Adrift! Art Project Focuses on Troublesome Space Trash

Adrift Space Junk Project: Poster
The new interactive art project "Adrift" aims to give participants a better understanding of the problems posed by space junk. (Image credit: Adrift)

Space junk…a menacing and growing environmental worry.

Now a unique art project reveals the world of space junk, making it personal, visible and audible.

Called Adrift, this UK project takes the form of an interactive experience, a documentary film and a listen-up sound experience.

Adopt a chunk of junk

A trio of relics that are emblematic of orbital debris can be "adopted" by Adrift participants:

  • A U.S. Vanguard satellite: "I circle Earth every 130 minutes. I will continue to orbit above you for the next 240 years."
  • Suitsat: "I was pushed out into Space in 2006 by astronauts on the International Space Station."
  • Fengyun: A Chinese piece of space junk "from the worst space debris event of all time. Go. Me."

Sound track

Adrift team leaders Nick Ryan and Cath Le Couteur. (Image credit: Adrift)

Adrift was created by filmmaker Cath Le Couteur and Nick Ryan, an audio specialist, sound designer, composer and artist. Adding to the mix of team members is scientific advisor Hugh Lewis, a space debris expert from the University of Southampton.

Part of the Adrift multi-sensory experience is Ryan’s "Machine 9" — a handcrafted electromechanical sound instrument that tracks the positions of 27,000 pieces of space junk, transforming them into sound, in real time, as they pass overhead.

The launch of Adrift took place this month, headed for its opening next year at Hackney House in London.

For more information on the three-part Adrift initiative that includes an informative documentary video, go to:

Leonard David is author of "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet." The book is a companion to the National Geographic Channel six-part series airing in November. A longtime writer for, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Story published on

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He has received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.