LOS ANGELES (AP) — If aliens ever target Earth, Jon Gibson and Amanda White are counting on them having an appreciation for pop art and a sense of humor.
The duo created an elaborate, Andy Warhol-like design that has been etched into a satellite's panel, transforming the spacecraft into a replica of an over-sized electrical charging device.
"If someone is going to invade our planet, presumably they're going to come in some sort of electronic, electricity-powered ship," Gibson notes whimsically. "Maybe this will make them stop for a moment and say, 'These guys are nice. We're not going to destroy their planet.'"
At the very least, it will give them the opportunity to pause briefly and check out what may be the world's first orbiting work of art.
Of the 1,000 or so functioning satellites that race around Earth every day, there isn't one he knows of that also doubles as art, says veteran satellite builder Craig Clark, who runs the Scotland-based company preparing to launch this one from Kazakhstan on Oct. 29.
"No one else is crazy enough," the CEO of Clyde Space Ltd. said during a recent phone interview from his office in Glasgow.
In building the small satellite that will monitor atmospheric conditions and send back photos and other information from 373 miles above Earth, he turned to Gibson and White and their popular iam8bit gallery in Los Angeles.
"Hopefully, by doing some kind of quirky things like this we'll get some kids interested in space. Rather than going on to doing war, they can do something that helps change the world and makes it a better place," said Clark, who received a Member of the British Empire medal for his work this year from Queen Elizabeth.
Using Computer Generated Imagery to make the satellite look like an electrical charger circling Earth turned out to be pretty easy. Putting such a design on a 2-pound, shoebox-sized gizmo filled with wires, antennas, sensors, solar panels and other sensitive equipment proved far more challenging.
First, something that would stand up to the wear and tear of being fired into space, then orbiting the Earth at 17,000 mph for 25 years had to be used. And it couldn't be paint, either, which would deteriorate over time and give off gas that could fog the satellite's camera.
So the images of computer buttons and a USB port, along with the words, "Greetings Beleaguered Space Traveler. Welcome to the Universe's First Celestial Charging Station," had to be etched right onto the satellite's side.