Co.Design

What A Bonsai Tree Looks Like Suspended In Space

A Japanese artist sent two botanical arrangements into space this week. The images of the space-bound plants are breathtaking.

On Tuesday, a bonsai tree boldly went where no bonsai tree has gone before. Azuma Makoto, a 38-year-old artist based in Tokyo, launched two botanical arrangements into space: "Shiki 1," a Japanese white pine bonsai tree suspended from a metal frame, and an untitled arrangement of orchids, lilies, hydrangeas, and irises.

The project, called Exobiotanica, was a collaboration between Makoto, his 10-person crew, and Sacramento-based JP Aerospace, an organization that sends vessels into space. "I wanted to see the movement and beauty of plants and flowers suspended in space," Makoto told T Magazine at the launch site, Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nevada, best known as the site of the annual Burning Man festival. "I am using brightly colored flowers from around the world so that they contrast against the darkness of space."

The team created two devices of Styrofoam and light metal frames on which to launch the floral arrangements, called Away 101 and Away 100. A Spot GPS tracker was included to help locate the astral bouquets once they returned to Earth, and another device recorded distance and altitude traveled. Six Go-Pro cameras tied in a ball captured surreal 360-degree images of the flying flowers.

Buoyed skyward by a massive helium balloon, the bonsai and bouquet made impressive astral journeys. The bonsai tree traveled for 100 minutes, up to 91,800 feet, then made a 40-minute fall back to Earth after its helium balloon burst. The bouquet made it up to 87,000 feet. While the devices were found on the ground just five miles from the launch site, the floral arrangement itself was never retrieved. Perhaps it was intercepted by a romantic extraterrestrial.

[H/T T Magazine]

[Images courtesy of the New York Times]

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12 Comments

  • Please stop being so "scientific". The purpose was to make beautiful images of plants in space. Period. Deed beautifully accomplished. Period. This is art.

  • Diane Smelser

    They are so earthly and they look so lonely there in space. I'm glad the prodigal bonsai tree came home. i hope it takes root and never leaves again.

  • Alex Diaz

    Details aside, these are beautiful photos and a wonderful idea. Would love to see a video.

  • yournotkidnappedapplecharger

    Neat photos, but they were definitely not taken in space, and the bonsai and bouquet of flowers did not achieve even minimal orbital velocity of 6.9 km per second by riding a helium balloon.

  • emmerich.kyle

    "launched two botanical arrangements into orbit" "an organization that sends vessels into space" "the bonsai and bouquet made impressive astral journeys." "The bonsai tree traveled for 100 minutes, up to 91,800 feet, then made a 40-minute fall back to Earth after its helium balloon burst."

    So not only did they NOT reach orbit, they only got a QUARTER of the way into space. Stop. Please. You have no business covering anything related to space if you can't even take the time to do simple research.

    All you had to do was do a simple Google search for "how high up is space." It would've told you about the Karman line, which is 100 kilometers off the ground. The bonsai tree made it to TWENTY EIGHT KILOMETERS. Not even CLOSE.

  • Llor Tamai

    Ok, so here where you've got it all wrong.

    A JAPANESE ARTIST SENT TWO BOTANICAL ARRANGEMENTS INTO ORBIT THIS WEEK. THE IMAGES OF THE SPACE-BOUND PLANTS ARE BREATHTAKING.

    The botanical arrangements were not sent into orbit (or space).

    Heres why.

    The atmosphere of Earth is sparse enough at an altitude of around 100km (62 miles) to be considered space. The Balloon only reached 27km (17 miles / 91,000ft), that is still well inside the Stratosphere.

    The lowest possible orbit around Earth is over 100km. So as I have pointed out, the flowers and bonsai tree didnt even get close to the altitude at which one could orbit. Also theres the case of needing to supply roughly 7.8km/s of horizontal acceleration to achieve orbit. A balloon cannot do that.

    TL;DR: The balloon and its payload didnt get anywhere near space or orbit.

  • Scott Doniger

    amazing that radiation didn't burn them up, or that lack of oxygen didn't make them shrivel.