Bonsai and bouquet photographed in the stratosphere

A Japanese artist takes his love of botanicals and space to new heights by launching and photographing his work with our planet as the backdrop.

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A tree grows in the stratosphere. For a little while, at least.Makoto Azuma

Japanese artist Makoto Azuma moved to Tokyo in 1997 to start a rock band. While trying to get the group going, he worked as a trader in one of the city's biggest markets of flowers and ornamental plants. Soon, the band receded into the distance as Azuma became captivated by all things botanical and began practicing floral art.

"His viewpoint of completely accepting flowers/plants even as they start to rot, and not ignoring the 'death' behind the 'life' is at the heart of his work," says his Facebook page.

Recently, Azuma took his work to new heights. Working with JP Aerospace, a private volunteer-based organization that sends various craft into orbit and bills itself as "America's Other Space Program," he headed out to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

There, from the same site where the famous Burning Man Festival takes place each year, he carefully loaded a 50-year-old bonsai pine tree and a bouquet of 30 different kinds of flowers into two cages attached to weather balloons. As the sun began to rise, the weather balloons lifted the plants skyward and a series of still and GoPro video cameras captured the wondrous images of the journey you see below.

The bonsai tree made it to 91,800 feet and the bouquet hit 87,000 feet before their helium balloons burst and parachutes guided the equipment back to Earth on a 40-minute long descent. The flowers and mini tree were never seen again, but they are captured forever in Azuma's art project known as Exobiotanica.

"The best thing about this project is that space is so foreign to most of us," John Powell from JP Aerospace told The New York Times, "so seeing a familiar object like a bouquet of flowers flying above Earth domesticates space, and the idea of traveling into it."

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About the author

Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for Crave and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.

 

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