2C (RME) Investigation - Growth Mediums

tl;dr: Examine the opportunities for public engagement with the remote Martian garden and propose an poetic gesture for the mission. Demonstrate the idea with a prototype.

A telematic experience of Mars. Microsoft's HoloLens used to ‘view’ the Martian surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A telematic experience of Mars. Microsoft’s HoloLens used to ‘view’ the Martian surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Due: Friday 29th January

Digital Presentation to: RME Review 2C Slidedeck



An increasingly important component of any extra-planetary mission is public engagement. Normally, it’s achieved by sharing inspirational images from satellites, rovers and other scientific equipment but in its recent Juno mission, NASA took a slightly different approach.

The Juno mission will explore Jupiter to unlock secrets about its origin and evolution. Taking over 5 years for this highly instrumented unmanned spacecraft to reach its destination, when it arrives at Jupiter in 2016, it will study the atmosphere, gravity and composition of this giant gas planet. To get there, it needs to fly out to Mars returning to Earth to use a ‘gravity assist’ to sling shot it out to Jupiter. On October 9, 2013, as it made this maneuver, it was the last chance for humans to be that close to the spacecraft. Since the project’s inception over 10 years ago, this moment has been explored by the mission team at NASA JPL as a platform for public engagement with the mission. They decided to make this a time where humans could say ‘Hi’ to Juno.

On the night of the slingshot, amateur radio operators worldwide were invited to simultaneously transmit the word “HI” in Morse Code or “•••• ••”. ‘Hi Juno’ is a great example of art and technology working together, but it also has human side. It asked many scientists at JPL to take a risk and invest time in a project that might not have worked. It touched people in the amateur radio operator community seeing an overlooked community come together from around the world, working together to reach out into space.”

This large-scale interaction with the Juno spacecraft highlights the potential of poetic gestures to include global communities in these bold endeavours of exploration undertaken by a select few on behalf of all mankind.

Our Martian garden will sit alone on mars for 18-24 months before humans arrive. This time and the data and operations surrounding it could be pragmatic and functional, but there is the opportunity to leverage it as a time to inspire and include all of the Earth in taking a stake in the mission. This raises the question of: ‘how can and should we engage the planet as a whole in an endeavour embarked on by only a few?’

The [Telegarden](http://www.ieor.berkeley.edu/~goldberg/garden/Ars/). Credit: Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana

The Telegarden. Credit: Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana

Thankfully, gardens have a long legacy of community co-operation, participation and interaction, as well as being a common site for urban intervention. There a dozens, if not hundreds of examples to draw on in this space. Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana’s Telegarden stands apart: “an art installation that allows web users to view and interact with a remote garden filled with living plants. Members can plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm.”

Developed in the earliest days of the internet, it ran from 1995 until 2004, had 9000 community members helping to maintain the garden, and received many accolades. The beauty behind the idea is how it brings a communal garden to the internet and gives thousands of people around the world a virtual place to nourish a physical garden. Could this provide cues for how we engage everyone on Earth in the mission?

Seed Cathedral. Credit: Daniele Mattioli

Seed Cathedral. Credit: Daniele Mattioli

On a grander scale, Heatherwick Studio’s 2010 UK Pavillion at the World Expo: the Seed Cathedral provides another perspective. “The Seed Cathedral is a box, 15 metres high and 10 metres tall. From every surface protrude silvery hairs, consisting of 60,000 identical rods of clear acrylic, 7.5 metres long, which extend through the walls of the box and lift it into the air…. There are 250,000 seeds cast into the glassy tips of all the hairs. By day, the pavilion’s interior is lit by the sunlight that comes in along the length of each rod and lights up the seed ends. By night, light sources inside each rod illuminate not only the seed ends inside the structure, but the tips of the hairs outside it, covering the pavilion in tiny points of light that dance and tingle in the breeze.” It evokes ideas of preservation and is akin to a seed banks like the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership and Svalbard Global Seed Vault designed to house the seeds of every crop in the world to prevent against natural disaster or global crisis. Could the garden serve as a living seed bank - an off world backup for Earth’s precious plants?

MoonArk. Credit: Lowry Burgess and the[ Moon Arts Group](http://studioforcreativeinquiry.org/projects/moon-arts-project)

MoonArk. Credit: Lowry Burgess and the Moon Arts Group

Returning to space, two additional projects highlight the potential of arts-based approaches to inspire and elevate the human experience through citizen-based efforts to place objects laden with meaning in space.

The Moon Arts Project will put an Ark on the moon. In 2016, CMU will send a rover to the moon as part of Google’s Lunar X Prize and it’s lander will contain a “a non-encyclopedic view of humanity and life on earth” called the MoonArk. This will remain (potentially) for billions of years on the Moon and represent humanity through arts and humanities: “MoonArk is the life of light, singing to the moon in all its glorious rays, an artistic inspiringly homage to the moon where it becomes a Cultural Heritage Site that anticipates the journey of humanity into luminous outer space.” In this vein, what aspects of humanity might our garden bring to Mars? What could be represented about us through the structure, the technology, or the objects we incorporate into it?

Ulises I. Credit: Juan José Díaz Infante and the Mexican Space Collective

Ulises I. Credit: Juan José Díaz Infante and the Mexican Space Collective

Juan José Díaz Infante and the Mexican Space Collective have built a satellite called Ulises I. Inspired by and in response to Mexico’s drug war, Infante wanted to illustrate the idea that the future varies for different generations. The project involves the development of a nanosatellite to be sent into space conceptualized as a contemporary art piece. Started in October 2010 under the direction of Juan Jose Infante, it is designed as an art piece that he calls a “contemporary opera”. After being launched into space, Ulises I will play an algorithmic opera, making the satellite a musical instrument. Ulises will trace a polar orbit around the Earth during three months, and will transmit its signal through civil/amateur station with frequency band of 433 MGHZ. The thesis of work is that if a team of artists can launch a satellite to space with no prior experience, reality can be altered if we want to. (Read more). More importantly, the collective see its nanosatellite Ulises-I, and more generally their endeavors in space exploration, as providing hope and inspiration to the Mexican people amid the chaos caused by the drug wars. Could our garden sing to Earth in the same way, or provide hope and inspiration about the future?

So, how do we leverage poesis to craft an inspirational gesture that can involve the whole world in our Martian garden?

Learning Objectives

As part of this exercise you’ll:


Examine the opportunities for public engagement with the remote Martian garden and propose an poetic gesture for the mission.

The proposal should consider how the window (18-24 month timeframe) before human explorers arrive to Mars can be used within public engagement, how scientific endeavors or mission requirements might overlap with these goals, and cater for known communication delays and constraints.

Develop at least one working prototype that demonstrates the idea.


Final deliverables to be presented at the Crit/Review


All Investigations follow the same format: a series of small collaborative exercises that build towards a bigger vision. The format is 2-week rapid explorations of a theme, idea or theory, following four stages: Research-Ideation-Build-Reflect

Investigations will be conducted over a 2-week period (4 classes). The goal of investigations is to encourage:

  1. unconventional approaches to practical problems

  2. deep research and development of core knowledge, theory and methods

  3. applied exploration as a means to problem solve and integrate theory

Students will collaboratively and rapidly explore a provocation as part of a series of four-coupled pressure-projects.

a. Research

Teams will conduct research on the investigation theme.

Each person will identify and rigorously review two precedent projects (creative projects, research papers, theory, ideas, methods, etc.) that relates to the theme

The goal is to broaden your understanding of the field and deepen your knowledge of prior work that’s relevant to this project and to the course. You’ll be expected to select a couple of works and report on your findings with a critical perspective.

Objective: Report on two works you haven’t seen before, are relevant to the project and you find particularly interesting.

Create a post, embed a video and/or images of the project, and write a short critical reflection on the project (about 200 words) in which you:

Submitting this work: Post research outcomes to the #rme channel on Slack ahead of class

b. Ideate

Teams will brainstorm to explore

Teams will generate a well documented and large set of possible, plausible, preferable and probable ideas. This will be accomplished in part through in-class exercises. Working in groups the objective will be to integrate research and speculative approaches into a proposed outcome.

Submitting this work: A short 200 word proposal should be submitted to the #rme channel on Slack ahead of class. Everyone should review and discuss online.

c. Build

Each team will prepare a working prototype of a technical system to showcase their idea. Hardware, technologies and other resources can be requested.

d. Reflect

Teams will prepare a digital presentation and take part in a crit on Tuesday. The crit is equally an opportunity to showcase success as well as pose open questions and highlight challenges or failures encountered. Teams should use the opportunity to reflect on the exploration and what it reveals for the Martian biome we plan to build in the 2nd half of the semester.

Submitting your work: Digital presentations will be made in class. Digital documentation of their work (see below) on the IDeATe Gallery by end of day.

Summary: Submitting your work

Final Documentation Requirements:

Include a write up of the following:

Each of these sections should be no more than 200 words max. and well illustrated (images, videos, etc.)

For the Project Info’s goal description: it must be tweetable - summarise your outcome in no more than 140 characters