This Farmer Sent a Message to Tesla’s ‘Spaceman’ Using Cows

Derek Klingenberg's “cow art” is a clever mix of math and cattle.

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Mar 15 2018, 3:14pm

The farmer who brought us cows serenaded by Lorde on a trombone has been up to something much more ambitious.

Derek Klingenberg, a cattle farmer and YouTuber in western Kansas, wanted to send a message to space: Specifically, to Elon Musk’s “spaceman,” the dummy astronaut riding in a Tesla launched by SpaceX in February, by herding dozens of cows into the shape of the word “HI.”

Nearly 200 “Dove” satellites owned by Planet Labs orbit the globe every day, taking photos of the earth. Some of this imagery is used by crop monitoring service Farmer’s Edge. This is where Klingenberg wants to show off his cow-art, but he only has past satellites images and the knowledge that they make daily passes in orbit to figure out when and where to position his herd.

Klingenberg works some clever calculations to pull this off, plotting the right time to set up his cow-based message by using grain silos as giant sundials and comparing their shadows to the images he has from previous satellite passes. He picked a spot where the grass was dry and lightly-colored to contrast against the dark cows, and put them in position when the satellite was overheard.

The cows jostled into a shakey “HI,” holding just long enough to wave at the satellite as it passed. Message received.

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