Exploring hidden infrastructures

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Oceanic Pole of Undefined Liability

Ever since humankind has been exploring space from the 1950s onwards, traces of the various technologies used to launch and carry out missions have been left behind – gradually creating vast fields and layers of debris, both in orbit as well as Earth’s marine environments.
While orbital junk is primarily associated with the countless scattered pieces surrounding Earth, its reentry into the atmosphere and possible, at times deliberately controlled, potentially harmful splash-
down into marine environments is yet often left unconsidered. Recent media portrayals have been addressing the phenomena of falling debris mainly
in regards to the mystified Point Nemo - known as “spacecraft cemetery”-, yet their romantecisded, anthropomorphic concept of a technology finding its final resting spot is misleading and ignores the reality of a chaotic dumping ground embedded in a complex legal dilemma around environmental damage.
Tracking and Trashing: Oceanic Pole of Undefined Liability, orginally developed for the GEO-Design exhibtion Junk: All That Is Solid Melts into Trash, explores this reality by providing a counter-narrative on three domains - terrestrial, submarine and orbital - a layered story investigating the past, present and potential future of Point Nemo.

Project in collaboration with Giacomo Nanni

Legal documents:

As a topic often superfically addressed by popular
media outlets and less likely to be found in respective
literature, gathering information for this project
turned out to be difficult from the start. Sifting
through dozens of scientific and legal papers, (inter)
governmental as well as corporate agendas and conventions,
understanding the theoretical construct of
space debris was at the core of our research.
Simultaneously this information needed to be correlated
with the technoligical reality of past and present
predictions and measurments, that is specific
data collected by a multitude of Earth and space
based sensors. For both the impossibility of doing
field research at Point Nemo ourselves and the lack
of objective expertise, we managed to get a visit at
Stazione Radioastronomica di Medicina), an astronomical
observatory contributing to ESA‘s Space
Surveillance and Tracking (SST)

→ GAO Government Accountability Office

• Space Situational Awareness: Status of Efforts and Planned Budgets)

→ Pierandrea Leucci
• Outer Space and the Marine Environment:
responsibility of States for Damages Caused by
Manmade Space Debris to the Marine Environment
of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction)

Georeferenced data:

Since the majority of information is contextualised
by more or less specific geographic areas, the primary
design issue at hand was mainly based on geolocating
and mapping the various infrastructures,
(in)official boundaries and potential re-entry coordinates
involved. Concering this, a number of different
pre-exisiting as well as self-created databases and
sources in combination with specific GIS-tools resulted
in a set of different cartographic layers - allowing
for a detailed visual correlation of our findings
and setting the visual foundation for the narrative.



→ Marineregions.org




→ CelesTrak


Video and image-based material:

Next to this purely graphical yet somehow abstract
design approach, the third part of our research was
a quest for found footage in support to our narrative.
Based on a detailed “storyboard” with various chapters
and subchapters, we browsed through hours of
video-based material which would either officially
represent a specific aspect or create the visual illusion
of communcating certain information.




→ Internet Archive



→ Pexels

→ SpaceX

→ The White House


Terrestial Level: Liability

A video projected onto a radar like structure, narrating and elaborating on the various geographic, technological as well as legal complexities of space debris tracking, monitoring and following disposal in the South Pacific Ocean.

Orbital Level: Forecast

A timeline visualising all the artificial space objects that fell within the South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area (SPOUA) from 1959 until now - reflecting on the past, present and future presence of space objects in marine environments.

Submarine Level: Sedimentation

Bathymetric model of the South Pacific Ocean, which acts as an archeological site where the remains of reentered spacecrafts are more or less preserved. As a geological region, it represents the only static element within an otherwise changing environment of space and ground infrastructures.