The Last Pictures

This project was inspired by an image that came from my work tracking secret satellites. Over the course of my work on satellites, I realized that certain kinds of satellites – those in geosynchronous orbits – experience virtually no drag from the atmosphere below and consequently stay in orbit for extremely long amounts of time – millions or billions of years. I realized that it’s entirely possible that one day in the distant or not-too-distant future, when humans are long extinct, a ring of dead satellites will continue circling the planet in perpetuity.

The Last Pictures Artifact, 2013
Golden disc
8 × 8 × ½ in.

The Last Pictures is an artifact placed onboard a satellite called EchoStar XVI which will inhabit a cosmic “graveyard” approximately 36,000 km away from earth for long into the distant future. A kind of space-based monument to the Anthropocene, The Last Pictures contains a hundred images that speak to some of the alterations humans made to the planet.

The Last Pictures, 2012
Mosaic of included images.

The project was developed with Creative Time and was produced in part at MIT.

In November 2012 EchoStar XVI launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan and reached geostationary orbit with The Last Pictures mounted to its anti-earth deck.

Timeline of Earth History, 2012
The Last Pictures, 2012
Documentation of artifact placed on Echostar VXI Satellite.
The Last Pictures, 2012
Documentation of proton rocket launch preparation.

A book about the project and some of the philosophical and ethical issues related to it is available from UC Press.

A free-standing website for the project is here.