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February 3, 2014 AT 1:00 pm

Edgar Martins photographs the European Space Agency

Sokol Suits in astronaut dressing room jpg CROP original original

In his series “The Rehearsal of Space and the Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite,” Edgar Martins gives us a comprehensive and compelling look inside the European Space Agency’s numerous facilities and test centers, via slate:

Photographer Edgar Martins has long been fascinated by space. So, in 2012, when he read a blog post by the communications director of the European Space Agency explaining the need of his organization to engage with the public, Martins jumped at the opportunity. He sent a proposal to produce the most comprehensive photographic survey of ESA ever conducted. The agency agreed. “There is an increasing awareness on ESA’s behalf of the importance to connect with the public and make them aware of the important work they are doing,” Martins said via email. “NASA has always promoted its image through the arts, particularly cinema, so I think ESA realized what a wonderful platform this was to connect to an audience that it would not ordinarily reach,” Martins said.

Unlike NASA and European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Martins said, ESA does not have an artist residency program. It was a big leap, therefore, for the agency to grant Martins access to its entire staff, programs, technology, and facilities, including 20 test centers, robotics departments, jet propulsion laboratories, space simulators, astronaut training centers, and launch centers across the world. But even though he had the green light to visit highly restrictive areas, Martins said he was in a constant state of negotiation to get access to specific spaces. “Most of ESA’s previous contact with image-makers was with journalists and photojournalists who go, for example, to photograph a launch, or they’re taken to specific press areas where they usually peer through a window. My approach was different. I had to be within touching distance,” he said in an interview.

MIR Training Module jpg CROP original original

Clean Room Fuelling Hall 2 jpg CROP original original

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