Through the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative, Northeastern Professor Adriana Knouf, Department of Art + Design, is one of the nine artist groups whose work is on board Sojourner 2020, an international art payload to the ISS. The Sojourner 2020 highlights the ways in which the arts can contribute to new means of encountering space. While access to space is becoming more possible due to commercial launch providers, those sending projects often remain scientific or engineering researchers. Sojourner 2020 broadens this to include an unprecedented collection of international artists, thereby both democratizing access to space as well as opening space exploration to transdisciplinary perspectives. By including projects from indigenous peoples and gender minorities, the project additionally enacts key values of human dignity and equality.
Professor Knouf’s piece is called called TX-1, and explores the transgender experience in space. As she describes: “TX-1 launches bits of my hormone replacement medications, marking the first-known time that elements of the transgender experience orbit the earth. TX-1 includes a fragment of my spironolactone pill, a slice of my estradiol patch, and a miniature handmade paper sculpture, included to gesture towards the absent-yet-present xenoentities of the cosmos. A symbolic exodus to an orbit high above, the eventual return of TX-1 to Earth is also a sign of resilience, of not being disposed, of coming back to thrive once again.”
The Sojourner 2020 (a 1.5U size unit, 100mm x 100mm x 152.4mm ) will be launched into low earth orbit for about 30 days. It features a three-layer telescoping structure which creates three different “gravities”: zero gravity, lunar gravity, and Martian gravity. Each layer of the structure rotates independently. Read more in this MIT announcement.