Performers launch colorful “jellyfish” balloon into stratosphere during inaugural test flight

A group of artists launched a colorful jellyfish-like craft into Earth’s stratosphere as part of a unique test flight.

Last summer, the artist collective Beyond Earth completed an artwork they called “Living Light.” The artwork “combines biology, artificial intelligence and aerospace technology” and “explores the links between our blue planet and the infinity of space”. they wrote in a press release. And, on June 18, they flew the work nearly 19 miles (just over 30.5 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface to the far reaches of Earth’s stratosphere on board the flight d inaugural test of a craft called “Neptune One”.

“By sending works into space, it really allows us to really rethink the limits of creative expression”, space artist Richelle Gribble, one of the three artists who made this work and who is also co-founder of Beyond Earth and director of the gallery. Supercollider, said. “And when it’s beyond Earth, it really shows the capacity of creativity to be something that always pushes the boundaries and pushes us to think differently and redefine what art is and how it is. made.

Related: Our mission to ‘Mars’ at the HI-SEAS habitat

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artwork “Living Light” in the stratosphere as part of the inaugural launch of Neptune One. (Image credit: Beyond the Earth / Space Perspective)
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Work “Living Light” in the stratosphere. (Image credit: Beyond the Earth / Space Perspective)
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Neptune One is preparing to launch.

Neptune One is preparing to launch. (Image credit: Beyond the Earth / Space Perspective)
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Inaugural launch of Neptune One.

Inaugural launch of Neptune One. (Image credit: Beyond the Earth / Space Perspective)
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Neptune One launched the artwork

Neptune One launched the work “Living Light” into the stratosphere. (Image credit: Beyond the Earth / Space Perspective)
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Beyond the earth "Living light" masterpieces.

Beyond Earth’s “Living Light” artwork. (Image credit: Beyond the Earth / Space Perspective)

Art “Beyond the Earth”

This inaugural test flight for Neptune One “marked a major step towards sending customers into space”, said in a press release. “The Neptune One capsule has been transformed by Living Light, an art installation by Beyond Earth. .

“The installation represented a shared mission to amplify the essential biodiversity and interdependence of all living organisms – especially hidden ocean life – rarely included in the history of life on planet Earth,” added Space Perspective.

Gribble is one of the three members of Beyond Earth. The collective also includes artists Yoko Shimizu, artist and researcher specializing in biology and chemistry at Ars Electronica Futurelab in Austria; and Elena Soterakis, artist, curator and educator who founded the BioBAT Art Space gallery in New York.

To create this collaborative launch, the trio connected with Spatial perspective, a Florida-based company that designed the “Spaceship Neptune,” a pressurized balloon-mounted capsule that can carry up to eight passengers and a pilot at 100,000 feet (30.5 km). Recently the company, which was originally founded by “biospherians” Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum. Poynter and MacCallum each lived for about two years in the dome habitat known as Biosphere 2.

“They invited us to design the entire structure of the capsule that would be the payload of their maiden space flight,” Gribble told

The Neptune spacecraft is “about the size of a football field,” Gribble said, adding that it took six hours to fly the artwork to its ultimate altitude.

The ship is, as the name suggests, inspired by the Roman god of the sea and the artistic trio took inspiration from this information. “We really wanted to create a design that was an iteration of this theme,” Gribble said. “So we started to really dive into examining the ocean biome and examining the water and properties of the species that live off the space coast of Florida.”

Following: Sending art to space: interview with artist Micah Johnson

Aquatic inspiration for space age art

For those seeing Living Light for the first time, its oceanic inspiration is clear, as the work emanates from a form and transparency of jellyfish. But jellyfish are not the only species to have entered this work of art.

“We decided to design a structure made up of over 1,000 different aquatic species, to celebrate the biodiversity of marine ecosystems,” said Gribble.

But to create a giant colorful jellyfish-shaped piece of art for space, it must be able to withstand the harsh conditions of going to space, being in space, and landing on Earth.

“When you design for space, it really changes the way you think about materials,” Gribble said. You have to “make it extremely light, to handle the payload parameters. People don’t think about it but yes, the space is extremely cold. And so we can’t have materials that will be too brittle or that break. or absorb too much of the UV light. So even the color choices we selected had to reflect light to protect the art sculpture. “

But these weren’t even the only serious restrictions the art team had to work with in order to create art that could withstand space. Gribble added that “the design of the impact when it lands in the ocean was an important consideration. So how do you create this structure so that it is strong enough that it doesn’t leave any type of debris behind.”

The team wanted to make the structure capable of withstanding a landing at sea to present it at future exhibitions and use it for future projects. But more importantly, Gribble said, they wanted to make sure they were doing everything possible to avoid leaving any debris or garbage in the ocean.

Gribble tested a small prototype of the art installation at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) research station in Hawaii during an analog or simulated mission to Mars in 2020. (Full disclosure, I participated in to the same analog mission to Mars like Gribble.)

Richelle Gribble is testing a prototype of “Living Light” at HI-SEAS. (Image credit: Richelle Gribble)

“During the HI-SEAS analog, I brought a smaller prototype, a miniature of the sculpture,” Gribble said, adding that during the analog she “documented the flight into the habitat and brought it down. also photographed on the Martian landscape. And it was really meant to think about what it means to design works of art and art objects that are built for space environments. “

But this “jellyfish” was not only tested, created and sent into the stratosphere on its own. It also contained a special small capsule with encoded DNA.

“The DNA capsule flew into space on Neptune One inside Living Light, was made up of three works of art by each of the artists who make up Beyond Earth,” Space Perspective said in the same release. “In a ‘To space, from Earth’ message, each work was converted into DNA and stored in a metal vial containing an artistic message to space.”

Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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