Remember that image of Carl Sagan holding the “Don’t Forget, No Billboards in Space” sign that’s been bouncing around the internet the past few years? Turns out its fake, but that in no way takes away from the sentiment. Space in many ways is the final frontier, the last piece of untouched, untainted real estate we have on our shrinking, stinking planet. Why ruin it with advertising?
Billboards in space sound objectively horrible to anyone who’s not a reptilian capitalist overlord, which is exactly why a Russian startup with massive amounts of venture capital behind it already has the billboards ready to fill the night sky with flashing neon reminders of the hellish corporate dystopia we’ve found ourselves in. Just wait until They find a way to advertise to us in our dreams.
Aerospace startup StartRocket wants to launch tiny cube satellites into orbit some 400-500 (~250-300 miles) kilometers above the Earth in order to create massive glowing displays which could be seen from dozens of square kilometers below at a time. The landing page on the company’s website displays an image of stargazers taking in the nightmarish scene of a fake Coca-Cola logo ("Loca-Cola") floating through the night sky along with the mission statement “Space has to be beautiful. With the best brands, our sky will amaze us every night.” Blech. StartRocket project leader Vlad Sitnikov told Futurism that regardless of what literally everyone else in the world says, he insists his vision is all about bringing "beauty" to the world - in the form of brand names and logos:
We are ruled by brands and events. The economy is the blood system of society. Entertainment and advertising are at its heart. We will live in space, and humankind will start delivering its culture to space. The more professional and experienced pioneers will make it better for everyone.
The company plans on launching their first prototype in 2021, and says their orbital displays could be programmed to display logos at six minute intervals, orbiting a particular location three or four times a day. Start clawing your eyeballs out now; it can take a lot longer than you think.
Of course, there are huge legal and regulatory hurdles the orbital billboards would face if they ever came to fruition, so it's unknown if they'll ever be launched at all. Whew. Still, there is some precedent for orbital "art." Last year, a New Zealand startup called Rocket Lab shot a cross between a disco ball and a D20 into space, prompting widespread criticism from astronomers. Caleb Scharf, director of astrobiology at Columbia University, wrote in Scientific American that despite being billed as a work of art, the orbital disco ball was merely “another invasion of my personal universe, another flashing item asking for eyeballs, adding that it was “hogging some of that precious resource, the dark night sky, polluting part of the last great wilderness” we have left on Earth. What will Scharf and other astronomers have to say about these garish orbital billboards?
I don’t know why anyone would think this one is a good idea. Anyone except for the soulless, money-hungry cacodemons who sit on the boards of the world’s largest advertising firms and multinational corporations, that is. Sure, the night sky might be ruined for everyone else you say, but listen, you commie punk: at least the billboards created a lot of value for the shareholders. What’s more important than that?