I wanted to dip into the archives this week; Fast Company published a wonderful series on the Apollo missions that reminded me of the wealth of beautiful images from NASA Archives. If you haven’t already taken a mini adventure through NASA Images powered by the SF based Internet Archive – it is definitely on the top ten list of sites to visit for a space suit enthusiast. Some of my favorite rarely seen photographs that are found deep within this vault of many treasures are survival training photographs- my favorite of which are stills from Mercury Group 3 Training.
These Mercury boys had yet to go the moon; Mercury / Apollo Test Pilot Alan Shepard didn’t become the first American in space until 1961 ( as a point of reference – JFK made his famous “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech in 1962). American manned exploration accomplishments during the Mercury program era were limited, but the possibilities were endless. I think that is why these survival training photographs are so charming. Throw a bunch of lifetime military men in the desert – that’ll get ‘em ready for the final frontier. Not going to lie, their headdresses made out of parachutes make them look more like Devendra Banhart than 1960’s American rocketman.
Polish photographer Wiktor Franko’s work-in-progress series, inspired by Ridley Scott films, captures cosmic queens in common spaces. Franko casts a narrative through his leading space ladies – the first space adventurer with freckles and chest bare has a gaze stripped of emotion. In contrast, the pensive subject depicted in full color below has steamed up her shield and is matched with a intent gaze. These girls have places to be.
The space race was the greatest competition all time: two great nations pushing technological and scientific boundaries for galactic supremacy. Rooted in the necessity to achieve what no nation had yet to accomplish, science and mankind reached new heights. Tom Clohosy Cole’s concertina, Space Race, beautifully illustrates this push to the limits. The efforts of these two great Cold War super powers are detailed on opposing sides of a paper-made Iron Curtain narrating the notable achievements of spaceflight. The highlights of the USSR include Sputnik’s star streak across the autumn sky and Yuri Gagarin’s landmark orbital waltz around the home planet. On the opposing side, the achievements of the United States showcase the Apollo rocket boys. Cole’s concertina crescendos at quite probably the greatest single achievement in the space race – the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. This event technically marks the end of the Space race between the two nations as the Soviet Soyuz and the Yankee Apollo crafts dock together–a cosmic handshake and sign of peace. From my own ethnocentric point of view, the space race narrative (as told here in the United States) ends with Armstrong & his boys’ dance on the moon. Yet in actuality the Test Project, commonly referred to statewide as Apollo 18, is truly the last dance of the great space race. Cole’s depiction in four colors boldly celebrates these adventuresome achievements. And unfurled, it paints a panorama of this time far grander than any Hasselblad shot brought back as a souvenir.
The responsibility of concocting the US astronauts’ meals falls on the shoulders of NASA Space Food Systems Laboratory (SFSL). Their mission is to “…provide high-quality flight food systems that are convenient, compatible with each crew member’s physiological and psychological requirements, meet spacecraft stowage and galley interface requirements, and are easy to prepare and eat in the weightlessness of space.” Those necessities are strict confines in the composition of a spacefarer’s diet yet another factor comes into play–the degradation of the sense of taste in weightlessness.
Foods tastes bland and flavorless; even astronauts who admit to not enjoying spicy foods and finding themselves reaching for the bottle of hot sauce. A few days into a mission, Astronauts lose their sense of smell in space and food in general doesn’t taste quite on point. I can’t figure out why exactly astronauts lose their sense of smell, but I can only imagine fluids in your body get all messed up when you’re floating delicately in space. To compensate for this sensation, the Food Systems Lab has prepared a slue of spicy, flavor packed foods. They have even called in Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, and Rachel Ray to created meals for lift off.
Generally, eating in space seems quite fun. It’s a lot easier to play with your food in the weightlessness. It does seem a little harder to start a food fight, though.
The history of the Space Race may be one of the most fascinating endeavors of our life times. Just the idea of travelling to space seems unfathomable, but we managed to do it. Designer Justin Van Genderen made a series of beautiful posters chronicling the journey from an American perspective, six in total, portraying the efforts of the Apollo, Mercury and Gemini missions. I’m not sure which ones I like better. There’s the highly stylized typography one, or the more information based posters which feel more scientific in nature. You can grab one for yourself by clicking here.
Price Peterson‘s Astronaut series is a clash between Stuart Little and King of the Hill that perfectly rolls into a charming portrait of an Americana astronaut. Peterson’s astronauts (#1-3) take flight and get a ‘buzz’ in a method that is more conventional to a gravity controlled figures such as ourselves.
German photographer Jan von Holleban takes inspiration from storybooks and heroic fantasies to create living dioramas in his 2002 – 2008 series “Dreams of Flying. With the help of local neighborhood children, von Holleban creates scenes that fitful all childhood aspirations and dreams. Here’s to dreaming big in 2013!
Bill Finger’s Ground Control, a work-in-progress photograph series of miniature dioramas, explores the themes of braving the journey to the last frontier and humanizing the effort of placing boots on Martian soil. The series came out of Finger’s fascination of the idea that travelling to Mars would be a one-way trip. A sacrifice of earthly existence and all previous known ways of life. The next humans to venture outward will need to be someone bold and unlike any that have previously wandered outside of our stratosphere. The space colonizer cast in Finger’s constructed scenes have the desire to make the mystical trip but with no specific skills to allow him/her to do so. But someone has to do it.