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300000 km/s – Visualising ping for interplanetary communication

Created by André Andrade at ECAL (Media and Interaction Design Unit), 300000 km/s is a data visualisation project to highlight the consequential delay in communication in the probable future (interplanetary) expansion of the territory of Man.

Taking Earth and Mars as an example, the distance between the two planets will not physically allow the immediacy of the Internet as we know it on Earth, André’s project highlights the limit of the communication speed through a simplified visualisation of a permanent ping (round-trip) between the two planets.

“We are living in a world where everything goes faster and faster and my project symbolically illustrates the limit of speed. That limit is the distance. If the Human territory becomes bigger than our planet, instant communications will no longer be possible. After that point, farther we will go and longer we will need to wait. Actually the farthest object made by humans is the space prob Voyager 1 and it takes minimum 20 hours to send it a message. 40 hours to get the confirmation of reception. And the funny point is that we still communicate with it.” –– André Andrade

Project symbolically illustrates the limits of physics and evokes a patience we are no longer confronted with. André wanted to visualise two movements within the device; one immediately perceptible and one that we can only see after many days. The first one, the permanent ping is to see that the device is always in movement. The second one, is not perceptible immediately but after many days because « message hand » that link the two planets has completely changed the position. It takes minimum 3 minutes when the planets are the closest to send a message from Earth to Mars and 22 minutes then the planets are the farthest. So, minimum 6 to 44 minutes to get confirmation of reception. The surprising movement of the « message hand » that link the two planets is due to mars taking 689 days to make a tour of the sun when earth only takes 365 days.

The device is connected to wifi to set the right position of the planets. It can be controlled with a webpage (made with and change the planets position or stop the permanent message. This is only used to demonstrate how it works and the rest of the time, the device is made to be autonomous and not interactive.

For the electronics, Feather Huzzah ESP8266 from Adafruit was used, stepper FeatherWing Add-on from Adafruit to control the two steppers, DRV8871 DC Motor Driver Breakout Board from Adafruit to control the DC motor, two geared steppers motors from to move the planets positions, 15 RPM DC Geared Motor from to move the message
Hall Effect sensors to detect when the message arrive next to a planet, and two slip ring from Adafruit to pass the cables. The device is made with MDF whereas the front is made with a white plexiglass and all metallic parts are made in aluminium.

Project PageAndré Andrade

Credits: André Andrade (Project), Alain Bellet, Cyril Diagne, Gaël Hugo, Christophe Guignard (Tutors), Laura Perrenoud, Tibor Udvari, Pietro Alberti, Marc Dubois (Assistants), Calypso Mahieu, Karla Hiraldo Voleau (Photography).

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