CASSINI-DECLASSIFIED

Cassini—DECLASSIFIED
The Color Out of Space
A collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency, and Jeffrey Larson

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Cassini–Huygens was an ambitious space probe launched in 1997, five years later it reached Saturn to begin its 13 year exploration of the planet and its surrounding moons. This was the most inspiring feat of engineering in space exploration at the time.

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For years, this wealth of information was transmitted back to Earth; readings on the atmosphere, ionosphere, dust particles, and magnetic fields. The stellar data was analyzed in hundreds of scientific papers and experiments resulting in new inventions and technological breakthroughs.

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In September 2017, the mission was coming to a close. A controlled destruction was eminent, a course correction was entered directing the probe to burn up in Saturn’s atmosphere. Scientists around the world were eager to study the results of this never-before-seen phenomena. 

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And then all went quiet.
No data. No news. No reason. No excuses. As if the probe never existed. The agencies remained silent for years.

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A Freedom of Information Act request was finally honored and helps us glean more of the story.

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In those last 48 hours, NASA initiated the VIMS infrared counterpart, an experimental device created to read the unique spectrography when entering the planet’s atmosphere. 

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While we don’t know the how or why, we now know the aftermath. The six-person team located at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations were never the same after receiving the VIMS transmissions. They were found in an almost catatonic state, mumbling vague descriptions… of what, we don’t know; but otherwise unable to move or acknowledge the presence of anything else around them. They have yet to recover and are all being currently cared for at the psychiatric ward at Miskatonic University, Essex County, Massachusetts. 

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Some have speculated, the cause of these disturbances may have come from the unnaturally blue water plumes of Saturn’s E ring, or the oddly geometric hexagon pole storm, or maybe even possible sentient entities from the moon Enceladus. No one knows.

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No one will ever know. The last 48 hours of the Cassini probe is known as “The Grand Finale”, and final it is. NASA and all other Earth space agencies have agreed to stay away from Saturn’s orbit and let the mystery remain forever.

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it was no longer shining out, it was pouring out
fantastic fragments as our universe must needs disown
seething, feeling, lapping, reaching, scintillating, straining, and malignly bubbling in its cosmic and unrecognizable chromaticism
ooze and bubbles and the feeling of something lurking under there
all vacant now
secrets of the strange days will be one with the deep’s secrets; one with the hidden lore of old ocean, and all the mystery of primal earth
whose surface will mirror the sky and ripple in the sun
twitching morbidly and spasmodically, clawing in convulsive and epileptic madness at the moonlit clouds
not a single specific noun, but only verbs and pronouns
only a fine grey dust or ash which no wind seemed ever to blow
whose stagnant vapors played strange tricks with the hues of the sunlight 
virtually nothing to do to calm them
things moved and changed and fluttered, and ears tingled to impulses which were not wholly sounds
they talked in some terrible language that was not of earth
a thousand tiny points of faint and unhallowed radiance 
failing curiously both physically and mentally
an awful moment; with terror in that ancient and accursed
it is not because of anything that can be seen or heard or handled, but because of something that is imagined

ABOUT THE INSTALLATION

These mixed-media collages examine cultural themes in media through colorful abstractions layered with storytelling. Inspiration for the CASSINI-DECLASSIFIED series came from the 1927 H. P. Lovecraft story The Colour Out of Space, about a meteorite that falls in the Massachusetts countryside that eventually kills, poisons, or makes “go mad” every living creature for miles. In an age where scientific discovery is often interpreted through digital data transmitted over millions of miles, how might reading a mysterious spectography of pixels from a far distant planet convey traces of stellar phenomena outside of our human senses? Through quilt-like mosaics comprised of geometric hexagons, the CASSINI-DECLASSIFIED collage series hints at such otherworldly patterns in planetary dust particles, unlocking a preconscious glimpse into colors never before seen—a new channel of communication with ominous outcomes. 

The CASSINI-DECLASSIFIED art show was exhibited at Passable, an art gallery and maker space in Seattle Washington, in December of 2021. The panels are displayed above at 90 degrees to help show the transition of color and darkness.

Each panel’s title is a direct excerpt from the original story, meant to represent the “vague mumbled descriptions” uttered by the 6 insane employees.

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