On my recent holiday trip to Southern California, it turns out I was just in time to check out a cool site-specific installation, NASA’s Orbit Pavilion, which ‘set down’ at the Huntington Library and Gardens in 2016 and just closed to the public on December 31st so it can move on to its next destination. Talk about perfect timing. Over the years, Orbit Pavilion provided thousands of visitors with an opportunity to ‘hear’ more than 20 earth-orbiting satellites as they move across the sky collecting research data on everything from hurricanes to the effects of drought.
The Orbit Pavilion ended up at the Huntington because the museum serves as a center for the study of the history of science — how we know what we know about the world (and to some extent, the universe) around us. They also oversee a 130 acre botanical garden and conduct research on biodiversity and plant conservation to help better understand the effects of climate change.
The NASA – Huntington collaboration is a celebration of science and humanities coming together to cultivate curiosity.
How it works:
The structure defines a 30′ diameter inner chamber with a large oculus at its center. When standing in the pavilion, underneath the speakers, wherever you hear a sound, that is the exact direction of a NASA satellite orbiting the earth at that moment. Speakers arranged within the 30-foot diameter inner space are programmed by artist and composer Shane Myrbeck to map, translate, and broadcast the sounds of the satellites in real time.
NASA has more than 20 satellites that study different aspects of our land, sky, and sea. Pairing the trajectory data of each spacecraft to artistically created sound allows the satellites to say ‘hello’ as they move across the sky.