Neck of the Moon
Jacques Rougerie Competition, 2015, First Prize

Project Team:
El Hadi Jazairy + Rania Ghosn
Jia Weng, Mingchuan Yang, Shuya Xu, Hsin-Han Lee, Sihao Xiong

“Orbital debris poses a risk to continued reliable use of space-based services and operations and to the safety of persons and property in space and on Earth,” observe NASA and the European Space Agency. This problem is especially significant in geostationary orbits, where satellites cluster over their primary ground targets and share with space debris the same orbital path. At that height as well, orbital debris will normally continue circling the Earth for centuries or more. New satellites are continuing to be launched at a growth rate of over a hundred each year and most of these launches will contribute to increase the risks and detrimental effects of Earth’s orbiting junkyard.

The project proposes to clean up the orbital environment by compacting targeted space debris into a new satellite planet that orbits the Earth. Rather than displacing the debris to a lower altitude, a large tug with a robotic arm approaches and compacts large objects at high altitudes. In a continuous development from atom to nebula, the compacted mass grows organically into planet Laika, the earth’s second moon. For Laika was appropriately a stray creature that orbited the earth; its cyborg namesake was similarly once propelled from the earth. They have a vital generative role in humanity’s journey into the space and information age. We are Odysseus as we travel collectively from ape to human and eventually, after leaving the planet, to starman-angel.

An umbilical line ties Laika to the Earth, and more precisely to the belly of Cotopaxi in Ecuador. The cordon is a space elevator that connects the newly formed planet and supplies it with materials from the earth. It also beams the solar energy captured by Laika to earth. The space elevator ducks into the crater of the splendid Cotopaxi volcano, which presents itself as an isolated gorgeous cone covered with snow seen from all perspectives. The project’s holistic vision finds in this peak of the earth its best grounding. It is also claimed that Cotopaxi means "Neck of the Moon" in an indigenous language. Cotopaxi had already impressed the geographer Alexander von Humboldt in his nineteenth century travels to tropical America. He wrote: “We may consider this colossal mountain as one of those eternal monuments, by which nature has marked the great divisions of the terrestrial Globe.” It is with the help of mountains that the project pursues the will to connect the internal, external and aerial layers of the Earth, to articulate cosmic, topographical, climatic and vegetal features of the surface of the Earth, and to analyze the interaction between the features of landscape and the imaginations of people, including scientists and artists. “It is not with rockets, Sputniks or missiles that modern man will achieve the conquest of space,” observed Yves Klein, “It is by means of the powerful yet peaceful force of his sensitivity that man will inhabit space.”