European space authorities are planning to put a ring of light, visible throughout the world, into orbit in 1989 to mark the centennial of the Eiffel Tower, a spokesman for the project said today.
The project involves launching a half-ton package from an Ariane rocket. It will inflate in space to form a string of 100 reflectors linked by narrow plastic tubes each 780 feet long.
The ring will measure 15 miles in circumference and, orbiting at an altitude of 500 miles, will appear slightly larger than the moon to the naked eye.
It will circle the Earth every 90 minutes and will reflect sunlight so that it can be seen at night. During each orbit it will be visible to a stationary observer on Earth for about 10 minutes.
The ring of light was designed by a team of French architects led by Pierre Pommereau, head of research at the French scientific research center, and was chosen from three projects by the Eiffel Tower company to mark the centenary of the Paris landmark.
The ring, which will be launched free of charge, is likely to cost up to $1.5 million to build.
Its creators expect it to stay in orbit for two years before falling to earth and burning in the atmosphere.