars exploration.

“It’s going to be a whole gamut of skills and talents and interests that are going to get humans to Mars. Sure, the scientists and engineers will build the foundation, but we’re also going to need plumbers. We’re also going to need builders and construction workers and bricklayers. We’re going to need also poets and artists and 3D designers, industrial designers,” she says.

“And they’re going to need to have a normal life. It will be a lot of hard work, but at some point, they’re going to want to be inspired as well. They’re going to miss Earth, and I think that you can do that through song.”

Castellino hopes his anthem will be sung for centuries to come. But admits he’s given little thought to his own place in history.

“When we sing anthems, like singing the Indian anthem, I’m from India, or singing the British anthem, American anthem. I don’t really think that people know (who) the composer is,” he laughs.

“So, I haven’t thought about that and I don’t think that’s a possibility.”

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