A glitch in the stars: Space Exploration Initiative exhibition at Ars Electronica Festival 2018

Thursday — Monday
September 6, 2018 —
September 10, 2018

In 1990, from six million kilometers away, Voyager 1 took a snapshot of our existence in the universe: a pale blue dot. In it, we saw the loneliness and impermanence of our species, a realization that continues to sustain a thriving, resonating call for the future. However, Space is not for humans. We are never meant to be there, an error in the wild. The isolation, lack of gravity, radiation and all the risks there can kill us in minutes.

What is human experience beyond the earthbound? Here, six projects form the Space Exploration Initiative of MIT Media Lab are asking the same question and bringing possibilities to the toughest, impossible space:

  • A musical instrument that only plays in zero-gravity,
  • pneumatic surface that morphs to embrace the human body in zero-g,
  • self-assembly infrastructure for the next generation of zero gravity habitats,
  • spider-like performance with the three-dimensional movements of a weightless body,
  • scents that capture the memories of our homeland
  • and a grappler for landing foundational infrastructure on an asteroid.

All the projects were successfully deployed and performed in a zero-gravity parabolic flight last year. They are hopes beyond solutions, imaginations more than facts. Just like generations of observers, they see our future in the stars.

Credits: All projects are supported by the Space Exploration Initiative of the MIT Media Lab.


The Telemetron is a musical instrument design explicitly for performance in the zero gravity environment of space. Leveraging gyroscopes, wireless data transmission, the instrument transforms the poetic motion of the internal chimes into musical notes. The performance is a dance between human and non-human bodies and explores a new body language for music.

Orbit Weaver

Is the weightless state a moment of true autonomy or does the ungrounded body simply lose control? Inspired by the three-dimensional mobility of arachnids, Orbit Weaver uses a hand-held device to regain control of her body and move freely through weightlessness. The device shoot strings out and rewind to drag the weightless weaver, transforming her into a “spider woman”, weaving her web in space.

Spatial Flux

Spatial Flux is a seamless pneumatic surface that morphs to embrace the human body in zero gravity. This project redefines our relationships with surface and volume in architecture. The surface is in constant flux — allowing for new temporal possibilities between body and the architecture.

TESSERAE: Self Assembling Space Architecture

TESSERAE demonstrates a self-assembling geodesic dome structure for future space habitats in orbit.  The “Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments” (TESSERAE) prototype has been tested in zero gravity, and explores the use of natively embedded sensor networks and magnetic jointing for in-space, floating assembly.

Smells for Space: Olfactory Time Capsule for Earthly Memories

This is a set of olfactive tokens containing precious smells of Earth for future cosmonauts. Speculating on a future where some might embark on a one-way trip into space, this project investigates the sensory modalities of memory beyond the digital. In addition to terabytes of data, what other forms of communication and connection might we invent for an extraterrestrial future?

Grappler: Arrays of bistable elements for landing distributed sensor networks on low gravity bodies

Can a modified snap bracelet be used to land infrastructure on an asteroid? Grappler is part of the mission concept in which a rope or a net is used to grapple onto a low-gravity body of interest. The net doubles as infrastructure for a network of tiny crawlers that move across the net’s surface primarily for applications in in-situ distributed sensing.

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