An arrangement of lilies, irises, orchids and hydrangeas was launched into the stratosphere last week as part of Makoto Azuma’s latest installation piece, the space mission Exobiotanica.
The Japanese artist also sent off ‘Shiki 1,' a white pine bonsai suspended from a metal frame. “I wanted to see the movement and beauty of plants and flowers suspended in space,” Azuma told Paula de la Cruz at the New York Times.
Azuma and his team partnered with JP Aerospace, a volunteer-based organisation that specialises in DYI space programs. John Powell, who founded JP Aerospace in 1977, told Cruz that he decided to join this project because “seeing a familiar object like a bouquet of flowers flying above Earth domesticates space, and the idea of travelling into it.”
To make sure the flowers and the bonsai survived the journey, Azuma built two frames using Styrofoam and a very light metal. Then he carefully attached the bonsai and the flowers. Each frame had a tracking system, a still camera, six Go Pro video cameras tied into a ball to record the trip, a helium balloon, and a parachute, according to Cruz.
The bonsai was launched in Black Rock Desert, in the US, at 6.30 am and the flower bouquet 40 minutes later on July 15. Both went up 91,800 feet (21.98 km) and travelled for about 100 minutes, until the helium balloon burst. Then the bonsai and the flowers fell for 40 minutes. The parachutes opened automatically to soften the impact.
Although the metal frames were retrieved, Azuma and his team didn't find the plants.
“I always wanted to travel to space,” Azuma said. ‘This is a dream come true.”