The Gopher That Lives in Russia's Main Space Launch Facility

By Alexis C. Madrigal

We have the makings of a hit Pixar movie: A gopher on the steppes of Kazakhstan at a Russian cosmodrome. Just imagine all his wacky hijinks!

This is a Russian YouTube video of the playful creature who lives in the shadow of a rocket launch pad at Baikonur, a space facility in Kazakhstan. We could leave it there.

But this little guy reminds me of the talk that Geoff Manaugh (author of BLDGBLOG) gave at the Aspen Ideas Festival last month, in which he urged us to look at the "unofficial users" of the city: Weeds, Vermin, Robots, and Burglars. As architects and designers render the vast urban futures of tomorrow, Manaugh said, they tend to leave out the very things that make cities feel like cities. The weeds, the rats, the thieves.

At the core, it was an argument about how to make our thinking about the future more realistic and weirder. A rocket launchpad doesn't just help us send things to space, it also creates an ecosystem that can support particular types of life on Earth who prefer those surroundings to the "natural" alternative.

And if we want to imagine what humans will be doing 30 years hence, what the "jobs of the future" might be, we can't forget the groundskeepers and gopher whisperers, somehow figuring everyone will become an in-vitro farmer or biotechnician or green roof designer. We gain more insight by following the synthesis spiral of the wild and the controlled. We change the environment and it adapts. We, in turn, adapt, and change the space again. So it was and so it will ever be.

Also: how cute is that gopher when it tries to eat the camera?

Via @heathermg

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/the-gopher-that-lives-in-russias-main-space-launch-facility/260076/