Of all the images that have ever been made, would you be able to select just 100 to represent our species and human achievement? Trevor Paglen’s Last Pictures is a project to do not only that, but also launch those images into geosynchronous orbit around Earth – all so that long after humans are gone, any space-wanderer will be able to fathom what humanity was all about.
The project is based on the idea that after billions of years, all signs of human civilization will have eroded away on Earth, but its satellites will still spin around the planet, making them the best bet for an indefinite time capsule.
“Any group of people would come up with 100 totally different images, but that is part of the fun. It’s an impossible project. Part of it was to engage peoples’ imaginations,” says artist Trevor Paglen, who conceived of the concept and collaborated with scientists, anthropologists, curators and corporations to get the images into space. – From wired.com
Since 1963, more than eight hundred spacecraft have been launched into geosynchronous orbit, forming a man-made ring of satellites around the Earth. These satellites are destined to become one of the longest-lasting artifacts of human civilization, quietly floating through space long after every trace of humanity has disappeared from the planet.
Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures is a project that marks one of these spacecraft with a visual record of our contemporary historical moment. Paglen spent five years interviewing scientists, artists, anthropologists, and philosophers to consider what such a cultural mark should be. Working with materials scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Paglen developed an artifact designed to last billions of years—an ultra-archival disc, micro-etched with one hundred photographs and encased in a gold-plated shell. In Fall 2012, the communications satellite EchoStar XVI will launch into geostationary orbit with the disc mounted to its anti-earth deck. While the satellite’s broadcast images are as fleeting as the light-speed radio waves they travel on, The Last Pictures will remain in outer space slowly circling the Earth until the Earth itself is no more.