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Space Billboards Would Ruin Our View Of The Cosmos

A horrifying new study shows that it might be possible to ruin the greatest show on Earth - our view of the cosmos in the heavens - by overlaying it with cheesy advertising.


(Satellite’s reflective footprint and examples (Olympics logo and Eiffel Tower))

Space advertising is a promising although still futuristic concept for outdoor advertising and the subject of arguments about rational and sustainable space exploration. The existing approaches for space advertising can be divided into single-time events and multiple demonstration event missions. There are examples of the former such as logos on board a rocket, branded food delivery to the International Space Station, or even a car launched to space. However, in these examples, space advertising was merely a side-issue in a major space mission, whereas what we propose to consider is a dedicated space system. A long-term space advertising mission would rely on a complex satellite system orbiting the Earth and demonstrating pixel images to observers on the ground. In this case, an advertisement appears as a constellation of bright artificial stars formed into an image that can be observed in clear night sky for several minutes. Development of such missions has become a point of interest for a few space startups because the approach provides global Earth coverage and thus allows showing an advertisement to regions of high-demand multiple times.

(Via Satellite Formation Flying for Space Advertising: From Technically Feasible to Economically Viable.)

Science fiction writers must bear some responsibility, I suppose, by introducing this idea more than four generations ago. The first person to think seriously about enormous sky advertisements (as far as I know) was Jules Verne. In his 1889 story In the Year 2889, he wrote about atmospheric advertising:

Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements reflected from the clouds, so large they may be seen by the populations of whole cities or even entire countries.
(Read more about atmospheric advertising)

Other examples of this idea in science fiction include the Orbiting Casino Advertising Sign from One Against The Legion (1939) by Jack Williamson, the permanent skywriting from Soap Opera (1953) by Alan Nelson and the lunar advertisement from Watch This Space (1957) by Arthur C. Clarke.

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