US Government Shutdown Leaves Space Sculpture Circling In Orbit

The sculpture, "Orbital Reflector" by American artist Trevor Paglen, is stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission.

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US Government Shutdown Leaves Space Sculpture Circling In Orbit

Orbital Reflector was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit.


Washington: 

The ongoing partial US government shutdown has endangered a sculpture that was recently launched into orbit, a media report said on Friday.

The sculpture, "Orbital Reflector" by American artist Trevor Paglen, is stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), The New York Times reported.

According to Paglen, his sculpture might not survive the wait while FCC workers are on furlough or work without pay.

A 100-foot-long mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, "Orbital Reflector" was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit for a couple of months.

It would then incinerate upon entering the Earth's thicker atmosphere.

But although it was sent to space, the balloon was never inflated as planned.

A small satellite carrying the sculpture and its inflation mechanism went into orbit on December 3 as part of a larger load launched by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. 

Paglen said that afterward, his team did extensive "orbital analysis" to ensure a collision-free trajectory and secure FCC clearance to inflate. 

But communication from the FCC soon ceased after the shutdown took place on December 22.

"What we're concerned about is that every time the satellite goes into sunlight, the entire thing heats up, and then in Earth's shadow it gets really cold and contracts. If you let this process go on too long, it can damage the electronics," Paglen told The New York Times.

"It's not designed to live indefinitely," he said, adding, "We would really like to deploy this."

The idea behind "Orbital Reflector", according to Paglen, is to explore who controls outer space by creating a satellite with "no militaristic or commercial ties" and with its only purpose being visibility. 

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

The shutdown has caused museums in Washington to close and has put exhibitions like the National Gallery of Art's Tintoretto show, originally scheduled to open on March 10, at risk.



(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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