Space junk is usually associated with the ring of debris orbiting our planet, but it often reenters the atmosphere. The proliferation of controlled splashdowns of orbital craft in the Pacific Ocean has recently been brought to wider attention through coverage of Point Nemo, also known as the Spacecraft Cemetery. Romanticised through media portrayals and blogs, with “dead” spacecraft often anthropomorphised as having found their “final resting place”, sunken spacecraft offer a way to communicate the mind-boggling reality of human space debris. But space waste is a problem on earth too. Point Ne…
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Exhibition Debut

Terrestrial 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 visualizing 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.

The Oceanic Pole of Undefined Liability

Giacomo Nanni & Julian Peschel

Space junk is usually associated with the ring of debris orbiting our planet, but it often reenters the atmosphere. The proliferation of controlled splashdowns of orbital craft in the Pacific Ocean has recently been brought to wider attention through coverage of Point Nemo, also known as the Spacecraft Cemetery. Romanticised through media portrayals and blogs, with “dead” spacecraft often anthropomorphised as having found their “final resting place”, sunken spacecraft offer a way to communicate the mind-boggling reality of human space debris. But space waste is a problem on earth too. Point Nemo has become a chaotic dumping ground, framed by a complex legal dilemma around environmental damage.

Tracking and Trashing: The Oceanic Pole of Undefined Liability offers a counter-narrative to the idea that space junk is just an orbital issue. Dividing their exploration across three domains – terrestrial, submarine and orbital – Giacomo Nanni and Julian Peschel created a layered story of the past, present and potential future of Point Nemo.
Bringing together legal documents, news coverage and historic imagery from a range of sources, they present a video that explains the geographic, technological and legal complexities of monitoring and disposing of space debris.

Geo-referenced data is used to create a bathymetric model, imagining the Pacific Ocean as an archaeological site for the exploration of the remains of aircraft that have remained more-or-less preserved. Finally, a timeline visualising all of the space objects that have fallen in the ocean since 1959, examines the intersection of the UN Law of the Sea and the sovereign rights of nations and highlights the risk of impact for key shipping routes.

Credits

Sound Design: Meltem Kalayci

Sound Engineering: Björn Patrik Pfeiffer

Voice Over: Detlef Neuls

Exhibition Renderings and Measurements: Gülcan Celik

Satellite Re-entry Details: Germano Bianchi (Stazione Radioastronomia di Medicina)

Exhibition Construction: Jasper van Es / PAPERJAM

3D Printing: Michele Rendesi

References

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Alexis Macaire, “Space Debris Management of Launch Operations,” 7th European Conference on Space Debris, Darmstadt, April 8–21, 2017. Link

Hasnaa Khalifi, Christine Chambers, and Norman Fitz-Coy, “Leveraging Lessons from the Climate Change Community and the Financial Sector to Improve Space Debris Regulations,” 7th European Conference on Space Debris, Darmstadt, April 8– 21, 2017. Link

Pierandrea Leucci, “Outer Space and the Marine Environment: Responsibility of States for Damages Caused by Man-made Space Debris to the Marine Environment of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction,” Lecce, Italy . (2017)

De Lucia, Vito and Iavicoli, Viviana (2019) "From Outer Space to Ocean Depths: The ‘Spacecraft Cemetery’ and the Protection of the Marine Environment in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction," California Western International Law Journal: Vol. 49 : No. 2 , Article 4.

Martegani, Piermarco and Joukova, Anna. (2019) "Debris Collision Alert System," 1st NEO and Debris Detection Conference, 22 - 24 January 2019, Darmstadt, Germany.

Cohent, Alexander F. (1984) "Cosmos 954 and the International Law of Satellite Accidents", Yale Journal of International Law

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"IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines," (2007), Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee Link

"Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space," (2010), United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

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Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film/International Film Bureau, “Fly Lorenz” (1984), Internet Archive, September 19, 2016. Link

Kelly Lacy, “Motorboat Traveling Across a Body of Water,” Pexels, July 26, 2019. Link

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NASA Goddard, “NASA | Landsat's Orbit,” YouTube, February 11, 2014. Link

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “Opportunity: NASA Rover Completes Mars Mission,” YouTube, February 13, 2019. Link

NASA Johnson, “Camera Captures Orion Abort Test Mid-Air,” YouTube, July 12, 2019. Link

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Additional Data on Space Debris Link

Maritime Boundaries Link

Two-line element set (TLE) Link

Bathymetry Data Link

Notice to Mariners Link

Bio

We are an information design duo carrying a strong passion for visual journalism and digital cartography to visually narrate the complexity of the information surrounding us. Driven by a fascination towards science, technology and society, we employ design to examine the geopolitical connections hidden in those realms and visualize the impact they have on wider communities.

Contacts

giacomonanni.info Link

@sinanatra Link

julianpeschel.info Link

@julian.peschel Link