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Unearthing the Futures

Unearthing the Futures


Potato seeds

MIT Space exploration Initiative

Unearthing Futures is a collaborative project to decolonize narratives of planetary futures through growing, shaping, and sharing potatoes.

Mission Potato: How do we cultivate the future? Is the future a high-performing, "engineered-to-perfection" single solution? Or is it a diversity of options/avenues that can help us adapt and resist to the changing climate? We are looking to potatoes for answers.

Native to Peru, potatoes are now the fifth most grown crop worldwide and among the first chosen to be grown by the Chinese Space Agency for its Moon landing. In both agriculture and politics today, there is a movement towards monoculture. In our mission, we call on potatoes (in their more than 4,000 varieties), to carry alternative narratives of what the future might look like. We choose multiplicity instead of the singular, a vision for anti-colonial planetary futures.

In March 2020, we selected 150 true potato seeds with the help of the International Potato Center, and then sent them into Earth's lower orbit. They traveled on board the International Space Station for a month before returning to Earth. We germinated, grew, and harvested them in our backyards in New York City and Portland alongside potatoes seeds that stayed on earth. The purpose of Earth siblings is to compare their growth and look for morphological changes caused by their time in space. The six varieties of Peruvian potatoes that travelled to space are the protagonists of our project. Sojourner 2020 (a 1.5U size unit, 100mm x 100mm x 152.4mm ) will be launched into low Earth orbit for about 30 days. It features a three-layer telescoping structure which creates three different “gravities”: zero gravity, lunar gravity, and Martian gravity. Each layer of the structure rotates independently. The top layer remains still in weightlessness, while the middle and bottom layers spin at different speeds to produce centripetal accelerations that mimic lunar gravity and Martian gravity, respectively. Each layer carries 6 pockets that can hold projects.


Technical information:

Artwork name:

Unearthing the Futures




Xin Liu



This work is part of the following collection:

Sojourner 2020

Potato seeds



1 x 1.2 cm



IAAA Art Style:

Launch vehicle / mission:

SpaceX CRS-20 (Dragon), Flacon 9

Host spacecraft / hardware:

International Space Station



Launch location:

SLC40 - Cape Canaveral, Florida

Launch date:

7 Mar 2020

Orbit / space location:

LEO, International Space Station (ISS)

Return vehicle:

SpaceX Dragon

End date:

6 April 2020



Client / Agency:

MIT Space exploration Initiative


Xin Liu

Artist, engineer


Xin Liu


Sojourner 2020


Sojourner 2020


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