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Shutdown allows orbital space sculptures orbiting



The closure of the government has closed museums in Washington and endangered exhibitions such as the National Gallery of Art's Tintoretto show, which was originally scheduled to open on March 10. It has also endangered an artist project near the Beltway: "Orbital Reflector," a sculpture by Trevor Paglen that was recently put into orbit.

The sculpture is not lost as much in space as in a holding pattern before activation. pending approval of the Federal Communications Commission. According to the artist, it could not survive waiting while F.C.C. Workers are on vacation.

The titanium oxide-coated, 100-meter-long Mylar Orbital Reflector balloon was designed to be visible to the naked eye for a while at dusk or dawn. When entering the thicker atmosphere of the earth it would then burn.

Although it was sent into space, the balloon was never inflated as planned. The small satellite carrying the sculpture and its inflatable mechanism was put into orbit on December 3 as part of a larger cargo fired by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Mr. Paglen said his team then conducted extensive "orbital analyzes" to ensure a collision-free trajectory and F.C.C. Free space to inflate. But the communication from the F.C.C. stopped because of the deadlock.

"What worries us," Mr. Paglen said, "is that every time the satellite goes into sunlight, the whole thing warms up, and then in the shadow of the earth it gets really cold and contracts. If you continue this process too long, it can damage the electronics. "

" He is not meant to live indefinitely, "he said, adding," We really want to use that.

The orbital reflector stage recalls the simple gesture of a child releasing a balloon into the sky. Mr. Paglen's project was challenging from the outset: development and production costs were around $ 1.5 million over three years, and SpaceX delayed the missile launch several times last year. (Coincidentally, the same SpaceX rocket also carried a sculpture satellite called "Enoch" into orbit which it reports will work as planned.) And there is an ambitious art world context for the project of Mr. Paglen Das Nevada Museum of Art acts as co-producer and shows models of it in its galleries.

The idea behind "Orbital Reflector" is to explore who controls space by creating a satellite with "no" militaristic or commercial relationships "whose sole purpose is visibility. "It's about who has something to do in space," he said. This makes the fact that a political dispute endangered the project clearer.

"It's ironic and sad," he said, "but not nearly as sad as the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are not paid."


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