This Used To Be the Future
J Thoendell stashed this in Space
ASA Ames is filled with the exotic technologies of a future that didn’t quite come to pass. Ancient computers still operate equipment in the machine shop. A decommissioned nuclear missile sits in a parking lot, and the twin of the International Space Station sits out in the open air, under a tarp.
Originally dedicated as the Sunnyvale Naval Air Station in 1933, the site was to serve as a home base for the Navy dirigible, the U.S.S. Macon, which crashed in 1935. The Aeronautical Laboratory was founded in 1939, and in 1958 became a part of the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. In its earliest days, Ames broke new ground in aerodynamics and high-speed flight. Today it is still an active participant in various NASA missions, including leading the Kepler space telescope mission, and partnering on the Mars Curiosity Rover.
I came to Ames as part of a creatively motivated examination of the felt experience of deep time and deep space, in conjunction with the LACMA Art + Tech Lab. How does one make art—let alone make sense—out of our human experience of the cosmos?
As I visited Ames, along with SpaceX, JPL, and CERN, I began to reconsider our contemporary relationship to space. Without fail, someone would always lament that we have never regained the promise and excitement of the early space era, epitomized by the moon landing. The Ames campus itself embodies that sentiment in its architecture; some structures are perfectly preserved and others are in varying degrees of disrepair.
As I took in the campus, I couldn’t help but think: This used to be the future.