Paul van Hoeydonck's Fallen Astronaut
December 16, 2013 1:20 PM   Subscribe

The Sculpture on the Moon. "Scandals and conflicts obscured one of the most extraordinary achievements of the Space Age."
posted by homunculus (25 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oddly enough, it's also science. A hundred years from now it will be scientifically interesting to see how the aluminum was affected by a hundred years of vacuum and solar radiation.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:38 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is cool. I actually teach about this piece of art in a module on the archaeology of space pioneering. There is a surprising symbolic content to the material culture of space exploration. There are memorial plaques engraved with human names on the Moon and on Mars, and thousands of metal plaques of Lenin and maps of the Soviet Union were fired into the moon by the Soviets. There are a bible and a baggie of family photos on the moon, as well as a golf ball and a "javelin". There are 800,000 human names on a plaque which was landed on the asteroid Itokawa. There is art on Voyager and Pioneer which are leaving the solar system. Lego men were sent to Jupiter. There are human remains on the moon (cremains) (Eugene Shoemaker). There is an orbiting mausoleum of human cremains, you can track it here to see when you should look up at the flying cemetery.

So it's cool to see this much backstory to the fallen astronaut piece, thanks.
posted by Rumple at 1:44 PM on December 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


I had no idea. Very cool. thanks for the find.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:07 PM on December 16, 2013


Rumple: If you teach about this stuff, don't forget Trevor Paglen's incredible The Last Pictures, launched in 2012 by Trevor and Creative Time and now orbiting forever.
posted by The Bellman at 2:07 PM on December 16, 2013


Previously.
posted by homunculus at 2:10 PM on December 16, 2013


The Moon Belongs to No One, but What About Its Artifacts?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:18 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the question of the cultural heritage of the moon is quite interesting. Archaeology often gets dragged into Nationalistic arguments. As the links you guys posted show, there was a movement to have Apollo 11 declared a National Historic Site. And for all the words, the flags on the moon are American ones (though bleached white now). (no doubt there are some Chinese emblems rolling around there right now)

The Smithsonian blog piece that the man of twists and turns posted is good, thanks for that.

The Bellman -- yes, I mention that project. it's sort of fascinating that there are pictures of 30,000 year old cave art in it. Sort of closes the circle, you might say.
posted by Rumple at 2:32 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eponysterical. (Homunculus="little man")
posted by beagle at 2:42 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And for all the words, the flags on the moon are American ones (though bleached white now).

Really? You'd think we'd have remembered to send something with a dye that was resistant to fading in sunlight. Are there recent photos?
posted by Countess Elena at 2:52 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Countess Elena, that's quite a bit harder than you imagine - probably impossible, in fact. Mineral components would be the only way to achieve even a few years of color stability, and they aren't going to dye cloth.

A ceramic flag would keep its colors a while, but not forever - some rocks actually bleach on their exposed surfaces.

(Robert Pearlman, an expert on space history and collectibles, and editor of collectSPACE.com said) "We didn't design a special American flag to go to the moon to last thousands of years. They literally sent out a secretary to the nearby Sears and bought an off-the-shelf flag and modified it. The natural disintegration of the flag's material in the harsh conditions on the moon's surface is to be expected."
posted by IAmBroom at 3:23 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If anyone is interested, then you can keep up with space archaeology by following Dr. Alice Gorman, aka Dr Space Junk, on twitter, and she has an occasional blog here.

Or hope to find the Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage in your stocking, or find under the tree The Human Archaeology of Space: Lunar, Planetary and Interstellar Relics of Exploration.
posted by Rumple at 4:01 PM on December 16, 2013


One man's mementos are another man's trash.

Do we have to leave our shit all over the place, or is there one pristine spot left in the solar system?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:31 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had the great good fortune to visit the Cape the year after I'd spent some time in ritual landscapes in Scotland. The idea of ritual landscapes is somewhat controversial, but I know of no better way to encapsulate the sheer power of walking through set after set of monoliths and earthworks, perhaps thousands of years apart in their creation, but so part of their geography and so clearly in deliberate juxtaposition. As you arrive at one, another becomes visible, and the ensemble resonates with the mountains and valleys and space wherein they're placed.

Later, at the Cape, I had the strongest possible sense of recognition when I stood at one edge of the launch pad area, the sea behind me and the swamp twisting away between the pathways, the pads themselves across the distance, and the gantries rising in so much isolation from, but so much connection with, each other. There was - and I felt the pun very deeply - a description of space, of vastness, and of humanity stating its presence, which was extraordinarily moving and beyond denial.

If we're to talk about the archaeology of space exploration, then it has to go beyond just the artifacts - and certainly beyond those which are ostensibly and deliberately cultural. They are wonderful enough, but they are nuance, grace notes. It is so much more than that.

(And yes, I read a lot of J G Ballard when young. Why do you ask?)
posted by Devonian at 6:32 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Devonian, you might be interested in Gorman's The Cultural Landscape of Interplanetary Space (PDF) . Looks at Woomerara and Peenemunde and Apollo 11 in some of the terms you express.
posted by Rumple at 7:16 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rumple - thanks very much. That looks fascinating - there's much here I don't understand but feel moved to explore. Which is apt.
posted by Devonian at 4:22 AM on December 17, 2013


Surprisingly, van Hoeydonck’s foreign nationality was not an issue. (“The astronauts told me that when they met Nixon later he asked them, ‘The artist—he’s a Democrat?’ They said, ‘No, he’s Belgian,’ and he said, ‘OK.’ ”)

Oh Dick, always the Trixter.
posted by petebest at 6:15 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do we have to leave our shit all over the place, or is there one pristine spot left in the solar system?

I'm going with "Yes, there's plenty of pristine space left in the solar system."
posted by lstanley at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going with "Yes, there's plenty of pristine space left in the solar system."

Besides, when the rest of the solar system stops dumping its detritus on us - I'm looking at you, oh coronal-mass-ejecting Sun (though of course not directly), and you, clouds of asteroidal and cometary rubble - then perhaps we can talk.
posted by Devonian at 8:30 AM on December 17, 2013


He should have erected a monolith.
posted by zarq at 9:08 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do we have to leave our shit all over the place, or is there one pristine spot left in the solar system?


Why do you hate archaeologists?
posted by Rumple at 12:43 PM on December 17, 2013


href="http://www.metafilter.com/134839/Paul-van-Hoeydoncks-Fallen-Astronaut#5334715">BlueHorse: "One man's mementos are another man's trash.

Do we have to leave our shit all over the place, or is there one pristine spot left in the solar system?
"

Can't tell if joking, or unknowledgeable...

We've landed objects on 4 of the 8 planets in our Solar System (most self-destructed, sometimes intentionally), a couple of moons (and entirely on the close side of ours, BTW), and IIRC one of the hundred-thousands of significant asteroids.

We've sent one small object outside our solar system, ever.

Our own close orbit is "thick" with debris (relatively speaking), but other than there's not a lot of extraterrestrial, material evidence that we exist.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:04 PM on December 17, 2013


Space debris - image of the day.

All the American flags on the moon are now white.
posted by Rumple at 2:07 PM on December 17, 2013


All the American flags on the moon are now white.

oh no we've surrendered to the moon
posted by solarion at 2:43 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The moon is terrifying, and that's why I love it
posted by homunculus at 11:14 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a crush on you, homunculus.

The mysterious smell of moon dust

posted by Rumple at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


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