The inflatable space sculpture, launched in orbit in December, remains unsettled in one of the most unexpected consequences of the continued closure of the US government.
Designed by American artist Trevor Pagglen, the orbital reflector was launched in low Earth orbit aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 on December 3, 2018, along with dozens of other cubes. But this $ 1.5 million art project, which includes the Nevada Museum of Art, Spaceflight Industries and Global Western, is now in detention mode due to the US government's closure. Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is out of control, Paglen can not get the necessary green light to deploy its giant space bubble, the New York Times reported.
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The orbital reflector is made of mylar-like light material. When it unfolds and swells completely, the sculpture will get an elongated diamond shape, approximately the length of a football field. A highly reflective titanium dioxide coating means that the sculpture must be visible to Earth observers. The orbital reflector has not been destined to exist in space for a very long time and will eventually fall into the atmosphere of the Earth and will burn to become fresh in a few months in orbit.
The aim of the artistic project, according to his designer, is to encourage us "to look up to the night sky with a renewed sense of wonder, take our place in the universe and imagine how we live together on this planet. "
During the programming phases, Paglen had to go through the same channels as anyone else who wants to get something in orbit, namely to obtain a license from the FCC and comply with the provisions laid down by the International Arms Traffic Regulation (ITAR). But now, with the exclusion of the Trump government, the project remains. Paglen can not trigger the expansion and inflation button until it receives permission from the FCC. As NYT reports, Paglen worries that this expected wait may damage the structure:
This is what Mr Pagglen said [after the launch and deployment], his team has made extensive "orbital analysis" to provide a trajectory without collision and to provide a secure F.C.C. clearance for inflation. But the VRC message. soon stopped due to exclusion.
"What we are concerned about," said Mr. Pagllen, "is that every time the satellite rises in the sunlight, the whole thing gets warmer, then in the shadow of the Earth it gets really cold and shrinks. this process may last too long, it can damage the electronics. "
"He is not meant to live indefinitely," he said, adding, "We really would like to use this."
Of course I feel bad about Paglen, but I have to admit that I also feel a little schadenfreude. I am not a fan of such things; surely looking at the cosmos – just as it is, without inflating a shining tube along the way – should inspire some sense of wonder and contemplation at the site of the universe. I also do not think the low Earth orbit is a good place for us to deposit artistic projects and it's getting a little out of control.
The same start, which delivered an orbital reflector, for example, also deposited the sculpture of Eonoch at the sculpture of artist Tavares Strachan. Last year, we had to endure Humanity Star, a small satellite with the resemblance of a disco. And in order not to be surpassed, a Japanese company has launched a satellite in space last week that will be able to generate artificial meteor showers.
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Of course, this may look new and cool (I personally do not think so), but we have to consider the costs. Clear objects in Earth's low orbit, besides potentially obstructing astronomical observations, simply add to the massive collection of debris that can collide and damage more useful satellites. Unfortunately, with the fall of the missile price, it will probably happen.[New York Times]