The Atlantic

Space Art Is Causing a Ruckus Among Astronomers

The line between culture and clutter can be hard to trace, even hundreds of miles above Earth.
Source: NASA

There are more than 1,800 active satellites currently in orbit around Earth, carrying out a myriad of jobs: collecting weather data, helping drivers navigate roads, spying on enemy targets, the list goes on. This fall, if all goes as planned, they will be joined by a small, boxlike satellite, launched into space atop a SpaceX rocket. It will appear, at first, quite ordinary; there are already hundreds of these small satellites, known as CubeSats, in orbit.

But when the CubeSat reaches a point about 350 miles above Earth, it will break open. Its silver, plasticlike contents will then unfurl into a 100-foot-long sculpture in the shape of a diamond. The result is called Orbital Reflector, the work of the artist Trevor Paglen, who wants it to be the “first satellite to exist purely as an artistic.”

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