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Holographic Interstellar Message Plaques
No, it' s not the holographic doctor from StarTrek Deep Space Nine or the holographic message from Princess Leia in Star Wars . But our NASA-funded research last summer investigated the possibility of a thin-film white-light holographic message plaque that could be affixed to a future interstellar space probe. The work of many artists could be included in such a cosmic message that would be about the size of a piece of paper and far less massive, and could be viewed in ordinary light.
After curating an art show on messages to extraterrestrials ( Messages from Earth ) at a summer 2000 astronautics conference in Aosta, Italy , Bangs was funded through Matloff s MSFC University Grant (H-29712D) to construct a prototype holographic message plaque. Created with the aid of the Center for Holographic Art in Long Island City, NY, the 16 X 20 prototype plaque is now in the permanent collection of the Space Transportation Directorate at MSFC in Huntsville, AL. Based in part upon the message plaques affixed to the Pioneer 10 / 11 extrasolar probes launched in the 1970 s, the MSFC plaque contains six separate 2- and 3-dimensional images, presenting the appearance of humans, our size compared to the hypothetical spacecraft to which the plaque would be affixed, and Earth s location in the galaxy.
During summer 2001, we tested commercial holographic samples for space-radiation tolerance, with the cooperation of the Space Environments team at MSFC. In agreement with previous studies, we learned that holograms are highly radiation resistant. Prof. John Caulfield, an expert in holography affiliated with Fisk and Alabama A & M Universities, informs us that a holographic message plaque the size of a typical piece of paper could be as thin as a millionth of a meter and could contain hundreds of thousands of separate images.
Details of this research were presented during March 2002 workshops in Paris co-sponsored by the International Academy of Astronautics and the SETI Institute. Bangs is soliciting artists interested in submitting work for future Messages from Earth exhibitions through the Art Resource Transfer Inc. web site (www.artretran.com).