Studio Roosegaarde has had a busy few months. In October 2018, the Dutch design studio launched the Space Waste Lab, an awareness-raising installation in the Netherlands highlighting the huge amount of junk pieces of space technology currently surrounding the Earth. With 29,000 pieces orbiting the planet at incredible speeds, the team has recognised the negative implications this could have on our communications networks for generations to come. ‘It’s a radical idea, but maybe that’s what the world needs today,’ states studio founder, artist and Wallpaper* Moonshots Division member Daan Roosegaarde.
Following this, the studio presented its findings at the Space Waste Lab Symposium on 19 January, collating their data with feedback provided by some of the 11,000 visitors to the installation, who shared their ideas for a cleaner, space-faring future. Concepts from both children and space industry professionals were equally considered. ‘We live in a world where there’s not a lack of money or technology, but a lack of imagination. We have a right to a clean space for our next generations to explore, but it’s not going to fix itself. We need to be creative again,’ says Roosegaarde.
The next stage of the process is entitled Shooting Stars and the plan is to bring some of these orbiting pieces back into our atmosphere by way of controlled re-entry. Upon returning planetside, they will burn up in the atmosphere, providing a visual spectacle akin to fireworks.
Not just about cleaning up space, the sustainably-minded studio sees this as an opportunity to tackle another issue in one fell swoop. ‘The Netherlands spends €70 million on fireworks every year,’ says Roosegaarde. ‘There’s a lot of damage, they can be dangerous and there’s also a lot of pollution – China has abandoned individual fireworks because of the rise in air pollution. There is a need for something different.’
Roosegaarde thinks his studio’s Shooting Stars could be a way of tackling this. ‘Working with the scientific division at the European Space Agency, we have produced a new type of sustainable experience that both cleans up space and offers a new form of performance,’ he adds.
Since the symposium, World Expo 2020 Dubai has expressed interest in the studio’s efforts. The hope is to debut the experience at the October 2020 event, bringing the studio’s plans to an international stage. ‘In 20-30 years, there will be so much junk around the world that we won’t be able to launch any more satellites. That’s the real scenario. I do think there will be a lot of progress made in the coming years as this threat becomes more real,’ says Roosegaarde.
With additional concepts in the pipeline, including upcycling space junk and incorporating it into sustainable 3D-print structures – houses even – both in-orbit and on the moon, Roosegaarde has realised that everything is grounded in the human experience: how we develop as a society, and how we can better safeguard our futures. ‘That’s what I’ve learned from working with people in the space industry – it’s all about humanity. I like that a lot.’
For more information, visit the Studio Roosegaarde website
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