New Zealand Company Under Fire For “Space Graffiti”

220px-debris-geo12801A privately owned, New Zealand-based space company in under fire after after it secretively put a satellite that will function like a giant disco ball in orbit.  Critics have likened the act to “space graffiti” and the launching should trigger an international conference on preventing such unilateral actions in the future.

Rocket Lab’s founder and chief executive Peter Beck took it upon himself to put a three-foot-wide silver sphere into space to serve as what he calls a “Humanity Star” that will reflect the sun’s rays as a blinking light.  Of course, humanity had not vote in this decision.  Beck simply decided that people around the world will look into the stars as have generations only to see his flashing man-made globe.

I obviously agree with the critics. I find it incredible arrogance to place such a flashing object in the stars as a unilateral decision for all of humanity.  Rocket lab insists that it will be a “reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe.”  Yet, it is made all the more fragile by individuals making decisions on their own and changing the appearance of the stars.  Technology has developed to the point that allows People like Beck to make decisions that affect the entire planet and impose what they view as aesthetic elements.

As many know, I am rather obsessed with graffiti in national parks, historic sites, and natural locations (here and here and here and here and here).  It should not come as much of a surprise therefore that I consider this act to be such an act — only exponentially magnified.

However, the problem is not just aesthetic.  Scientists and astrophysicists have condemned the act as potentially interfering with science and scientific research. Other condemn it as a new form of light pollution.

Regardless of the objections, there is a need to unite against this type of unilateral conduct, including the move toward space advertising.

This is a modern variation of Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons where the unregulated use of a common resources leads to its degradation or loss.

What do you think?


58 thoughts on “New Zealand Company Under Fire For “Space Graffiti””

  1. “Tracking Earth’s Secret Spy Satellites”

    “With the right gear and know-how, anyone can keep tabs on the clandestine ”moons” that surround our planet.”

    “It is not hard to imagine some determined group of future astronomers gradually honing their observational tools once again in order to peer up at the lights burning far above the Earth’s surface every night. Amongst those wandering stars and constellations, however, will be hundreds of fixed points, unblinking lights that never move. These will be the same geosynchronous satellites that people today once studied, and they will spend billions of years in the sky before ever being at risk of falling back to Earth. That’s billions of years of false stars for future astronomers, billions of years of myths and rumors as to what those lights might be—these artificial constellations that never seem to fade—reflecting the sun from on high.”

    But hey, let’s get all worked up about some temporary “space grafitti.”

    1. Autumn, that video was funny at first, but the repetition did not build. Here’s clip from one of Jerry Lewis’s movies where he takes the same concept regarding the German language and builds upon it:

      And for absolute mastery of the differences in languages, see this clip of Sid Caesar, where he tackles French, German, Italian, and Japanese. Although only bits and pieces of the real languages are spoken, Sid has captured some of the essential qualities of those languages:

  2. so I’m on a tangent about language

    and I learned something today – I know preservativ meant condom in German, but was unaware it was the same in French!

  3. If you look close every Saturday night and you have a fever you might see Tony Manero and Stephanie Mangano under that diso ball.

    1. Anonymous -and then he’s considering putting up another. It’s bad enough that we have a bunch of junked satellites and debris up there. We don’t need blinking signs or art. Artists and advertisers should put art or ads on property where they have permission.

      Bad precedent. I don’t want to leave it alone until it decays. There is nothing to stop him, or anyone else, to putting all sorts of stuff up there. This reminds me of this part in Hitch where Hitch somehow paints a geologically massive red heart on the moon in a gesture to his mentor. He basically tagged the moon. For eternity. I hated that part in an otherwise entertaining movie.

      1. “I don’t want to leave it alone until it decays.” So says Karen S.

        Thankfully, it’s not Karen S’s decision.

    2. anonymous said, “It’s temporary.”

      Oh! Thank heavens. I’m scrubbing the space shuttle mission straight away.

      P. S. It would’ve been the most awesome Masse shot in the history of pool.

  4. This is the equivalent of a blinking neon sign in space.

    Shoot it down. There is already too much space junk up there, making it difficult to make it through without injury to spacecraft.

    1. Shoot it down.

      It’s outer space; there really isn’t a down to speak of. Destroying it into a thousand pieces would add to the already ridiculous amount of space junk. If it’s orbit will decay within months as someone here mentioned, then I suspect it would burn up in the atmosphere. Problem solved.

      1. Dang it, it’s the principal of the thing! I suppose it would have to pushed back into lower orbit.

        This is going to encourage people to use space as advertising…space. You are right that there is already too much space junk up there. If we ever clean up all the plastic in the ocean, we really do need to move on to cleaning up the terrible mess we’ve made of near space.

      1. A well regulated Commons, being necessary to the prospect of a junk-free night-sky, the right of the people to keep and bear Laser-Cannons, shall not be infringed.

  5. This is ridiculous. The next thing you know, rich guys will be sending expensive sports cars to Mars…

  6. There are already hundreds of “blinkers” up there already, basically gold-foil covered satellites that maintain slow rotations in low-Earth orbit. You can only see them during dawn and dusk. If spurious solar reflections were a problem, why is highly reflective gold foil the standard “skin” for satellites?

  7. Interesting but not too smart. It needs removal before space gets enough of our meddling.

  8. I hadn’t read Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons before and his conclusion should make the eugenicists very happy.

    The only way we can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed, and that very soon. “Freedom is the recognition of necessity” — and it is the role of education to reveal to all the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed. Only so, can we put an end to this aspect of the tragedy of the commons.

    Perhaps the disco ball’s advertised reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe has achieved a more insidious purpose; open up international discussions (assuming they are not already underway) regarding the world’s resources and population density.

    Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck may be perceived as arrogant as every other individual spoiling the commons, but not as arrogant as the globalists who believe they will out manage Mother Nature herself.

    1. There was a follow up to the Hardin article at the bottom of link JT provided. It’s noteworthy in the face of the a various topics we discuss on this blog and the divisiveness that seems to permeate even the most benign of topics:

      In America there existed, until very recently, a set of conditions which perhaps made the solution to Hardin’s subset possible; we lived with the myth that we were ‘one people, indivisible. . . .’ This myth postulated that we were the great ‘melting pot’ of the world wherein the diverse cultural ores of Europe were poured into the crucible of the frontier experience to produce a new alloy — an American civilization. This new civilization was presumably united by a common value system that was democratic, equalitarian, and existing under universally enforceable rules contained in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

      “In the United States today, however, there is emerging a new set of behavior patterns which suggest that the myth is either dead or dying. Instead of believing and behaving in accordance with the myth, large sectors of the population are developing life-styles and value hierarchies that give contemporary Americans an appearance more closely analogous to the particularistic, primitive forms of ‘tribal’ organizations in geographic proximity than to that shining new alloy, the American civilization.

    2. Olly said, “I hadn’t read Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons before and his conclusion should make the eugenicists very happy.”

      Chief, have you read Hardin’s Lifeboat Ethics? The bloody teuchter (Hardin) was a moral imbecile and a historical amnesiac. What the devil is Turley doing citing Hardin without condemning him in the bargain? With the disco-ball in outer space as my witness, I would’ve sworn on a stack of Bibles that Turley is/was a communicant of The Holy Roman Catholic Church. What’s going on with Turley?

      1. Chief, have you read Hardin’s Lifeboat Ethics? The bloody teuchter (Hardin) was a moral imbecile and a historical amnesiac.

        I have now. Thank you for the link. He touches a lot of bases in the article. Immigration, of course his theory on the Commons, World Food Bank, population growth, charity, etc. Why do you believe JT should condemn Hardin? I would condemn Hardin’s call to restrict the freedom to breed, but I didn’t see any such conclusions to infringe rights from Hardin in this essay.

        This last essay from Hardin is certainly not Liberal friendly. Maybe having read only two essays from Hardin proves how dangerous a little knowledge may be, why do you conclude him to be a moral imbecile and a historical amnesiac?

        1. One more thing, his concluding paragraph does seem as though he would favor a one world government. Now that would certainly be something to condemn.

          Without a true world government to control reproduction and the use of available resources, the sharing ethic of the spaceship is impossible. For the foreseeable future, our survival demands that we govern our actions by the ethics of a lifeboat, harsh though they may be. Posterity will be satisfied with nothing less.

        2. Olly asked, “why do you conclude him to be a moral imbecile and a historical amnesiac?”

          Hardin doesn’t just ignore world history; he falsifies world history. Hardin needs that false history of the world in order to con his readers into his lifeboat hypothesis. Hardin’s lifeboat hypothesis renders the beneficiaries of colonialism “blameless,” while depriving the peoples subjugated by colonialism of anyone else but themselves to blame for their own pitiful plight.

          It just so happens to be the case that the very concept of moral blamelessness was a contributing causal factor in the moral depravity known as colonialism that Hardin dismisses out of hand as though it were no longer relevant once one finds oneself in Hardin’s lifeboat. And that makes Hardin a moral imbecile.

          Moreover, Hardin’s lifeboat hypothesis is itself contra-factual. The demographic transition was well known by the middle of Hardin’s lifetime (b. 1915; d. 2003) and before he published the Lifeboat Ethics. Hardin needed his readers to ignore the demographic transition in order to heighten his reader’s existential dread of derelict human population growth. And that makes Hardin morally culpable for his own and possibly even his reader’s moral imbecility, if the latter fall for Hardin’s historical prestidigitation..

          It’s also why I call Hardin a bloody teuchter–meaning, an Englishman living in Scotland after the final defeat of Bonnie Prince Charles at Culloden Moor while lording it over The Scots by way of the clearances, which the English had already done to their own people during the inclosures, and which, in turn, almost certainly led Hardin’s own ancestors to migrate to America way back whenever (although, I doubt know that last part for a fact, but it segues nicely enough for blawgwort purposes).

          P. S. Pardon my verbosity. Please?

  9. My first reaction was, “Awesome!” as I saw the graphic up there and pictured some kind of multiple color LED thing, and wondered when I could go look at it. BUT it is just a 3′ geodesic sphere with mirror panels of some kind which will just be flashy like the classic disco ball. STILL I am excited to go look at it when I can see it! I’ll be out tonight for sure!

    I then wondered about people putting too much junk up there, and I’m not worried about it. Too expensive, too little people have the ability or desire to venture out there. THIS dude’s thing is only a temporary project, anyway. “9 months later, it re-enters earths atmosphere.” Is nine months these complainers’ definition of ‘long-term’? Like if you are looking for a ‘long-term’ relationship…

    If a company has the money to put an ad on the moon we can see with the naked eye, like a HUGE Nike logo or something, I’m all for it. Who owns the moon? Who owns space?

    Along those lines, I wish these independent production companies would do faithful adaptions of stories such as The Mote In God’s Eye (then The Gripping Hand) and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

    It is exciting to see what this new global America-centric economic boom caused by Dr. President Trump will bring, and I eagerly await our expansion into and development in space.

    1. My first reaction/instinct was also “awesome”.

      I still think it is kinda awesome. It looks so fantastical and inspiring, yet does not blot out the sky or anything.
      And it is apparently temporary anyway.

      Much tsk tsking ado about nothing.

  10. I think it should be removed – reconfigure it so it isn’t a disco ball. I’m sure Space law experts are on the issue. And if all else fails maybe Putin will take care of it – seems like the Russians are everywhere these days. =)

  11. Thomas Malthus did not know about the demographic transition as England was still in stage two of that transition with two more stages left to go. Garrett Hardin has no such excuse as England completed stage four of the demographic transition in Hardin’s lifetime (b. 1915; d. 2003).

    But what, you might ask, does the demographic transition have to do with disco-balls orbiting outer space? Exactly as much as Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons has to do with disco-balls in outer space–namely, zero, zip, zilch, nil, nada, neechevo, bupkes–Turley!

    BTW, there’s an all too obvious technological solution for the problem of disco-balls in outer space. And it has no more to do with nuclear weapons than nuclear weapons have to do with human overpopulation.

    1. We spent $700 billion on defense, just this year. And apparently our military is in shambles and falling behind countries that spend far less.

      We spend something like $1 billion on snacks for the Super Bowl.

      It also costs taxpayers many tens of thousands of dollars to rent golf-carts to follow Moron when he plays golf at one of his properties, money that goes to him while he represents the very people now forced to pay him for those golf-carts.

      How many people would all that feed.

      1. Seriously, I hope you don’t believe the lie that that $700B actually helps “defend” the USA…It was better when the “Defense” Department was called the “War” Department. Plus that number is pathetically low, not counting the confidential unknown CIA budget, the CIA’s boss (State Dept), and Homeland Security (LOL), etc, which together at least doubles that amount.

        IMO it’s worth considering what is the actual need for a standing army if the US is not at war, which of course it has never been since WW2, using the Constitution’s definition.

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