Opinion

Shoot for the Stars: First GIF Shared in Space

Lone Signal is launching the crowd into space (via Lone Signal)
Lone Signal is launching the crowd into space. (via Lone Signal)

To launch a project that will crowdsource digital media projected into space, it makes sense to start with a GIF, the most beloved manifestation of our current internet noise. Today the first GIF to ever be sent into space started a journey to a distant solar system  — which it will reach in 2031.

Lone Signal's dish (via Lone Signal)
Jamesburg Earth Station, Instagrammed (via Lone Signal)

The GIF choice is kind of curious, although what would you pick to represent the entirety of the planet for a digital messenger to the stars? Created by digital conceptual artist Kim Asendorf, the GIF, called “Humans Watching Digital Art” (2011), shows a man pondering what we assume is a screen. The GIF was sent as part of the launch of Lone Signal, a new project that allows anyone with an internet connection to harness the power of the Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel, California, and broadcast a message into Deep Space. As the mission states: “At Lone Signal, we believe that crowdsourcing messaging to extraterrestrial intelligence (METI) is the ideal approach to establishing a stable, cohesive, and well-resourced intersteller beacon on Earth.”

One has to wonder how much time the Lone Signal people have spent immersed in the crowdsourced vortex of visuals on the internet, and what the scientists who have so carefully curated such extraterrestrial media envoys as the Voyager gold record or the 2008 beaming of the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” would think. Only “strategically targeted stellar systems” will be focused on, with the GIF heading to the potentially inhabited star system of Gliese 526, some 17.6 light years away.

You can check out Asendorf’s space-racing GIF below, although personally out of his work I would have picked a GIF using his rather beautiful pixel sorting.

Humans watching Digital Art, 2011
Kim Asendorf, “Humans Watching Digital Art” (2011)

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