Spacejunk, the Kessler syndrome


For humans, the conquest of space began in 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched the artificial satellite Sputnik. Since then, more than 4,000 satellites and 500 astronauts have gone into space. Despite the very important scientific discoveries achieved, space missions have often been subjected to strong criticism over the past 60 years due to several factors including the high costs, the not minimal percentage of registered failures and human casualties, and the ecological implications of accumulated space junk – defunct satellites and materials that continue to orbit the planet. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of space debris, some big as buses and others smaller than flakes of paint, are moving in this region of the solar system. They orbit the Earth at speeds of up to 36,000 km per hour, representing not only a concrete danger, but above all a huge accumulation of unmanaged galactic waste. There are several aerospace institutes monitoring this swarm but art also wants to do its part. The American artist David Bowen, for example, makes use of robotics, sensors, telepresence and software to realise an installation that is both scientific and poetic in its execution. Inside a room, a group of robotic arms driven by a real-time observation system of space junk, wave like magic wands, drawing invisible traces in the air. They map the invisible traces of thousands of space debris that orbit our planet at breakneck speed. Here Bowen recreates a silent, dense, threat – the child of unfulfilled promises of utopian technology and innovation ­– in a robotic dance that is both scientific and environmentalist in its message.
Benedetta Sabatini


Kessler Syndrome | Space Junk