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Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 12608719
Project Title(English) : ‘Dropped: Visualising and Materialising Space Debris through Sculpture and Film: A Human Taxonomy of Space'  
Project Title(Chinese) : 「墮落」:太空垃圾的雕塑與影像呈現——一種人類對太空的分類法  
Principal Investigator(English) : Prof NIXON, Louis 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Academy of Visual Arts
Institution : Hong Kong Baptist University
E-mail Address : louisnixon@hkbu.edu.hk 
Tel :  
Co - Investigator(s) :
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Humanities and Arts
Exercise Year : 2019 / 20
Fund Approved : 390,400
Project Status : Completed
Completion Date : 30-9-2021
Project Objectives :
To create a new human-centred taxonomy of space debris by building and forming an extensive archive of objects dropped during space flights.
To reconstruct this archive in multi-dimensional formats (of photography, sculpture and film).
To examine and analyse these objects through reconstructing and filming them.
To communicate and disseminate this archive through a Web-based platform that will allow users to view the debris through films, and to recreate the objects through 3D print technology.
To contextualise space debris objects in the life stories and personal experiences of the people using them in space.
Abstract as per original application
(English/Chinese):
After sixty years of space flight, space debris is an increasing hazard to space travel and satellite systems. The Kessler Syndrome, a runaway chain reaction of collisions, could exponentially increase the amount of debris, affect polar-orbiting bands and destroy satellites, rendering earth orbit impassable. Space environmentalism is a growing movement and concerns are increasing over the future pollution of the moon and other celestial bodies. Existing taxonomies of space debris have focused on the sizes, shapes and orbits of these objects. More recently, researchers have focused on the measurement, mitigation and potential removal of space debris. The proposed project, entitled ‘Dropped’, will seek to apply visual and artistic research methods and outcomes (photography, sculpture and film) to open up the world of space debris for new audiences in meaningful ways. The project will explore the problem of space debris by focusing on the human dimension, and on the stories of objects that have been accidentally dropped or deliberately placed in space by the 533 individuals who have travelled there. This project explores and extends a unique archive I have created of objects that were accidentally dropped during space flight. Through 'Action Research' methods (allowing the research and practice to coexist and co-work simultaneously) and created outputs (in 2D, 3D and 4D) each dropped object will be recreated through photography, sculpture and film for further study or research, thereby enabling the growing problem of space debris to be brought to the public’s attention in new and engaging ways. Through analysis of initial research undertaken at Kingston University since May 2015, and by using historical records, first-person accounts, mission films and observations from earth telescopes, I have (to date) identified and collated a ‘pictorial’ archive of 49 dropped objects. These objects collectively tell a visual and cultural history of space flight and space debris through a human-centred taxonomy. This archive offers powerful, intriguing insights into the personal stories of the astronauts themselves and of the history of spaceflight. The archive provides a unique visualisation of the problem of space debris and the psychology of littering in space. This project will seek to further research and reconstruct these ‘dropped orbiting objects’ in 2D, 3D and 4D forms. It will construct a Web-based platform to make these objects widely accessible as photographs, films and sculptures for further research and study.
經過60年的航天探索,太空垃圾對太空旅行和人造衛星構成的風險越來越大。一個名為「凱斯勒現象」(Kessler Syndrome)的理論假設太空垃圾相撞後會引起無法控制的連鎖反應,導致軌道上的碎片大幅度增加,影響極地軌道、破壞人造衛星,甚至使地球軌道無法通行。隨着太空環境保護主義的重要性與日俱增,人們也日益關注月球及其他星體未來的污染問題。 現時的太空垃圾分類法只著眼於碎片的大小、形狀和運行軌跡。直至最近,研究人員開始集中測量太空垃圾,緩解它們可能構成的危險,甚至試圖清除太空垃圾。 以下擬議的項目名為「墮落」(Dropped),旨在應用視覺和藝術作為研究方法,以攝影、雕塑和電影等不同研究成果將太空垃圾問題呈現於新受眾面前,向他們傳達相關訊息。此項目將從人類的角度出發,透過描述歷史上的533名太空人在軌道上意外留下或刻意放置垃圾的故事,藉以探討太空垃圾問題。 此項目將探索並擴展一個由本人建立的獨特檔案庫,當中藏有各式在太空飛行期間意外掉落的物件。通過「行動研究」方式(意指研究和實踐同時共存和進行)和二維、三維或四維的創作,每件掉落物將通過攝影、雕塑和電影形式再現,以便作進一步分析和研究,並藉此將日趨嚴重的太空垃圾問題以嶄新且吸引的手法引起公眾的關注。 通過分析金斯頓大學(Kingston University)自2015年五月起進行的初步研究,以及利用歷史記錄、第一手資料、宣教電影和地球望遠鏡的觀察,我(迄今)已確認並核對了49件掉落物的「圖象」檔案。通過一種以人類為中心的分類法,這些掉落物共同闡明了太空飛行與太空垃圾的視覺及文化歷史。該檔案庫不但對大空人的個人故事和航天歷史提供引人入勝的有力見解,而且更具體地呈現太空垃圾問題和闡明在太空中亂拋垃圾的心理學。 該項目將尋求以二維、三維或四維方式,進一步研究並重塑這些「軌道墮落物件」,亦會建立網絡平台,讓大眾輕易地取得讓這些掉落物的相片、電影和雕塑,繼而進行進一步的調查和研究。
Realisation of objectives: Extensive research was conducted online through many and numerous websites such as: NASA.org, stuffin.space, https://issarchaeology.org/blog-iss-archaeology/, https://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/lunar/catalogs/other/jsc23454toolcatalog.pdf, https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/617743main_NASA-USG_LUNAR_HISTORIC_SITES_RevA-508.pdf, http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-090711a.html, https://www.nasa.gov/topics/humans-in-space. Further research was conducted at the Science museum in London and the Space Museum in Hong Kong to identify the set of objects for the archive. Selected objects were included through identifying specific objects through astronauts accounts and analysing mission film footage. Additional evidence was gathered for each object including design information and photographs and presented as a comprehensive collection of materials drawing all evidence materials together. The collection can be viewed and accessed at https://www.dropped.space/objects. Many of the objects such as Space glove , space boot , space camera, space food had to be physically reconstructed (as the original objects were still in space or on the moon). Each object was filmed using a slow motion capture camera, these films are presented singularly on the web platform and were also made into a single film output 'Off- Earth' showing all objects sequentially and set to the soundtrack of the voyager Golden Disks. In addition each object was 3d scanned, these scans are available on the web platform. 3D scanned objects were printed in life size multiples in black and white PLA and presented alongside film footage of the objects being dropped in the exhibition 'Dropped' at Osage- Thus replicated in photography sculpture and film. I accomplished all objectives, however, new objects are being discovered as space exploration continues so there will be a need to add objects to the collection as they are deployed and discovered.
Summary of objectives addressed:
Objectives Addressed Percentage achieved
1.To create a new human-centred taxonomy of space debris by building and forming an extensive archive of objects dropped during space flights.Yes100%
2.To reconstruct this archive in multi-dimensional formats (of photography, sculpture and film).Yes100%
3.To examine and analyse these objects through reconstructing and filming them.Yes100%
4.To communicate and disseminate this archive through a Web-based platform that will allow users to view the debris through films, and to recreate the objects through 3D print technology.Yes100%
5.To contextualise space debris objects in the life stories and personal experiences of the people using them in space.Yes100%
Research Outcome
Major findings and research outcome: The major findings were presented in the exhibition 'Dropped' at Osage gallery. During space flight humans have accidentally dropped or deliberately placed a wide variety of objects into space. These broadly fall into 4 categories: a. Tools - b. Clothing- c. Human waste and food.- d. objects of specific scientific or personal and cultural significance. There has often been a casual disregard for the consequences of debris and littering in space. The environment in near earth space has been dramatically effected by human presence and there are many new ways being developed to address the problems of how to clear up the mess. Nearly every orbiting object is tracked and data is available for monitoring purposes. Many objects (Hammers, Golf Balls, Javelins) have been thrown on the surface of the moon just to see how far they would travel yet none were subsequently collected or picked up. On the surface of the moon there is a plethora of objects and materials at landing sites which have now required the status of Archeological sites and there is considerable interest in the effects the space environment has had on the materials and the objects left there. Space Archeology is an emerging field. Attitudes to pollution in space have changed significantly as a result of the proliferation and direct threat they present to Space Exploration and damage to satellite systems on earth. The whole project was featured in a news.TVB programme on the 2nd February 2022. The project was also reviewed in Ming Pau on the 14.11.2022 in the culture section.
Potential for further development of the research
and the proposed course of action:
I will continually add new objects as they are discovered which are continually being dropped or placed in space exploration continues, recently I discovered evidence of a football which had been ejected from the ISS. I will hope to further present the film 'Off- Earth' at talks and exhibitions internationally once travel becomes possible again.
Layman's Summary of
Completion Report:
The project identifies, examines and explores a series of hand held objects directly tied to the exploration of space travel and voyages to the moon, which have either been accidentally dropped or deliberately placed in space by the 533 individuals who have travelled there. The web platform www.Dropped.Space is a comprehensive collection of these objects bought together for the first time as an archive in the form of photographs, films and 3d scans. The significance is in the value of this collection as a visual, material and cultural study of space flight through these objects and the value is in what insights these objects provide about the development of space technologies, clothing and tools and the specific cultural and scientific significance humans attach to objects in space. The project draws attention to the growing problem of space pollution and human neglect for the environment off earth.
Research Output
Peer-reviewed journal publication(s)
arising directly from this research project :
(* denotes the corresponding author)
Year of
Publication
Author(s) Title and Journal/Book Accessible from Institution Repository
2021 Louis Nixon  EXHIBITION AND WEB PLATFORM  No 
Recognized international conference(s)
in which paper(s) related to this research
project was/were delivered :
Month/Year/City Title Conference Name
Hong Kong Off-Earth  CityA 
Other impact
(e.g. award of patents or prizes,
collaboration with other research institutions,
technology transfer, etc.):

  SCREEN ID: SCRRM00542