This blog will keep you up-to-date with the latest information about Dark Matter’s project, “Ascent.”  This project is sponsored in-part by a Rocket Grant from the Charlotte Street Foundation and Kansas University Spencer Museum of Art.

View the Teaser Trailer:


About “Ascent”

A community-built balloon payload carries high-resolution cameras to the edge of space. The resulting images generate an hour-long performance featuring live music and narration at Union Station’s Gottlieb Planetarium. This project is funded in part by a Rocket Grant from the Charlotte Street Foundation and the Spencer Museum of Art.

“Ascent” will use proven components and local expertise to design and build a small device carrying several cameras to the edge of space. The project will recruit local high school students interested in aerospace engineering to assist in the design and construction of the device. We will also fully document the design and construction on the project’s website. A project blog will discuss the technologies and physics at work. The public will be able to follow the creation of the device, view its launch, track its flight online in real time, and then experience video from the flight in an hour-long performance at Union Station’s Gottlieb Planetarium featuring live, original music and narration. The result is a community project, led by Dark Matter, that asks Kansas City to look at itself from a high vantage point as the community reaches up to the stars.

In spring 2012, Dark Matter will unveil “Ascent.” The high-resolution video and still images from the onboard cameras will be combined with video documentation of the device’s construction and flight. The result will be an hour-long performance that tells the story of the project from design to landing using photos, videos, and original music. During the performance, original electroacoustic music by Daniel Eichenbaum and Richard Johnson, performed live by flutist Rebecca Ashe and clarinetist Cheryl Melfi, will join this projected imagery on the Gottlieb Planetarium dome. As in Dark Matter’s recent performance of “Orbit” in February, sometimes the music accompanies the visual display and sometimes the visuals accompany the music. The result is a truly immersive environment for the audience that gives them the experience of a flight over Kansas City. Along the journey, astronomer Bob Riddle will offer narration discussing the project and comparing it to humankind’s history of reaching for the stars, from ancient balloons to the twentieth-century space race.


May-July, 2011 – Create website and blog. Seek community and corporate support. Recruit high school students to help design and build payload.

June – September – Design, test, and build camera payload system. Document all activities on project website.

September or October – Launch Day. Photos and videos from launch event go up on the website.

Two weeks after launch- Viewing of raw footage at Gottlieb Planetarium.

October – April, 2012- Dark Matter creates the performance piece “Ascent.”

April or May 2012 – Dark Matter presents “Ascent.” Four performances, each one hour long.