It's a scifi thought experiment in the form of transient plant art. Author and artist Jonathon Keats, who previously created pornography for trees, worked with California State University to send some cacti and potatoes to Mars and beyond.
In theory, at least. Keats is known for his strange experiments with nature, where he only half-jokingly invests creatures like insects and plants with human status just to see what will happen.
Here's how Keats explains what he's doing:
The Local Air & Space Administration (LASA) has successfully landed two astronauts on the rocky soil of a Kuiper Belt asteroid, and sustained them in good health for three full weeks, less than five months after the Obama Administration made travel to asteroids a national priority. Headquartered at California State University's rural Chico campus under the direction of experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, LASA has outpaced the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) by an estimated one to two decades, on a budget in the low three figures raised primarily from private sources.
"We did it by reversing some key assumptions," confides Mr. Keats, whose previous experience includes exhibiting extraterrestrial abstract art at the Judah L. Magnes Museum. "Instead of bothering with expensive rockets and liquid oxygen, we let the asteroid come to us. Not all of it, of course, which could be dangerous. All we require really is one hefty meteorite." Mr. Keats prepared the asteroidal soil by smashing the meteorite with a hammer. He then planted his two explorers - a pair of small succulents accustomed to rocky terrain – in pots of pulverized asteroid with a supply of distilled water for a 21-day mission. "The cacti encountered the asteroid by osmosis," Mr. Keats asserts. "For 21 days, they lived as alien beings. That's more than Neil Armstrong ever did."
Next month, LASA will attain two more coveted NASA goals decades ahead of schedule, launching simultaneous missions to the Moon and Mars. Having accumulated a small amount of lunar anorthosite from the meteorite NWA 482, and martian shergottite from the meteorite NWA 1195, the space agency will dissolve the anorthosite and shergottite to produce lunar and martian mineral waters in which thirty new astronauts will be raised. "These explorers will be potatoes," Mr. Keats reveals. "They'll each be suspended in a cup of extraterrestrial mineral water on toothpicks." A third mission will bring select potatoes into contact with other stars, burnt-out suns that supplied the raw materials for our solar system, remnants of which are preserved as nanodiamond in rare carbonaceous meteorites. Launching October 4th, and open for public observation on weekdays, these three missions will serve as preparation for a return to the Moon and the first experience of Mars and other suns by humans on October 21st.
"Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has been offering $200,000 tickets for five minutes of suborbital flight with a 2012 launch date," says Mr. Keats. "We don't see why people should have to wait so long to experience so little at such a high cost." Situated at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco, LASA's exotourism bureau will employ the revolutionary technology Mr. Keats developed for succulents and potatoes. "Humans aren't so different from plants. People can just drink up the mineral water, and absorb these alien environments."
In case you were wondering: Yes, this "press release" is part of the scifi story that Keats is telling about this astronaut experiment. It reminds us that Earth and outer space are not really two different things. Earth is part of outer space - the entire surface of our planet is littered with debris from other worlds and other star systems.
The Local Air & Space Administration will launch exploratory missions at California State University, Chico on October 4, 2010, with a public opening of LASA's headquarters on Monday, October 4th from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.
An opening reception for the Local Air & Space Administration's exotourism bureau will be held at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco on October 21, 2010 from 5:30 to 8:00 PM.