Long Duration Love Affair

That cylindrical object you see pictured above is a roughly school-bus sized structure which was deployed into space in 1984. It orbited the Earth for five and a half years with nothing expected of it other than to float there, getting battered about by whatever the great black yonder saw fit to throw at it. You see, every inch of its outside surface was covered with Science. 57 separate experiments, mounted in 86 trays, involving the participation of “more than 200 principal investigators from 33 private companies, 21 universities, seven NASA centers, nine Department of Defense laboratories and eight foreign countries.” Its purpose was to study the effects of space on a multitude of materials. Its name is the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) and I am deeply in love with it.

01.20. filed under: design. science. space.

Oh… my goodness. Truly, I share your state of enamor. Some of those pictures (e.g., the 5th, 8th, and 12th [not including the first image in the post]) are humbling as aesthetic works. The final picture made me swoon, after having viewed all the rest. I imagined the moment when John Lennon climbed the ladder at Yoko Ono’s exhibit to see there the word “Yes” up there on the ceiling. Listening to Casino Versus Japan, it’s easy to imagine a dizzying climb up an improbable ladder to view, from behind the amber mirrored mask of a spacesuit, this functional abstract art collection hung without strings, upside down, from earth’s vertiginous roof.

posted on 01.20 at 06:40 PMMoody834

This is just the best thing I have seen all week. Thanks Jaime.

posted on 01.21 at 05:46 AMPierce

These are magnificent: thank you. I am usually at least a little prejudiced against the minimalist art that some of these images resemble, yet I was immediately captivated by them. Perhaps it’s the precision engineering that makes all the difference…

posted on 01.21 at 08:50 AM.

A friend at NASA tells me that the inside of the cylinder is chock full of Ellsworth Kellys.

posted on 01.21 at 10:06 AM.

This is the kind of thing that makes me look back on my NASA years fondly (along with Voyager). Thanks for bringing LDEF to mind again.

posted on 01.21 at 07:09 PMjane

sometime during the 4th grade, which would have been around 1990 for me, my class received three packets of tomato seeds that had been orbiting the earth. now i have to wonder if they were in the LDEF.  seems a bit too strong of a correlation to ignore…

posted on 01.22 at 04:39 PM.

I’ll forgive your relentless objectification—THIS time!—because the results are so darn cool.

Thanks for that.

posted on 01.26 at 02:02 PMbluewyvern

greg: Those seeds probably did fly on LDEF as part of the Space Exposed Experiment Developed for Students program. I have some of those somewhere as well. The most recent seeds in space* are basil seeds.

*For best effect “seeds in space” should ideally be said “Pigs in Space” style.

posted on 01.26 at 03:00 PMjane

The truth is I have had these in a folder on my computer for over 4 years. I always planed to selfishly use them for art pieces of some kind. I still like the idea of creating some vastly simplified, say 6 or 8 color prints based on the panels… But…

posted on 01.28 at 08:51 AMjmorrison

Absolutely beautiful. Without qualification. Thanks.

posted on 02.04 at 01:38 AMsam sejavka

Do you know if high-resolution (printable) versions of these exist somewhere? I poked around on the NASA site you linked to, and couldn’t really find the images that you cropped from to get these samples. I suppose I could submit a request to NASA directly.

posted on 02.28 at 04:01 PMTim Chambers

That is amazing. Are there any sites with the status of the experiments? Is the only indicator a camera?

posted on 02.29 at 02:34 PMRick

Tim Chambers, you might try searching at http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp

Some the picture results are 2000+ pixels in size.


posted on 03.04 at 07:43 AM.

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