A Beautiful Scrap of Metal Reminds Us Space Travel Can Go Wrong

By Jamie Condliffe on at

In 1996, the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 rocket exploded spectacularly above its French Guiana spaceport during a test flight. In remembrance of the event, artist Sascha Mikloweit has brought some of the scrap back to life, creating these stunning debris depictions.

As the ESA recalls, the Arian disaster was a result of faulty control software, and it saw the four satellites of what was known as the Cluster mission destroyed, too. That mission was later reborn, with all four satellites rebuilt and successfully launched into space in 2000. They remain in orbit today, investigating the Earth’s magnetic fields.

The debris from the explosion was scattered over a huge area of swamp, sea and savanna, and the ESA collected as much of it as it could. This year, artist Sascha Mikloweit produced an installation for the ESA based around the debris: a series of samples and high-resolution images of the remnants.

The space agency has released this image in preparation for the festivities of the coming weekend. Sascha explains:

“All Hallows’ Eve reminds us of destruction and birth, perhaps the most essential cycle in our Universe, whether applied to galaxies, stars, rocketships or humans. This image symbolises that cycle, celebrating the loss, rebirth and now 15 years of scientific success that is the Cluster mission.”

[ESA]

Image by Sascha Mikloweit/ESA