Hanging Gardens of Medusa: The first stratospheric sky garden with proto life

Professor of experimental architecture Rachel Armstrong has created the first stratospheric sky garden with proto life

Professor of Experimental Architecture Rachel Armstrong has created the first stratospheric sky garden and platform for the cultivation of 'artificial life'.

The Hanging Gardens of Medusa is a collaboration between Rachel Armstrong, Senior TED Fellow and Professor of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University, with Nebula Sciences.


A perspective over the biological Falcon garden towards the curvature of the earth that is foregrounded by suspended fleshy cacti

Put simply, the sky garden involves a collection of cacti, and '"proto" artificial life forms' floating at approximately a hundred thousand feet above the Earth's surface.


The Falcon garden, the highest tier, taking off

The concept of the Hanging Gardens of Medusa is to challenge our capacity to survive in extreme environments, whereby we are essentially preparing for not only the hostile terrains of space, but also for the unfavourable conditions on Earth.

The first test flight occurred 15 August 2015. The gardens travelled by helium balloon into the atmosphere, where they aimed to reach conditions replicating that of a Martian environment - extreme temperature, pressure and different bands of UV radiation.


The Falcon garden, the highest tier, climbing

The sky garden is comprised of two gardens that are supported by artificial 'soil': the Falcon is the higher tier and contains biological organisms and the Medusa is the lower tier and proposes an environment for alternative future life forms that involve self-assembling chemistries.

The Hanging Gardens of Medusa are inspired by the short story 'Meeting with Medusa' by Arthur C Clarke that is set in Jupiter's atmosphere. The story poses questions about building infrastructures that allow humans to live outside of their home planet for extended periods of time.


The Medusa garden - the artificial life form that Armstrong and the team are proposing as an alternative strategy for survival in hostile environments

Professor Armstrong said:

'Like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, this tiered garden in the upper atmosphere establishes an iconic platform for the science and art of cultivation. Uniquely, the stratospheric platform is able to battle it out against the odds of survival in a hostile environment'.

'How do the extreme environments that we currently face change the rules of survival?' she continued.


The sealed Medusa garden - a liquid garden of protocells

In commenting on the flight Professor Armstrong said: 'The Hanging Gardens of Medusa aims to promote further thought and conversation to develop strategies that increase our survivability in new spaces and worlds.


The Falcon garden, the highest tier

'It provokes discussion about pressing issues for our own planet, which is suffering the ravages of global industrialization and from the impacts of harvesting natural resources without replenishing them. These are being conducted at such a scale and with such intensity, they are reverse-terraforming our planet.'

The formal launch will occur at the end of August, stay tuned for the results.


The Medusa garden

Project details:
Hanging Gardens of Medusa: The first stratospheric sky garden
Launch location: Central Valley, CA, USA.
Date: Saturday 15th August 2015
Time: (6pm PST)

Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture, Newcastle University, UK
Sam Harrison - Founder Nebula Sciences, Lead engineer (Hanging Gardens of Medusa)
Andrey Sushko - Lead hardware engineer Nebula sciences (Hanging Gardens of Medusa)
Ian Gomez - Flight mechanics advisor Nebula Sciences (Hanging Gardens of Medusa)
Daniel Parker - Operations coordinator Nebula sciences (Hanging Gardens of Medusa)
Aria Tedjarati - Lead software engineer (Volunteer) (Hanging Gardens of Medusa)
Peter Hoare - Chemistry outreach officer, Newcastle University, UK
David J Smith PhD - Advisor Nebula Sciences
Richard Osborne - Near space engineering consultant
Kelvin F Long - Lead technical Advisor, Nebula Sciences

Main image: The Falcon gardens cacti against the sunset

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