Prototype for Re-Entry
This sculpture is the culmination of an extensive collaboration between artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle and the scientists and engineers of the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) at the historic White Oak Campus. Prototype for Re-Entry is an enlarged version of Constantin Brancusi’s famous sculpture Bird in Space (1923 – 26). Analyses of a model of Brancusi’s sculpture at MACH 10 (ten time the speed of sound) were performed at AEDC’s Hypervelocity Tunnel 9. These tests submitted the model of Brancusi’s iconic artwork to actual shockwaves as it might experience during a theoretical re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere from a hypothetical orbit.
Manglano-Ovalle’s conceptual approach to creating this artwork mirrors the FDA’s own rigorous analyses of the foods and medicines that propose to enter our bodies. His sculpture also references the transition of the White Oak Campus from pre-World War II munitions testing facility to state-of-the-art laboratories and administrative headquarters of the FDA. Suspended in flight, Prototype for Re-Entry posits innovation as having its own critical trajectory, continually accelerating in relation to our contemporary condition as well as our aspirations.