Haunted Houses at Hypervelocity: Orbital Futures
FRI, 21.10.16 | 5pm
Space hardware of every era presents visions of a future based on degrees of gravity. In the early twentieth century, rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky imagined that life in microgravity would create an idyllic, egalitarian society where people would bask in orbiting greenhouses, drinking in the limitless energy of the sun. Instead, today the wreckage of rockets and satellites orbits Earth, splintering into ever-smaller fragments that mirror the plastic granules proliferating in the oceans.
Among this debris—and farther afield in the solar system—are abandoned spacecraft that encapsulate the hopes and fears of those who remain in the bottom of the gravity well. Unlike archaeological artifacts on Earth that have to be raised into the light by excavation, they are ever-present, circulating among the live satellites. This is a stark manifestation of “the past haunting the present.” More interestingly, there are only two that have ever contained human life—the empty Tiangong-1 and the International Space Station, which is currently occupied but beset with uncertainty. Our place in the space beyond Earth is precarious, yet precious to many. What emerging technologies might provide new visions to propel us into a future space—and a future archaeology?