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Throughout history, diverse cultures have interpreted the cosmos through stories and images, developing an array of narratives framing people’s relationship to the unknown and to each other. Initiatives in outer space today are focused on discovery and colonization, as national and private space programs develop technologies to traverse astronomical distance, populate Mars, and work to map thousands of alien planets, focusing on the “habitable zones” of nearby solar systems. NASA’s newest “planet hunter” is the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). TESS launched April 2018 on a SpaceX rocket set on a two year mission to survey the entire sky in search of other Earths.
Tess Elliot is surveying the local spacetime surrounding her. The historical narrative of Oklahoma is one of forced migration, frontier expansion, and resource extraction. How does this narrative inform current and future pioneering in space, the “final frontier”? Can the visual language of space exploration, focused on the local, inspire an interest in the ecology of place and the health of our planet?