How bizarre it is to see astronauts in extreme situations while safe on earth. The above depictions of space suit tests (noise, cold and heat respectively) were included in Werner Büdeler’s Projekt Apollo – Das Abanteuer der Mondlandung (Bertelsmann Sachbuchverlag, 1969). Projekt Apollo recounts the complete story of the Apollo missions and is stuffed with illustrations andphotographs. Büdeler was a German aerospace journalist and nonfiction writer. In 1970, he was awards the Jules-Verne medal for aerospace journalism. These look like they could be inserts into a Jules Verne science fiction narrative of brave explorers gearing up for the next beautifully bizarre mission, rather than the work of non-fiction.
I recently ran across these charming photographs of Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter and his beautiful American family that were published in Life magazine in 1962. I was particularly keen on the second photograph of little Candy Carpenter, with her Prince Valiant haircut, as she spoke with her father in the capsule after he successfully landed. Candy’s eyes are so focused and full of life.
The eyes in Gregory Manchess’ portrait of Scott Carpenter are almost identical. The bright reflections bouncing off his helmet can’t obscure those same focused eyes. In his artist statement, Manchess reflects, “As a kid, I was always looking skyward, staring out into interstellar space from behind the atmospheric face mask of Earth. I feel a kinship with these explorers. Perhaps it’s the promise of all that discovery.” A kinship that is also seen in the eyes of Candy Carpenter.
Emerging from a void, Andrew G. Hobbs‘ hallowed portrait of an astronaut is striking. Looking over the many space suits that we have put up here over time, most are the Luke Skywalker types in their white, pillowy Apollo suits that embody the epitome of the hero archetype – full of wholesome goodness and hope. Hobbs’ astronaut falls on the dark side. The helmet frames no visible human inside as the suit weighs heavy on the shoulders of a form that it may house. The multitude of fabric, buckles, hoses and claps that decorate the suit are suitably highlighted in his grey scale portrait against the dark emptiness of space.
There is something about astronauts rendered in oil paint that really gets me going. Oil portraiture obviously has a long rich lineage; it is almost fitting to see the space faring explorers immortally captured in oil like the heroes and royalty of times past. Jonathan Wateridge’s Group Series No.2 – Space Program (2008) captures the pride, reservation and uneasiness that must have too been seen in the eyes of those venturing out in wooden ships to chart the unknown world. Group Series No. 2 was shown at the Saatchi Gallery, Wateridge’s dossier includes, “Astronauts have an almost symbolic status. They operate on the frontier of an effort to understand the unknown. They appeal to a child-like sense of awe and adventure yet are the ultimate display of a culture’s economic power and political ideology.”
I have a deep affinity for airports. I grew up in San Diego, flying out of Lindbergh Field where the Lucky Lindy aviator has a massive mural dedicated to his honor. If you’re lucky enough to claim your bags from Terminal Two, you’ll find a lifesize model of The Spirit of Saint Louis hovering above. The small single runway airport in Northern Michigan that I would fly into every summer, has Aviator Snoopy ceiling fans whose propellers keep summer travelers safe from the squelching heat. I dropped off a friend last night at SFO wearing a full suit (his theory that it would wrinkle less if worn, rather than stored). And he did look quite sharp next to the slew of passengers arriving in pajama bottoms and hoodies. I know the golden age of commercial airfare is long over, but I cherish that many terminals and airports continue to glorify airtravel of times past.
The above mosaic can be found in the single terminal at Ulan-Ude Airport in Eastern Siberia. A fearless red suited cosmonaut greets travelers as they touch down. Maybe I am too much of an idealist, but nothing compares to feeling like you just participated in a great legacy of human accomplishment.
The Dachstein Mars Simulation LiveBlog has shared some pictures this week of the testing of experimental spacesuits and instrumentation systems that could one day be used on Mars, which may remind you of the Austrian Airspace Forum Institute suits that we posted earlier this year. Mars suits have been designed to withstand extreme temperatures, which they test in ice caves that “would be a natural refuge for any microbes on Mars seeking steady temperatures and protection from damaging cosmic rays,” as Stuff Magazine explains.
These suits realized in silver remind me strongly of the Mercury 7 Astronauts who used fighter pilot suits sprayed silver to distinguish themselves from their former wearers. As the Mercury suits were a visible departure from the dare devils of the sky that preceded them, these silver suits lack the huggable pillowly essence of the Shuttle era stark white suits. One small step for manned space exploration couture…
Found via BLDGBLOG
The Gemini astronauts are not given as much credit as they deserve. The accomplishments of the Apollo patriots cast a large shadow over astronaut corp before and after. Even still, the gents of the Gemini program trailblazed the way for the later explorations. The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum just released these photographs from their deep archive that paint a much more human face on the Gemini crew that were lost “somewhere between ‘the right stuff’ and the moon.” Among many other things, Gemini gents were pioneers of orbital photography, using the Hasselblad that the Apollo lads made famous on their moon landing.
San Francisco is a city that can really make you feel like a transplant. You ended up here like a tumbleweed, blown into this golden city by the bay by some sort of random chance.
Alec Huxley’s acrylic on canvas spacemen trapped in San Francisco struck me in this regard. His artist statement states that his work captures the reality of a lucid dream through the lens of a vintage space helmet. The city of San Francisco truly seems like a lucid dream; in what other city in the world does every house have excessively large bay windows and is painted the primary colors akin to a kindergartener’s lunch box? It is many ways an urban version of Alice’s Wonderland. Huxley’s San Francisco is stripped of its iconic colors and its other trademark identifiers, captured in a greyscale whose figures are floating above it rather than immersed within it. They are outsiders, transplants, tumbleweeds like me.
Alec Huxley is from California, Alaska, Texas, Scotland and Washington. His work is currently showing at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Scope his work this weekend before the exhibition closes on the 28th.