After a campaign carried out in 2005, the China KEO Committee began a follow-up communication drive in Beijing on June 27 as they seek for more messages to add to the fantastic KEO satellite.
Labeled a piece of space art, the KEO project involved sending a satellite into orbit to act as a time capsule. Destined to carry a message to humanity 50,000 years in the future, the satellite will then return containing an assortment of data and objects reminiscent of life today.
The KEO project was conceived in 1994 by French artist-scientist Jean-Marc Philippe. Philippe’s goal is for every person in the world to write a message for posterity, from children to senior citizens and the illiterate so that future generations will be able to better understand our lives, feelings, fears, hopes and dreams. The projects international scope is even reflected in its name: "Keo" is made of the three phonemes most common among all the worlds languages.
After several delays, the deadline for messages has been announced by the China KEO Committee for 2010. Submissions can be sent in by post or entered online.
KEO supporters believe that the project can also help bring today's world closer together. To this end, all the messages will be rendered fully available online, while keeping the identity of the writers protected. Hopes are that this will lead to a high debate about the future of our planet while a sociological analysis will be carried out on the messages to determine the most pressing questions about the current state of mankind.
The KEO project is currently receiving support from the Chinese Association of Productivity Science (CAPS), a NGO based in Beijing, whose chairman, Wang Maolin, is the director of the China KEO Committee. The esteemed Wang also doubles up as the Vice Chairman of the Law Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature.
Wang announced that a 3000-sq-m KEO exhibition was being used to raise the profile of the project at the ongoing World Culture and Natural Heritage Expo in Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning Province. The publicity drive’s status was elevated by the presence of dignitaries such as Gao Zhanxiang, chairman of the Chinese Culture Promotion Society, and Jin Tielin, head of the China Conservatory of Music.
Begun back in 2001, the KEO project has attracted support and participation from over 200 countries. However, at a rate of one message for every seven hundred people, international demographics matter little in the face of popular ignorance of the project since the tiny island of La Reunion matches submissions rate from Canada, Finland and France.
Although, in early 2007, China topped the participation charts, ahead of the USA and India, the China KEO Committee still seeks to raise the general awareness of this project among the Chinese public.
The KEO satellite has become somewhat notorious for the constant pushing back of its launching date, having been now slated for 2010 after first being slated to blast off in 2004.
Concerning the frequent postponements, the keo.org gave a non-committal reply, saying only: “KEO was frequently slowed down due to difficulties or tough economic trends met by its direct partners.”
Chronologically, the successive postponements of the launching of KEO are attributed to the following repercussions:
Restructuring of the French and European space industries (1996 / 1999)
Recession in international space activity from 2000 to 2002
Attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001
Reorganization of the French Space Agency (CNES) 2002 – 2003
Failure of the qualifying launch of Ariane V on December 2002
Finally, the loss of interest incurred by several partners after protracted delays and regional turmoil also played their part in keeping KEO grounded and halting its magical flight into the future.
(China.org.cn staff reporter Wang Zhiyong June 29, 2007)