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Colossal Sculpture in Space Zooms in on Orbital Debris

PARIS, Nov. 5, 2003 — COLLISION II is a voluminous sculpture in space comprised of orbital debris and encompassing the entire Earth. American artist Richard Clar, defined the massive sculpture in low-Earth orbit by designating 192 orbital debris objects out of the 10,000 tracked by the U.S. Space Command. The sculpture strikingly draws attention to the problem of orbital debris, which is a growing threat to current and future space activities in near-Earth orbit.

Clar's sculpture is featured in the Fourth International Festival @rt Outsiders in Paris, October 1 – November 9, at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie. It is the first exhibition in France devoted to Space Art.

COLLISION II can be visualized through a unique computer simulation created by the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. The visually elegant and surprising simulation shows the 192 orbital debris objects-color-coded by country of origin-mapped in accelerated time while in orbit around the Earth. Employing a new technology, The COLLISION II video simulation utilizes a 3-D volumetric display that lends the third dimension of the original sculpture to the simulation. This is the first time this 3-D technology has been used in an art museum. A short Quick time version may be seen at: (broadband) or: (modem).

Using the tremendous processing power of a massively parallel computer and tracking data from the U.S. Space Command, the Naval Research Laboratory precisely predicts the orbits of the more than 10,000 orbital debris objects that now comprise the orbital debris catalog. These orbital debris objects range in size from large rocket bodies and satellites down to pieces as small as 10 centimeters.

The Naval Research Laboratory's simulation depicts COLLISION II as digital points of light emerging from the entire 10,000-object orbital debris catalog. This video simulation views the orbiting constellation sculpture from the vantage points of low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit during a twelve-hour period that is reduced to twelve minutes. Of the 192 objects that were used for COLLISION II, 52 were not present in 1995, a substantial increase of 27%.

The launch in 1957 of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, heralded not only the beginning of the space age, but what would ultimately become a danger in space: orbital debris. Forty-six years and thousands of launches later, the near-Earth environment of space has become heavily populated with orbital debris. The heaviest concentration of orbital debris is in low-Earth orbit, becoming less dense as it progresses out to geosynchronous orbit. These orbital debris objects consist of spent rocket bodies, various space hardware, non-functioning satellites, and fragments from explosions. According to information provided by the Aerospace Corporation in California, there have been more than 124 verifiable breakups in space. Collisions and explosions are usually the cause of breakups, with explosions being the main source.

Marc Battier, French composer and Universite de Paris-Sorbonne professor, formerly head of musical software documentation at the Institute of Research and Coordination in Acoustics and Music (IRCAM), composed the exciting music for COLLISION II. In part, Battier used debris data such as location, velocity, and direction, transcribed into musical symbols to create the musical score.

An early pioneer of art-in-space, Richard Clar began work in this field in 1982 with a NASA-approved art payload for the U.S. Space Shuttle. Philosophical in nature, the themes for Richard Clar's art-in-space projects include: space environment issues, war and peace, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), and water management on Earth. The work of Richard Clar has been exhibited in museums and universities in the United States, Europe, and Japan and is in the collections of the Computer Museum of America, Home Savings, JBL Sound, and the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas.


Richard Clar
Telephone: 011 33 1 48 04 81 37

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