HUMANITY faces threats to its very existence from nuclear war, asteroid impact, antibiotic-resistant viruses and countless other so-called extinction-level-events
Experts believe the chances of homo-sapiens being around for the next five billion years are slight, at best.
Many anthropologists also point out that even if humans were still alive natural selection dictates they would have morphed into an unrecognisable being.
But strapped to a hum-drum TV satellite called EchoStar XVI orbiting 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometres) above the Earth is what might be called Humanity’s Family Album.
A silicon disc containing 100 photographs of life on Earth are expected to survive in the vacuum of space, orbiting the planet for BILLIONS of years.
The Last Pictures is a very particular kind of document, one person’s impression about what the world might look like at this particular moment
He said satellites could be seen as the modern equivalent of Greek and Roman ruins – existing long after the civilisations which spawned them had died out.
And Nato Thompson, chief curator for New York’s Creative Time, which supported the ‘The Last Pictures’ initiative added: “The Last Pictures acts much like a tombstone or cave painting from a time long forgotten.
“Ultimately, The Last Pictures will hover over the Earth in virtual perpetuity reminding us, like a haunting shadow, that the greatest hope of lasting communication resides in the tenuous moment of the present.”
The iconic Earthrise image taken during the Apollo 8 mission
The “Last Pictures” disc is housed in gold-plated aluminium designed to last pretty much forever by scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Carleton College.
Mr Paglen said: . “The Last Pictures has gone to space where it will begin a much longer voyage to the depths of time.
“Watching EchoStar XVI and The Last Pictures lift off from Baikonur I was overwhelmed and humbled by the number of people who worked long hours, nights, and weekends, to make this dream of a project come true.”
The artist said he thought the cosmic photograph album was a very personal choice rather than an attempt to represent humanity – but if aliens should stumble across it in the future it will be almost all they have to go on.
He said: “The Last Pictures is a document of this historical moment, but it’s not meant to be a representation of humanity, it’s not supposed to speak for everybody.
“It is a very particular kind of document, one person’s impression about what the world might look like at this particular moment.”
Paglen consulted with scientists, artists, philosophers, mathematicians and geologists to select the 100 pictures.
A Soyuz rocket launch
· the equipment used in the construction of the atomic bomb
· smiling children in a World War II-era Japanese internment camp
· a Soyuz rocket launch
· the iconic Earthrise image taken during the Apollo 8 mission
A full set of the images can be found in “The Last Pictures” book, co-published by Creative Time Books and University of California Press.