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Al Gore, "DSCOVR" or "Triana," 1998

In 1998 then US Vice President Al Gore had the idea for a satellite that should send a life view of the whole planet earth to a dedicated television channel and the Internet to anyone, anytime (later expanded also to collect data regarding climate change on multiple channels).

NASA developed the concept to position this satellite between the sun and the earth that would send a constant live stream of images of the sunlit hemisphere of the earth to a dedicated HDTV TV channel and onto the Internet, to "anyone, anywhere"1 so Gore. "I believe it will have an inspirational value that's hard to describe."2
The satellite "Triana," named after Rodrigo de Triana, the lookout on Columbus' ship who first saw the "New World," would be positioned between the Sun and the Earth, at Lagrange point 1, where the gravities of the two bodies would effectively equalise each other. The satellite was built, but the project was cancelled3 by the Bush administration ... France and the Ukrain offered to send the satellite into space for free but the offer was rejected. 4

Keywords: overview effect, Fred Hoyle, Stewart Brand, global awareness, telematic art

As the satellite is positioned between the Sun and the Earth only the sunlit side is visible. Earth rotates underneath the camera so to speak. Clouds are missing in this simulated view generated with Starry Night Pro.

"This new satellite, called Triana, will allow people around the globe to gaze at our planet as it travels in its orbit around the sun for the first time in history," Vice President Gore said. "With the next millennium just around the corner, developing this High Definition TV quality image of the full disk of the continuously lit Earth and making it available 24 hours a day on the Internet will awaken a new generation to the environment and educate millions of children around the globe.
[...] In the history of space exploration there are only a few photographs of the full earth that have resonated with the public. Christmas 1968 was an epiphany for many Americans, when they first saw the image "Earth Rising." It is considered one of the fundamentally profound images of this century. Another photograph, "The Blue Marble" taken in 1972 during Apollo 17, began an era of global awareness.

These images of the earth moved thousands of Americans and encouraged them to become active stakeholders in our planet's wellbeing. [...] As we connect all our classrooms to the Internet, we have the opportunity to bring new education and potential scientific projects as well as global weather observations to millions of American classrooms and living rooms via television and computer."

Here, There: Transformation and Spatiality in "Triana"

The one-directional live video stream of the sunlit face of the Earth is sent to televisions and computer screens all over the world. The resulting experience is one of contemplation and reflection, as it is passive in that there is no interface that allows viewers to actively interact with the video feed. Interaction could be created by including SMS tickers or other web-based convergent media channels such as Dave Troy's "Twittervision" or Brad Anderson's "global consciousness" or live radio feeds from all over the world.

It also is a recursive experience as the present location of viewers will be visible once a day for many hours.


As the satellite has never been installed at Lagrange-Point 1 its effects upon viewers are subject to speculation. From my own research results of analysing people's experience of live, remote data the effects of a ubiquitous live video of our planet would be very intense. The lack of interaction and engagement would possibly result in a very reflective and contemplative experience.

Frank White wrote his book "the overview effect" about the intense experiences that astronauts perceive seeing our planet for the first time from "outside." In 1966 when there were no images of the Earth from above yet Stewart Brand demanded them with his button campaign from NASA, which resulted in the environmental movement and must have also inspired Al Gore then.
In "Triana" there is room for interactivitiy and add-ons especially with social software. In combination, for example, with a sound source such as live radio programs from all over the world or statistics regarding wealth, health, or education for individual regions, towns or countries would add to the experience of the life-effect.
As we see from the rich culture that Google-Earth and Google-Maps (mash-ups) have created, we can also asume that following the Web 2.0 media-convergence idea, "Triana" would result in a similar phenomenon of add-ons. Provided that there are Interfaces or (open) API's that allow for these types of appropriations.

As the satellite has been built already it would be advisable to make use of France's or the Ukrain's offer to take it to its proposed position and begin the broadcast of the live video stream to gather data.


1. Space Daily, March 18, 01998
2. Washington Post, Friday, March 13, 01998
3. Background on why the project was cancelled is available here and in depth info here (thanks to KK).
4. Here is a report by Mitchell Anderson for SeedMagazine Sept. 18th 02006 stating that France and the Ukrain offered to send the satellite into space for free after the program was cancelled by the new administration:

Al Gore at the TED conference 2006, by Ethan Zuckerman:
A well researched article by Dr Christopher Riley for the BBC News about the inspirational value of the global awareness perspective and the satellite: "Happy Birthday Earthrise"
In 2011 a group of investors are initiating the Earthcast project at It will provide not a live feed of the whole planet Earth but a 40 km wide slice of HD video feed with several hours delay from the International Space Station ISS. It will be linked to Twitter and Facebook and its main idea appears to be participative or social action. As the schedule of the flying camera is known in advance people can create some activity at this geographical location at that time.

last update: 9/27/02011 0:08

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