Does Art Have a Place in Space?

Controversy surrounds the launch of Trevor Paglen's 'Orbital Reflector,' a 100-foot sculpture bound for Earth's near-orbit.

hubble space telescope
Peering deep into the early Universe, this picturesque parallel field observation from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals thousands of colourful galaxies swimming in the inky blackness of space. (NASA)
NASA, ESA and the HST Frontier F

This fall will potentially see the launch of a SpaceX rocket with Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector, the first satellite to be identified exclusively as a work of art, inside it. According to a story in The Atlantic, Paglen’s sculpture is a 100-foot-long diamond, and it has ignited a debate about whether art deserves a place in space.

Scientific critics of Paglen’s sculpture argue that it could interfere with telescopes seeking uninterrupted space observation. They also argue that a work of art would pollute near-Earth orbit, where room to operate is increasingly hard to find.

The FCC is reportedly yet to authorize Orbital Reflector’s presence in space. However, the FCC’s recent certification of Elon Musk’s decision to send a Tesla flying into orbit should be an encouraging sign for Paglen.

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