I first came across Philip Scott Andrew’sLast Days photo essay a while back while I was still working on contract at NASA Ames Research Center right before the end of the Space Shuttle program. Ames is home to the largest federal supercomputer, the NASA Kepler mission, and a slew of other amazing missions/projects; it is not involved in launch of manned space crafts. Even still the day after the Shuttle Program it seemed like a dark veil or stormy cloud hovered above the Research Park. Few engineers and employees were out and about; the heads of the seldom few were hung heavy. Even I, whom didn’t dream of being an astronaut as child, who starting working at NASA because it was a golden opportunity to share amazing content in an innovative fashion, sunk a little.
Andrew’s photographs capture end of the NASA Space Shuttle Program in such a triumphant manner. In his frames, there is no confusion or dismay about where the Space Program is headed. There is no bitterness to lack of direction and aimless quest of human space flight. It glorifies the accomplishments and tireless of work of so many individuals to place man into orbit.
His artist statement in Issue 9 of Daylight Magazine reads:
In the simplest terms, these photographs tell a story about men and women who show up to work every day and launch spaceships. It is a marvel, a symbol of the United States’ twentieth century dominance. But it is a tragic story. The U.S. is abandoning not only its manned spaceflight program but the individuals behind it whose ingenuity, bravery, and attention to detail made the program not only possible, but reliable… In looking back, we can look ahead to find the next adventure over the horizon.
Last Days truly captures a moment in time. The work is pretty phenomenal in taking a snapshot of the unparalleled nationalistic spirit and technical accomplishment only possible through the hands of many. Check out his website, it’s full of gems.
I thought I would pass along this little gemstone that I stumbled across on Tumblr. I am really digging on Kyle Jones’ Space Cadet – and the rest of his work for that matter! His work reminds me of something straight outta Hanna-Barbera Productions circa the 1960s. I am particularly fond of the marshmallow clouds against the red horizon. I still can’t place the green rabbit friend of the cadet, but if this what the future looks like, I’m really excited.
Bobby passed along these drawings to me by Jonathan Andrew Taylor. I may be mistaken, but I believe the top image was inspired by Hubert Vykukal’s AX-3 experiment suit (which Alex wrote about a while back). The AX hard body suits were heralded because they gave the body almost complete range of motion; an astronaut could move into something like 95% of the body positions that they could if they were in the buff. Although, Taylor’s drawings make the suit seem rather limiting with the astronaut barely capable of peaking over the bottom of his helmet. I’m fond of the tri-color palette that Taylor employs. Stripping the suit of its standard patriotic colors, he recasts the image into another a sphere. It’s as if Taylor’s astronauts have complete range of motion in capturing a child-like pursuit of imagination.
Stan Gaz’s series Ensnared – Astronauts and Butterflies, explores the themes of “loss, memory, transition, and transformation.” His images depict archetypes of the hunter and the hunted, though it’s hard to tell which figures are really trapped. Is it the astronaut in his white, sterile suit or the delicate butterfly? Seeing this series made me think of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir The Diving Bell & the Butterfly. Bauby, physically crippled by locked-in syndrome, uses the extended allusion of the diving bell (much like a space suit) to illustrate his oppressive state and still his mind is able to take flight like a butterfly. In Gaz’s artist statement, he states, “The roles can be oddly interchangeable, caught up in a cycle in which each is trapped by the other—where neither is ever free of the other’s influence, but nevertheless transformation still takes place.”
The French ambient duo AIR’s newest project, Le Voyage Dans la Lune, is a soundtrack for a voyage beyond the stratosphere.
Le Voyage Dans la Lune (translated as A Trip to the Moon) is a seminal French silent film from 1902 directed by Georges Méliès. It was the first science fiction film ever produced, loosely based on Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and H.G. Well’s The First Men In the Moon. There was a version of the film that was hand-painted that was lost for decades, but was found in 1993, and massive efforts to restore the work of art were begun.
In coordination, the Fondation Groupama Gan and Fondation Technicolor asked AIR to score a new soundtrack to the restored version, which you can hear a bit of in the clip above. In 2011, AIR released a new album titled Le Voyage Dana la Lune, which was ultimately inspired by the project.
The soundtrack is definitely a departure from AIR’s earlier sounds. More raw, more evident that there is a human beyond the scenes detailed layers of sound. The album is a work of art, dark but flawlessly executed in typical AIR fashion.
Seems like the news is full of bitter Americans, though Ham the Chimpanzee, the first chimpanzee launched into outer space in 1961, has to be one of the most bitter in history. British artist Joe Wilson produced the above package design for San Francisco based brewery 21st Amendment’s Bitter American Seasonal Ale. It’s a nice, cheeky alternative to traditional alcoholic product packaging which can sometimes take itself too seriously. I know what I’ll be grabbing next time I pop down to the corner store.
I wanted to revisit his work and put a spotlight on his larger series of cosmonauts done in oil because I find his work rather… gravitating. Jeremy’s cosmonauts series is split; half are depicted in the familiar concrete transportation frontier, crashing to city streets or floating underneath highway overpasses while the other is shown in a soft monochromatic void. Both parts to his series feel interchangeable as if they were captured in sublime silence.
The works reminded me of this Gemini transmission between Gemini IV Astronauts Ed White & James McDivitt after White completed NASA’s first ever spacewalk:
White: That was the most natural feeling, Jim.
McDivitt: …You looked like you were in your mother’s womb.
Cristina De Middel is a photojournalist. Her series “Afronauts” captures the narrative of Zambia’s failed attempt to put man on the moon in a dignified, triumphant light. Her dossier reads:
“Afronauts’ is based on the documentation of an impossible dream that only lives in the pictures.”
Zambia didn’t put space boots on the moon, but these photographs show a quilted portrait of not shattered, unattained dreams, but nationalist hope and determination. There’s some published pieces out there that tries to paint Zambia’s space ambitions in the 1960’s as an absurdity. If you wish to see Zambia unattained goals in that light, I can only wonder want you think of Newt Ginrich’s ambitions for a moon colony while running for office in a country that isn’t funding lunar exploration either. We all have ambitions. Here’s to the dreamers.
I am fascinated with the domestic lifecycle of spacesuits. They’re born from the hands of women hunched over sewing machines custom fitting astronauts, and then, after a brief interlude in space, some haunt the halls of the National Air and Space Museum while most lie neatly folded somewhere deep in the Smithsonian’s archival tombs next to gowns worn by celebrities and dignitaries.
Spaceman by David Mach, like many of other sculptures, is made up of hundreds of the metal coat hangers, like the ones that come with your dry cleaning. The hangers are welded together, formed in a positive mold and then sliver nickel plated. Mach immortalizes the Apollo astronauts of soft, white plush with the same cold metal hangers that are usually kicked to the curb after their serve the purpose.
The earth is not a cold dead place, hopefully Mars isn’t either. I have seen a lot of prototype suits for manned exploration of Mars (some of them are pretty funky looking) and above is my favorite. The Austrian Airspace Forum Institute created this slick silver suit and put to the test in the ice tunnels beneath the Kaunertal glacier. Among the many complications of being on Martian soil, temperatures on Mars can drop well below -100 degrees. You can read more about this space suit and the advances they’re making by clicking here.
P.S. NASA’s new Mars Science Laboratory rover, also known as Curiosity, launched in late November and is scheduled to land on Mars in early August. It’s the Presidential Hummer of rovers. Its primary mission is to assess Mars’ habitability.