Shiny crap into space

A couple of weeks ago I ran into this article on Gizmodo entitled, “Hey Artists, Stop Putting Shiny Crap Into Space.” The thrust of the article is simple. Putting things into space is now so cheap that we can do it just for art’s sake. They point to this installation which is supposedly going into orbit in late October:

Hey, I love space as much as the next geek.

But it does really seem like we’re putting stuff up there now just for the sheer fun of it. Love or hate him, Elon Musk seems to be at the center of this controversy — what a surprise, right? Mr. Musk used his original Tesla roadster, decked out with a mannequin in a spacesuit, as ballast for one of his rocket launches. You’ve probably heard of this by now, but here’s a recap video just in case:

I would call that the official start to the “launch crap into space” movement, wouldn’t you?

I’m not worried about space junk…

… as I said in this article from a while back. There is a lot of space in space and it’s hard to imagine the day when we have to worry about finding our way through a cloud of junk just to get out of orbit. Still, it seems to be kind of wasteful, right? I mean launching stuff into space just to say we launched it doesn’t seem like a responsible business model.

What if it’s art?

So this latest big shiny thing is an art installation and it’s expected to burn up harmlessly after about two months. So it’s not going to be up there forever, unlike Mr. Musk’s hooptie. It’s not expected to cause any problems as it burns up either. It’s a way for people to express themselves artistically, and it’s expected to be harmless.

See how I said “expected” there? I said it three times to be precise. I said that because truthfully we don’t know how the whole thing is going to react. Space doesn’t act like you think it does. We’ve only been up there for about 60 years and we don’t know everything we think we do about it.

Why take a chance?

I get it. If people hadn’t taken chances we’d all be living in Europe, Asia, or Africa right now. If people hadn’t taken chances, we wouldn’t have radio or television or satellites or any of the neat things about 2018. So obviously sometimes you have to take a chance.

But launching something into space just because? Maybe you’re taking a chance, and maybe you’re taking a risk. One’s good, one’s not so good. Which is it? You decide.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.