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Unique Art From Nevada Museum Of Art Becomes Lost In Space

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Courtesy of Trevor Paglen and Nevada Museum of Art. 2017

Design concept rendering for Trevor Paglen: Orbital Reflector, co-produced and presented by the Nevada Museum of Art.

The Nevada Museum of Art sent a unique art piece into space last year. A 100-foot inflatable reflector designed by renowned artist '; // --> _21030/lets-get-pissed-off-about-orbital-reflector-44ef70feb9bc">Trevor Paglen. 

But the art, at a cost of more than $1 million, has been lost in space.

Amanda Horn, spokeswoman for the museum, said a technical glitch, along with the month-long government shutdown in January, led to the loss.

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Still, she called the project a success because it inspired people to look at space as something that can be occupied by more than military and industrial endeavors. 

“One thing that has happened that has been a resounding success is the global conversation that was ignited by this project,” Horn said.

The Orbital Reflector was supposed to unfurl a 100-foot-long reflective balloon in low-Earth orbit that would have been seen from Earth.

Horn said the idea was to spark a conversation about who controls space, what is going on in space, and what will the future of space travel be. The museum and the artist believe that was accomplished, despite the problems.

Horn explained that when the satellite with the Orbital Reflector was launched from the rocket it became clustered with half of the other 64 satellites on the rocket.

The FCC would not allow the satellite to unfurl until it was cleared of the cluster, and at the same time, the division of the Air Force that tracks all things in space could distinguish the Orbital Reflector from the other satellites.

To make matters worse, the government shutdown, which meant the FCC wasn't working.

“Because this satellite was always intended to have a balloon that unfurled 10 hours post-deployment and then was a temporary gesture it was not really designed to withstand being a cube sat floating around and orbiting space undergoing serious temperature changes and everything else that happens when something is in space,” Horn explained.

When the government reopened, the project's engineers tried contacting the satellite but it didn't work.

Despite the apparent failure, Horn and others support the project. She said there was a lot learned from it and it became a jumping off point for STEAM education lessons endorsed by the Nevada Department of Education.

"For us, it was really about supporting an artist's vision, supporting an icon for STEAM education, advancing curriculum across the state of Nevada, and inspiring wonder and that has all been true despite the challenges," she said. 

 

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Amanda Horn, spokeswoman, Nevada Museum of Art

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