Last Pictures Disk
This week, somewhere in Kazakhstan, a satellite called EchoStar XVI will launch into geosynchronous orbit 24,000 miles above the earth. Attached to that satellite is a silicon disk with 100 images etched into it’s surface. The images depict snippets of life on Earth, and they may one day explain to their discoverer the fate of the lost civilization that sent them into space.
The endeavor to create this disk of images is the brain chid of artist Trevor Paglen and he calls the project The Last Pictures. After EchoStar 16 goes out of commission it will continue to orbit the Earth for the next five billion years. At that time, deep in the future, the sun will expand and swallow the Earth, the EchoStar satellite, and Trevor’s disk of images. In this sense the name “The Last Pictures” is not a metaphor. It’s likely that the images Trevor and his collaborators send into orbit will to be the last images of human civilization to exist in the universe.
Trevor is well known for his own photographs of secret military bases, CIA black sites and classified survellience satellites. In fact, Trevor’s efforts to locate and photograph secret spy satellites are what started The Last Pictures. I spoke with Trevor this week about the origins of the project, the images he chose for the disk and why he thinks of the Last Pictures as “21st Century cave paintings.”
100 images etched on the Last Pictures disk
The Pit Scene, Lascaux Cave
Glimpses of America, American National Exhibition, Moscow World’s Fair
Greek and Armenian Orphan Refugees Experience the Sea for the First Time, Marathon, Greece
Soyuz Fg Rocket Launch, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Migrants Seen by Predator Drone, U.S.-Mexico Border
Waterspout, Florida Keys
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