‘Dropped: Visualising and Materialising Space Debris through Sculpture and Film: A Human Taxonomy of Space'

  • NIXON, Louis (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


After sixty years of space flight, space debris is an increasing hazard to space travel and satellite systems. The Kessler Syndrome, a runaway chain reaction of collisions, could exponentially increase the amount of debris, affect polar-orbiting bands and destroy satellites, rendering earth orbit impassable. Space environmentalism is a growing movement and concerns are increasing over the future pollution of the moon and other celestial bodies.

Existing taxonomies of space debris have focused on the sizes, shapes and orbits of these objects. More recently, researchers have focused on the measurement, mitigation and potential removal of space debris.

The proposed project, entitled ‘Dropped’, will seek to apply visual and artistic research methods and outcomes (photography, sculpture and film) to open up the world of space debris for new audiences in meaningful ways.

The project will explore the problem of space debris by focusing on the human dimension, and on the stories of objects that have been accidentally dropped or deliberately placed in space by the 533 individuals who have travelled there. This project explores and extends a unique archive I have created of objects that were accidentally dropped during space flight. Through 'Action Research' methods (allowing the research and practice to coexist and co-work simultaneously) and created outputs (in 2D, 3D and 4D) each dropped object will be recreated through photography, sculpture and film for further study or research, thereby enabling the growing problem of space debris to be brought to the public’s attention in new and engaging ways.

Through analysis of initial research undertaken at Kingston University since May 2015, and by using historical records, first-person accounts, mission films and observations from earth telescopes, I have (to date) identified and collated a ‘pictorial’ archive of 49 dropped objects. These objects collectively tell a visual and cultural history of space flight and space debris through a human-centred taxonomy. This archive offers powerful, intriguing insights into the personal stories of the astronauts themselves and of the history of spaceflight. The archive provides a unique visualisation of the problem of space debris and the psychology of littering in space.

This project will seek to further research and reconstruct these ‘dropped orbiting objects’ in 2D, 3D and 4D forms. It will construct a Web-based platform to make these objects widely accessible as photographs, films and sculptures for further research and study.
Effective start/end date1/10/1930/09/21


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