As if there aren’t already enough things glittering in the cosmos, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck just blasted a disco ball out there. Literally.
When his Electron two-stage rocket (appropriately named Still Testing) took off from its New Zealand launch pad with three Cubesats, it was also flying something unexpected into space—a carbon-fiber geodesic sphere otherwise known as the Humanity Star.
While its 65 reflective panels make it look like something that could have lit up Studio 54, the reason for the Humanity Star’s retro look is to to make this artificial “star” twirl around and reflect Earth’s surface after dark as it zooms around the planet every 90 minutes at 27 times the speed of sound. Despite being a fraction of the size of those giant balls of burning gas it will twinkle beside, its luminosity slightly outshines actual stars and satellites. It should if Beck wants anyone to get even a glimpse of it at night. We already have enough light pollution.
So why launch an enormous disco ball into the sky? Beck’s dream is for everyone to join the party when it comes to pondering the potential of humanity, which is why he designed it to flash brightly enough for the naked eye to see from anywhere on Earth.
“The Humanity Star is designed to be a bright symbol and reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe,” Beck quotes on his website.
The tech mogul wants us all to take a moment, look up, and just try to fathom how we are really just specks of cosmic dust in the vast expanse of the universe. He sees it as something that could inspire people to change how they think about their lives. His vision is for it to be a symbol of unity that sparkles with hope in the eyes of anyone who is able to see it among the stars and feel a connection to any of the seven billion other human beings who exist, which may be a bit ambitious considering how much light is already beaming down from the infinite objects in space.
“No matter where you are in the world, rich or in poverty, in conflict or at peace, everyone will be able to see the bright, blinking Humanity Star orbiting Earth in the night sky,” Beck says dreamily.
However surreal this sounds, there are places in the world where you will be able to see it best during its nine-month journey (scroll down on the site to track it). Anyone stargazing from Australia or New Zealand will get a prime view over the next six weeks. Those of us in North America will have to wait until March to see if we can make it out among all the other shiny things.
There might be an ulterior motive behind Beck’s publicity stunt. His company is that much closer to sending out commercial satellites after this launch, and if the public is mesmerized enough by the Humanity Star, he may pull an encore after this one burns up in the atmosphere. Best airborne ad ever.