Exobiotanica

We love this insane project by the Japanese artist Makoto Azuma named Exobiotanica. Two weeks ago, in the week that NASA was celebrating the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, Azuma pioneered a new kind of space endeavor by sending plant life to the edge of space. The result of this enterprise are some of the most beautiful surrealistic, extraterrestrial images since Apollo 8′s famous Earthrise imagery was shot. Using GoPro and Fuji Film cameras, the florist-turned-artist got both film and still shots of the entire process as the plants lifted off from Black Rock Desert in Nevada and traveled to almost 30 kilometer above the earth’s surface, the ceiling of the giant helium balloons used to propel their ride towards the perfect backdrop where these tremendous images were shot.

Flowers aren’t just beautiful to show on tables, I wanted to see the movement and beauty of plants and flowers suspended in space.

The two constructions carrying botanical objects which were elevated into space were named ‘Shiki 1,’ a Japanese white pine bonsai suspended from a metal frame, and the nameless construction carrying an arrangement of orchids, hydrangeas, lilies and irises, among other blossoms remained nameless. Both were launched into the stratosphere during the night of the 17th of July in the Black Rock Desert outside Gerlach, Nevada, a site made famous for its hosting of the annual Burning Man festival.

To accomplish the mission, Azuma and his 10-person crew teamed with Sacramento-based JP Aerospace, a volunteer-based organization that constructs and sends vessels into orbit. JP’s owner and founder, John Powell, started launching things into the upper atmosphere in 1977, when he was still a teenager. “The best thing about this project is that space is so foreign to most of us,” says Powell, “so seeing a familiar object like a bouquet of flowers flying above Earth domesticates space, and the idea of traveling into it.”

Using Styrofoam and a very light metal frame, Powell and his volunteers had created two devices to attach the bonsai and the flowers, which launched separately. After rising up for 100 minutes the helium balloon carrying Shiki 1 burst, but not before some of the most beautiful directed imagery shot on the edge of space found its way back to earth safely. The fall took about 40 minutes; two parachutes in baskets opened automatically when there was enough air in the atmosphere to soften impact. The second construction, which held the arrangement, made it up to 26 kilometer when it burst and slowly came down. Both devices were retrieved about five miles from the launch site. The bonsai and flowers, though, were never found.

For more information on the work of Makoto Azuma see here.

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