Home » Festivals and Events » Project Adrift : Machine 9 at the Science Museum – 14th to 16th February 2017

Project Adrift : Machine 9 at the Science Museum – 14th to 16th February 2017



A unique sound instrument and installation created by BAFTA-winning composer and sound artist, Nick Ryan, is about to go on public display for the first time at the Science Museum in London from the 14th to 16th February 2017.

Adrift is a new arts and science project revealing the extent of space debris orbiting Earth and Machine 9 is an electromechanical sound instrument that transforms the movement of 27,000 tracked pieces of space debris into sound, in real time.

Machine 9 consists of a large rotating aluminium cylinder (1.5m long) with 1000 sounds engraved into ‘orbits’ along its length and uses live data, as a ‘score’. Eight motorised styluses locate and play a sound from the cylinder for each (otherwise silent) debris object that passes directly overhead, creating a live, indeterminate composition from their infinite combinations. Nick Ryan’s Machine 9 has been built in the UK  by engineer Dave Cranmer and a team of software engineers.

 Machine 9 and the Adrift project is an innovative way of bringing attention to space debris and explores some of the dangers and environmental issues.

NASA defines space debris as ‘any man-made object in orbit about the Earth which no longer serves a useful function’. There are around 100 million pieces of space junk, 27,000 of which are larger than 10cm and now in orbit and being tracked by NASA and the US Department of Defense. Each piece is travelling at speeds of up to 28,000km/h, meaning that the tiniest fragment can damage satellites or spacecraft.

A recent example of the hazard came when a tiny fleck of paint hit one of the windows of the International Space Station, causing a 7mm chip in the glass. And as well as the pieces that remain in orbit for many years, endangering spacecraft, many pieces fall to Earth unpredictably. One such incident took place at the end of July 2016, when large parts of a Chinese rocket flew across the sky in Utah and California before plummeting to the ground. 

One of the largest mass of space junk is the 150,000 pieces of debris created by an intentional explosion by China to destroy the Fengyun 1C weather satellite in 2007. Over a third of all space debris was caused by this one action.

Adrift is a three-part project, comprising Machine 9, a new short documentary film and an interactive element which enables audiences on Twitter to adopt an individual piece of junk.

Visitors to the Science Museum display will be able to discuss the project and the spiralling problem of space junk with Nick Ryan and Dr Hugh Lewis. They will be joined by Senior Lecturer Dr Stephen Hobbs and Chiara Palla, PhD student in Space Engineering, both from Cranford University, where they have been working to develop sails designed to pull decommissioned satellites out of orbit and into the atmosphere to be burnt up. The Adrift display will include examples of the new sails.

Visitor Information

Adrift at the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2DD

Dates and times: 14-16 February 2017 from 11am-1pm and 2-4pm.

Admission is free. 

For more information , visit the Project Adrift website here

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