If you take even a cursory glance at the news these days, you could be forgiven for thinking the planet is doomed. War and armed conflict in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Nigeria, Syria and Ukraine top the news, with fresh battles, explosions and body counts tallying up on a daily basis. If people aren’t actively killing one another, they’re pointing fingers or coalescing into groups based on religious, nationalistic and ethnic divisions. And for those of us who would still like to engage with the rest of the world, it’s a migraine-inducing job figuring out where to even start. Everywhere you look, nations, states and bands of people are tearing each other apart.
With all of this bloodshed and a general lack of understanding brought on by prejudices and exceedingly narrow points of views about what our existence should or shouldn’t be about, I tend to take heart in the small things. Things — like sending shit into space — that can bring a more universal perspective about the amazing potentiality of human life.
People seem to be launching everyday items into space with more and more frequency. I think this is an absolutely wonderful thing to do. When the objects we take for granted are given a new context, so too is life on this tiny planet. It seems a shame to kill each other over what god we pray to or our national borders when we could all be learning more about the space rock we reside on, or looking toward the stars.
The Japanese artist Makoto Azuma, with the help of JP Aerospace (America’s other space program), launched a 50-year-old white pine bonsai tree, along with a bouquet of colorful flowers (irises, orchids and more) into space. Azuma and his small team documented these flights, which got off the ground in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, with still cameras and Go Pro video cameras to stunning effect. You can see some of these perception-altering images here, as well as on Makoto’s personal website and Facebook page.
Back in August 2012, a father sent his son’s toy train into space with a weather balloon. He filmed the brave little train’s ascent and descent in order to share this epic voyage with his son and others. Being a good father, Ron Fugelseth then retrieved the toy with the help of GPS so that his child could continue playing with his favorite, space-exploring choo choo train for years to come. To see the video of the train, click here.
What I really dig about these videos and art projects, whether coming from creative dads or Japanese installation artists, is how they can help us all break out of our everyday groupthink and allow us a glimpse of the “bigger picture.”
Red Bull sent Felix Baumgartner into space and let him jump back to the planet. (He did open a parachute eventually.) Azuma sent a really old and small Earth-grown tree into the upper reaches of the atmosphere and gave us something interesting to look at. One day, perhaps, Ukrainians and Russians and Palestinians and Jews will launch objects (or maybe even themselves) into space together, where they’ll be able to get a good look at this gorgeous planet — and hopefully realize there’s so much more to our fragile lives than their (or your or my) microscopic perspective can ever encompass. Watch Baumgartner’s video here.