Scroll through your social media feed on any given day and you may frequently see videos of rivers, beaches and oceans filled with plastic waste. These are alarming reminders of our consumerism. Ever since plastic entered our daily lives in the 1950s, we have effectively managed to pollute our planet at a frightening speed. However, it is not only our planet that we fill up with this nearly indestructible garbage. Since the late 1950s, we’ve started to mess up an even bigger area–outer space. The motto “out of sight, out of mind” applies even more so to this space garbage. Alisa Strub, an aspiring graphic designer from Switzerland, visualized the problem of disposed satellites in her set of symbols entitled “Space Junk.”
The shapes of the icons reminded the Jury of a hybrid between bugs and shooters that appear in 1980s video games. The visual appearance of each symbol is not arbitrary. Strub developed them by analyzing the data of satellites launched between 1961- 2003. Each symbol represents one year, and visualizes the data surrounding the size and total number of satellites launched that year. Although these satellites are now inactive, they are still orbiting our planet. The famous lyric by John Lennon and Yoko Ono “above us only sky” needs an update.
Above our heads, about 750,000 scrap particles between one and 10 centimeters in size are floating in space. These scraps are remnants of space stations, rockets and satellites. Each of these particles orbits our globe at a speed of 17,500 mph. At this speed, even a small piece of flaked-off paint can cause severe damage to the window of a rocket or a space station. A remnant the size of a golf ball can destroy an entire satellite. Each collision creates more and more scrap particles. I have never dealt with this subject until now, although the problem could affect us humans at any time, because today life on earth without satellites is unimaginable. I have devoted myself to this topic because it represents our mistakes and the environmental problems that we leave behind. Space is limitless–nobody was interested in what was happening out there. That is why thousands of satellites have been launched into space since Sputnik in 1957. Only now when the problem is already fairly large do we begin to care and look for solutions. My symbols represent the amount of satellites that were annually launched between 1961 and 2003, and are still orbiting our globe as inactive space junk.
Alisa Strub is a highly motivated Swiss graphic designer from St. Gallen. Her work focuses on photography, editorial design and illustration. In June 2019 she will graduate the Bachelor in Art and Design program at HGK Basel.