Entertainment

Book examines man-made and natural worlds

Monday, December 24, 2012
Satellite will carry The Last Photos book

There's a new satellite circling the earth right now. It's designed to relay TV shows and radio communications back to earth for the next 15 years. After that, it gets its real mission that could last a million times longer.

What does this rocket launch from Kazakhstan and a book, soon to be on store shelves, have in common? They both carry an art project from the fertile imagination of artist Trevor Paglen. ABC7 News caught up with him by Skype in Moscow a few hours after he watched the launch.

"It's really humbling to work on a project like this that so many people contributed to and really see it come to life," said Paglen.

Paglen got his Ph.D. in geography at U.C. Berkeley and has used those skills to create art about what civilization is like from what we build, what we show and what we hide. A disc onboard the EchoStar XVI communications satellite contains his latest project: 100 photographs of the man-made and the natural worlds.

"It will operative for about 15 years. After that it will boost up into an even higher orbit, sometimes called a super synchronous orbit, also called a graveyard orbit," said Paglen.

That graveyard orbit is far enough out that the satellite and images should orbit there for billions of years -- long enough for future generations, human or extra-terrestrial to take a look and try to figure out what 21st century humans were all about. They're kind of like the cave paintings ancient man left for us.

"Cave paintings for the future because if anybody ever finds these things a billion years from now it may look to them the way cave paintings look to us," said Paglen.

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