As you sit reading this, there are in excess of 27,000 fragments of space debris circling the planet. Only 1,100 of these are functional spacecraft and the rest is made up of broken satellites, used rocket stages and more all travelling at a speed of 17,000mph. Earlier this year, the Adrift project transformed these pieces of soaring space junk into musical compositions for the Science Museum.
By using an electromechanical sound instrument called Machine 9, the movements of these 27,000 fragments were transformed into sound. Every time a piece of debris flew over the Science Museum, its respective sound was played in real time.
So- how does it work? The machine was built in the UK by the engineer Dave Cranmer and consists of a 1.5 meter long rotating aluminium cylinder that has 1,000 sounds engraved into the grooves. The live data from the travelling space debris is used as a ‘score’ and the eight motorised styluses identify and play a sound from the cylinder for each object that flies overhead. The sounds used were made from recordings of ‘earthly debris’ which were essentially pieces of rubbish that volunteers throughout the UK submitted.
Adrift is a three part project that consists of Machine 9, a documentary and an interactive element that allows audiences to communicate with an individual piece of orbiting space debris via Twitter.