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    Orbital Junk: Art Project Aims to 'Watch, Adopt and Listen to Space Debris'

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    Since the launch of the first artificial satellite into space, humanity has left millions of pieces of junk across the universe. There are many projects which raise awareness of the danger of space debris. One such project is called Adrift. Its leader, multi award winning composer, Nick Ryan spoke to Sputnik about it.

    The UK project aims to raise awareness of the danger the space debris poses to future of space exploration. They reveal the world of space junk, making it personal, visible and audible.

    They do this through interactive experience, documentary film, as well as sound. Furthermore, one component of Adrift is a machine that tracks twenty seven thousand pieces of space junk, orbiting the Earth, in real time. As the items pass overhead, they magically turn into music!

    Nick Ryan spoke to Sputnik about how it works. “It is all about space debris but unlike most of the ways about how we encounter space debris, ours is not scientific although it has science at its base, it’s an art project.”

    He further said that most of the time people find out about space debris from news or if a person is a scientist, then reads about it in a scientific paper.

    However, Adrift wants to approach space debris from an artistic point of view and “explore the hidden world of space debris.”

    The project includes a combination of components such as film, sound and social media. Talking about how these three components come together, Ryan said, “We have described these three components as watch, adopt and listen. ‘Watch’ is a short film created by my colleague Cath Le Couteur. The film explores the lives of some of the people who were involved in space debris.”

    He spoke about an environmental scientist who works for NASA on whom the film is based and how he dropped a spatula in space in 2008, which became very fast moving piece of space debris for some time. The film also explores some Chilean astronomers.

    Talking about the second component of the project which is “adopt,” Ryan said, “It involves an interactive experience which we created, and it allows anyone in the world to adopt one or all three of the three pieces of space debris which we have chosen for you to adopt. What you can do is follow them on twitter and they will communicate with you live as they orbit the Earth.”

    “The third component is an instrument which I have built called Machine 9. It is an electro-mechanical machine based on a phonograph, it has eight motorized styluses and a thousand grooves cut into aluminum cylinder and it plays the sound for any one of the 27,000 pieces of debris as it orbits the Earth,” Ryan said.

    The composer said that the instrument is a cross between a music box and a phonograph.

    “It’s tracking space debris live in orbit. Every time space debris flies directly over the instruments, one of the eight motorized styluses will find a sound for that piece of debris based on the radar cross section of that piece of debris,” he said.

    Ryan further spoke about the different types of sounds that the instrument will play according to the size of debris.

    He further mentioned his colleagues who helped him create this instrument including scientific advisor Dr. Hugh Louise from the UK who provided the team with a huge amount of insight into the debris population.

    “It is really important to us as artists that any science we have is accurate and factually correct,” the composer.

    Ryan further spoke about different types of space debris that are present around the Earth’s atmosphere and how this project has collaborated with three writers who have created classifications of the pieces of the space junk.

    The launch of Adrift took place this month, headed for its opening next year at Hackney House in London.

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    space exploration, interview, debris, space, NASA, United Kingdom
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