On November 19 a Space X Falcon 9 rocket will launch from California and hurl a piece of art 360 miles above earth into the sky for all earthlings to behold.
It’s called the Orbital Reflector, and is the product of artist Trevor Paglan in association with the Nevada Museum of Art.
The satellite will start off as a compact box the size of a shoe box when it is released, and the reflective, diamond-shaped Mylar balloon will inflate to the length of two school buses, visible from earth with the naked eye.
In a promotional video by the Nevada Museum of Art, Paglan explains that the purpose of art is to make you look at something, and seeing a streak of light across the night sky will make you do that. “Orbital Reflection Project is like that as well. It’s saying ‘Here, I’m going to create a reason for you to look up into the sky,’ and to think about what you are looking at,” he says.
In a grand sense, he hopes to inspire thoughts about the universe and our collective role in it, as well as the politicization of space. In reality, he may inspire more complaints than the “Humanity Star” three-foot reflective mirror-ball that was launched in January did, turning some astronomers into art critics when their views were disrupted by a man-made creation serving, as they complained, no useful function. But Paglan sees an essentially human function to his art.
“That it is possible to imagine a different presence, and to imagine different futures. And not only to imagine but to try to make them,” says Paglan.