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STEMarts Lab, Space Messengers

Temporary Eclipse Installation at the Balloon Museum.

Space Messengers image.

STEMarts Lab
Space Messengers
On view October 12-14, 2023

Space Messengers was installed for the Balloon Museum's activation of the Annular Eclipse on October 14, 2023.

An Immersive Mixed Reality installation and international youth exchange exploring the universe through art, science and technology

Step into a world where real and virtual experiences merge in an immersive journey that brings art and science to life and inspires hope. *Space Messengers* is a participatory mixed reality installation that visualizes thought-provoking reflections on the universe, encouraging participants to contemplate their role within it. *Space Messengers* is an ongoing collaboration among artists, scientists, interdisciplinary experts and youth ambassadors. Together they explore how the arts, humanities, philosophy, physics and space technologies can deepen our understanding of the universe and expand our identities as planetary citizens. 

Collaborators: Creative Director: Agnes Chavez (US)  Projection artist: OMAi (AT) Programmer: Roy Macdonald (CL) Sound engineer:  David Novack (US) Virtual Reality Designer: Mathieu Castel (FR) Virtual Reality advisors:  Digital Ant Media (US) Tech advisor: Dylan Zanow (US) Production Director:  Dania Loya (US) Documentarian/videographer: Malu Tavares

How to engage: Activate your silhouette, comprised of hundreds of video statements, to reveal thoughts and reflections about the universe; Scan our QR code to send your space messages about the universe and see them appear in real time on the wall; and engage with Science Stations to ask questions and develop your science literacy!

QR code to send space messages to interact with STEMarts Lab's Space Messengers immersive Mixed Reality installation.

Science Stations
  • Avatar Scientist Station: Ask the avatars of Dr. Andrea Albert, Los Alamos National Laboratory, astrophysicist, and Dr. Julia Bluebird, National radio Astronomy Observatory, astrophysicist, anything you ever wanted to know about the universe.
  • Very Large Array in Virtual Reality: Experience the Very Large Array telescopes as an immersive 3D experience. Climb the satellite and learn about radio waves, multi-wavelength astronomy and more.

    National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Summer Ash, Very Large Array Visitor Center and STEAM Education Manager, and Sophia Dagnello, Scientific Visualizer, NRAO.
  • Fusion reactor in Virtual Reality: Explore a fusion reactor in virtual reality. Experience the technology that is poised to redefine how people interact with complex information in virtual reality.

    SciVista VR platform, SummitVR™ guided by Digital Ant Media. 
  • Cosmic Ray Detector: This special station hosted by QuarkNet will have a Cosmic Ray Detector collecting cosmic ray data live. QuarkNet members, Shane Wood and Nathan Unterman  will be explaining the history and significance of cosmic rays including the connection to ballooning. Balloonist and Nobel prize winner, Victor Hess, first discovered cosmic rays in the early 1900s. (October 12 only)

Meet our Ambassadors who will be your experience guides

This year, the Albuquerque Sister Cities Foundation and the US Consulate in Guadalajara are sponsoring four Ambassadors from Guadalajara to travel to the Balloon Museum for the event;  Hermila Ruiz Aguayo, Jesús Santiago Valadez García, Julio Cesar Hernández Ochoa and Lizbeth Carol Spiller. In December four of our New Mexico Ambassadors will go there for a Space Messengers event. The  International STEMarts Ambassador program allows New Mexico students and their partners in Guadalajara Mexico to participate as Experience Guides in the culminating Space Messengers installation. There will be 15 ambassadors running  the interactive stations and there to guide your experience.

STEMarts Ambassadors: Claire Legate, Feliciana Mitchell-Gonzales, Megan Odom, Rocio Aguilar, Serina Martinez, Sirena Quezada, Selena Pacheco, Sophia Bates, Shaylee Mirabal, Julia Doke, Hermila Ruiz Aguayo, Jesús Santiago Valadez García, Julio Cesar Hernández Ochoa, Lizbeth Carol Spiller, Ian Harrison
Participating schools: Santa Fe Indian School, Albuquerque High, Taos Integrated School of the Arts, Escola Secundaria Sebastiao e Silva, Universidad de Guadalajara Prepa#5, Preparatoria Jose del Valle, New Mexico School of the Arts.
Interactive Station Descriptors

Interactive projection wall
The interactive projection wall is the main attraction of the Space Messengers installation with two interactive zones; the Interactive Silhouettes and the Real Time Messaging. We will project onto a 40’ container. As people approach the projection, a sensor mimics their silhouette movements which are seen projected onto the wall as points of light. As they come closer, the participant triggers the infrared sensor which zooms into one of the data points containing hundreds of video clips from our workshops exploring the universe through the lens of the students, artists, scientists and cultural experts. An immersive soundscape fills the projection site with collected space sounds from the NASA library, as well as nature sounds. These 30-second video clips include highlights from the scientist presentations and serve to inspire and inform the audience on topics such as gravitational waves, dark matter and the big bang, as well  a future imaginings. They provide a glimpse into the Space Messengers workshop and curriculum. Our hope is that the audience can walk away with an increased appreciation for how science is expanding our understanding of the universe.

Real Time Messaging
The heart of the interactive projection wall are the ‘space messages’ that are seen floating up on the wall alongside the interactive body silhouettes. They are both archived and real time messages and communicate the science being explored and the reflections and future imaginings from workshop participants as well as the live audience. Their messages become part of the global database as the Space Messengers travels the world collecting the voices of our youth and communities. The archived messages are collected from the Space Board, a custom designed platform that allows participating students, scientists and teachers to co-write messages communicating the science and sharing their thoughts and wishes for a sustainable interplanetary future. The real-time messages are those that the audience can send using the Space Messengers SMS number which is shared on the projection wall. Audience members experience wonder as their space message appears instantly in the projection.

Avatar Scientist Station
This interactive station bridges the real and virtual worlds to create a lively human interaction. An astrophysicist is beamed in from their home location and appears as an avatar on our large scale projection screen. Audience members come up to a ring light and webcam in front of the projection screen and ask them a question about the universe. The astrophysicist can see and interact with the audience member in the physical space at the event. A speaker broadcasts the conversation so spectators can experience the conversation. Participants are always surprised to find out it's a real person and not just a cartoon character or AI robot. This popular station has been highly successful at encouraging participants to ask questions about the universe that they always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.  For the Balloon Fiesta the guest scientists are Dr. Andrea Albert, LANL astrophysicist and Dr. Julia Bluebird, NRAO astrophysicists.

Contact for more information
Agnes Chavez:
[email protected]


About Space Messengers installation at Balloon Museum

Space Messengers is a multi artist installation produced by STEMarts Lab. STEMarts Lab an artist-run non profit organization whose mission is to design immersive and educational sci-art experiences that empower youth and communities through art, science, and technology with a focus on rural and underserved communities.

Space Messengers team

Avatar Scientists: Dr. Andrea Albert, LANL astrophysicist (USA), Dr. Julia Bluebird, NRAO astrophysicist.

Science stations: Summer Ash, Very Large Array Visitor Center, STEAM Education Manager, Sophia Dagnello, Scientific Visualizer, NRAO; QuarkNet members, Shane Wood and Nathan Unterman; Thomas Vause and Allison Johnson, SciVista.

Installation Video Statements: Dr. Nicole Lloyd-Ronning (USA); Michelle Hanlon, Space Lawyer, Co-Founder, For All Moonkind (USA), Dr. Catarina Pombo Nabais, Philosopher/founder of the SAP (Science- Art-Philosophy) Lab at the CFCUL (PT); Frank Tavares, Affiliated Researcher, Space Enabled Research Group at the MIT Media Lab (USA). Dr. Greg Cajete, Native American author (USA), Steve Tamayo, Lakota artist (USA), Elizabeth Keller, Futures Thinker, Sandia National (USA), Sophia Dagnello, NRAO science visualizer (USA), Johan Sebastian Bonilla, CERN physicist (USA)

Sponsors: National Endowment for the Arts, City of Albuquerque Public Arts Office, Albuquerque Sister Cities Foundation, U.S Consulate General in Guadalajara, NM Trade Alliance, Q Station, New Mexico Arts, LANL Foundation, The Encantado Foundation, J3 Fund, MAE Foundation, Intel, Taos Community Foundation, LANL CPO, and our hosts, the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.