down to earth
Format 1: 202 x 132 cm / 79.5 x 52 in, edition of 6 + 2 AP
Format 2: 102 x 67 cm / 40.2 x 26.3 in, edition of 6 + 2 AP
Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame
“down to earth” (2021)
With its reusability technology, the American space company SpaceX has revolutionised space travel over the past 10 years. The hallmark of this development is the Falcon 9, the world’s first reusable orbital rocket. It is 70 m high, weighs 0.6 tons and is powered by nine Merlin engines with a total thrust of 845 kN. It can carry payloads of up to 25 tons into low-Earth orbit. Since its first flight in 2010 until the end of 2021 more than 130 launches will have been carried out. The first successful launch took place in 2015, two years later the first mission using a reusable stage was flown. In 2020, Falcon 9 with the Crew Dragon capsule flew astronauts to the ISS for the first time since the end of the Shuttle era. In April 2016, the first successful stable landing of a first-stage rocket was achieved on a floating platform, the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) off the coast of Florida. After numerous previous failed landing attempts that all ended in spectacular explosions, the first stage landed softly and remained steady despite heavy waves. Until then, landing rocket stages on drone ships in the middle of the ocean was considered almost impossible. Drone ships are a vital operational component in the SpaceX space programme; platform landings save fuel and mean that the payload to be transported into orbit can also be increased.
The art work “down to earth” shows a Falcon 9 mainstage rocket returning to Earth after a successful Starlink mission in November 2021 and landing in the Atlantic Ocean on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions. The curved trail of light in the sky is a long-time exposure of the rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. About nine minutes after the launch the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth and landed on the floating platform. The work combines two different time planes and movements in space: the launch movement of the rocket from the spaceport into orbit, and its return and landing. The surface of the rocket stage is partly covered in black soot which forms from the enormous amount of heat generated when the rocket re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere. A starry sky can be seen at the top of the picture and the viewer’s gaze is drawn over the water to the drone ship and over the rocket stage out into space. The reusability of rockets not only allows for broader access into space but also introduces the principle of sustainability and the efficient use of resources into the space travel industry. The booster that features in “down to earth” had already flown eight times before it first flew in May 2020 and brought the NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2. In the work “crew dragon” (2020) the same booster can be seen on its historic first flight.