Category Archives: Space Arts

MIT Media Lab’s Sojourner 2020 art mission to the ISS

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon for the CRS-20 mission to the International Space Station returned today for a safe landing in the Pacific. Five payloads from MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative were among the payloads delivered in March to the Station and returned on the Dragon:  Five MIT payloads deployed on the International Space Station – MIT News.

The payloads were integrated into the Nanoracks BlackBox, a locker-sized platform with mechanical mounting points and electrical connections for power, data, and communication capabilities. Payloads are fully integrated into BlackBox on the ground; when they reach ISS, the astronauts aboard integrate them into ISS experiment racks, then simply leave them alone — the boxes are completely self-contained and remotely commanded via Nanoracks from the ground. This system allows for larger and more complex research payloads on the ISS, as the astronauts aren’t required to come near any potentially hazardous materials and don’t need any special expertise to run the experiments.

“Five MIT Space Exploration Initiative payloads are enclosed within the Nanoracks BlackBox platform, further encased in a sample ISS experiment rack containment box, shown here in preflight testing for launch to the International Space Station in March.” Credits: Ariel Ekblaw, MIT News

Four of the payloads involved technology and scientific projects. The fifth, called Sojourner 2020, contains a group of

artworks, the first-ever international “open call” art payload to the ISS, selected by SEI’s arts curator Xin Liu. Sojourner 2020 features a three-layer telescoping structure. Each layer of the structure rotates independently; the top layer remains still in weightlessness, while the middle and bottom layers spin at different speeds to produce centripetal accelerations that mimic lunar gravity and Martian gravity, respectively. Nine artists contributed works in a variety of different media, including carved stone sculpture, liquid pigment experiments, and sculptures made of transgender hormone replacement meds. Sojourner 2020 highlights the ways in which the arts can contribute to new means of encountering space; by including projects from indigenous peoples and gender minorities, the project additionally emphasizes key values of human dignity, equality, and democratizing access. 

The artists had responded to the Media Lab’s open call issued in 2019 for artworks in low Earth orbit.

Sojourner 2020 (a 1.5U size unit, 100mm x 100mm x 152.4mm ) will be launched into low Earth orbit for about 30 days. It features a three-layer telescoping structure which creates three different “gravities”: zero gravity, lunar gravity, and Martian gravity. Each layer of the structure rotates independently. The top layer remains still in weightlessness, while the middle and bottom layers spin at different speeds to produce centripetal accelerations that mimic lunar gravity and Martian gravity, respectively. Each layer carries 6 pockets that can hold projects.

“Sojourner 2020 features a three-layer telescoping structure. Each layer of the structure spin at different speeds to produce centripetal accelerations that generate artificial gravities. Designed and built by Xin Liu.” Credits: Wenjun Liang & MIT Media Lab

Each pocket is a container with 10mm in diameter and 12mm in depth. Though the space is limited, the artist groups proposed and accomplished artworks in a variety of different mediums, including carved stone sculpture by Erin Genia, liquid pigment experiments by Andrea Ling and Levi Cai, sculptures made of transgender hormone replacement meds by Adriana Knouf, among the others.

With space transport costs dropping, more an more artists can use space for acts of self-expression:

Sojourner 2020 highlights the ways in which the arts can contribute to new means of encountering space. While access to space is becoming more possible due to commercial launch providers, those sending projects often remain scientific or engineering researchers. Sojourner 2020 broadens this to include an unprecedented collection of international artists, thereby both democratizing access to space as well as opening space exploration to transdisciplinary perspectives. By including projects from indigenous peoples and gender minorities, the project additionally enacts key values of human dignity and equality.

See also this artistic Media Labs project that included a parabolic flight : Mollastica – From Deep Sea to Deep Space — MIT Media Lab

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Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR (DESIGN)

NASA Langley student space art contest winners

Earlier this month NASA Langley announced the winning entrants in a space art competition: Winners of 2020 NASA Langley Student Art Contest Named | NASA

The winners of NASA’s Langley Research Center’s 2020 Student Art Contest have been selected out of nearly 1,300 entries from 40 states and Puerto Rico.

This year’s contest received a record 1,277 entries from students across the United States. These students, part of the Artemis generation, depicted the theme “We Are Going” with insightful compositions and beautiful creativity. Each piece is wonderfully imaginative, and each student, from kindergarten to 12th grade, used their incredible talents to showcase their interpretation of the theme.

(Finalist # 55) 6th Grade Mehar Kapoor

(Finalist # 55) 6th Grade Mehar Kapoor – 1st Place / 6th Grade

The art contest is intended to illustrate where NASA is going next in the realms of research, development, missions and innovations that highlight NASA’s human exploration activities which touch aspects of our lives here on Earth.

This year’s guest judge was Michael Kagan, an award-winning artist who’s had his artistic talents showcased in solo and group exhibitions all over the world. His most recent exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, entitled “I Was There When It Happened,” featured Kagan’s lifelong interest in NASA, technology, space and innovation.

(Finalist # 39) 8th Grade Kendra Vincent

Finalist # 39) 8th Grade Kendra Vincent – 2nd Place / 8th Grade

The grand prize winner was announced a few days later: New Jersey Student Takes Grand Prize in NASA Langley 2020 Art Contest | NASA

The simplest of ideas can turn into the grandest of results. One high school student took the simple idea that space is reachable, translated that idea into art, and is now the grand-prize winner of NASA’s Langley Research Center’s 2020 Student Art Contest.

Camila Garcia, a tenth-grader at North Bergen High School in North Bergen, New Jersey, earned the highest honor in the yearly competition.

“Camila Garcia, a tenth-grader at North Bergen High School in North Bergen, New Jersey, was named the grand-prize winner for her entry in the 2020 NASA Langley Student Art Contest.” Credits: NASA Langley Research Center

“My inspiration for my artwork was simply the idea of things being reachable,” she said. “It was a very consistent concept within my thumbnail sketches, especially since they all revolved around people.”

Camila’s winning entry is a woman astronaut gazing out into space and the Moon with the words “We Are Going” at the bottom of her helmet.

“In the case of my artwork in particular, it’s more emotionally centered around the idea of something being reachable as the mere gaze I have (I am the subject of my drawing) towards the Moon is that of amazement at how far I’ve truly come,” she said.

(Finalist # 14) 3rd Grade Daniel Chia

(Finalist # 14) 3rd Grade Daniel Chia – 3rd Place / 3rd Grade

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Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR (DESIGN)

Sample of the artworks displayed in “Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR”

Chesley Bonestell documentary now on the International Space Station

The award-winning documentary Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future was recently transmitted to the ISS for viewing by the space station’s crew: “Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future”, is now onboard the International Space Station, available for viewing by the crew. – Space Hipsters/Facebook.

See the earlier posting here about the film and check out the trailer:

Chesley Bonestell was an architect and painter who worked on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Chrysler Building. He worked on famous movies like Citizen Kane as a matte artist, and his mesmerizing paintings of planets and star systems helped inspire America’s space program. Why is it that no one knows who he is today?

Producer Douglass Stewart, was  interviewed last year on The Space Show about Bonestell and the film:

During this one segment 72 minute program, not only did our guest take us through the life and art of Chesley Bonestell, but the same for documentary film making, distribution and film festival issues plus lots more.

Bonestell’s visions are still coming to life. Here is an illustration he created for an article by Werner von Braun and Cornelius Ryan in Colliers Magazine, April 30, 1954:

Illustration of a Mars expedition landing site by Chesley Bonestell for Colliers Magazine, April 30, 1954. Via Sept/Oct. 2013 issue of Horizons, the newsletter for the Houston chapter of the AIAA

And here is a full-scale 1st-gen prototype of the Starship, a fully reusable space transport currently in development by SpaceX:

The Starship Mk-1 prototype on display at the SpaceX Boca Chica, Texas facility in 2019. Credits: SpaceX

And a SpaceX illustrator’s vision of Starships at a Mars settlement:

Starships at a Mars settlement. Credits: SpaceX

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A Chesley Bonestell Space Art Chronology

Video: “How to Draw the Lunar Lander”

Artist Stanley Von Medvey shows how to draw the Apollo lunar lander:

If you prefer to build a model of the lander, here are some paper model guides for download:

Here’s a 1960s era NASA fact sheet for the Lunar Module (pdf).

And a simulator: Eagle Lander 3D (EL3D)

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Aoshima Apollo Lunar Module Eagle-5 Model Kit

Space arts roundup – July.1.2019

Some space arts related items I’ve recently come across:

** Winners announced for the OK Go Sandbox‘s Art In Space Contest. As described in the March posting about the contest, the band OK Go, which had made a music video in microgravity, wanted to encourage young people between ages 11-18 to do their own art projects in space and they came up with the idea of a contest:

The Art in Space contest invited students to dream up their own cool experiments to send into suborbital space onboard the [Blue Origin] New Shepard spacecraft.

The two winning teams will work with engineers, artists and educators from the Playful Learning Lab, in consultation with Blue Origin and OK Go, on flight ready versions of their ideas.

The responses of the winners when informed of their selection were captured in this video:

One of the two winning teams is based in New York and includes students Alexandra Slabakis (16), Grace Clark (16), and Annabelle Clark (12). The team’s project is called “Dark Origin” and will use gravity and magnetism to simulate the origin of planet Earth.

The second winning team is based in Utah and includes students Cameron Trueblood (11), Blake Hullinger (12), and Kellen Hullinger(15). Their design proposes using environmental data taken during the space craft’s flight to create sounds and visual art.

“We were thrilled with the entries to the Art In Space contest – picking winners was so hard!” said OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash. “The submissions were all so imaginative, and really exemplified the type of thinking and creativity that OK Go is always striving for in our own work. The kids, especially our winners, clearly understand the truth that so many adults have lost along the way: there are no borders separating art and science — they’re the same thing. It all comes from curiosity and experimentation, and creativity is really just about exercising those skills.”

*** You can also send your artwork to space and back via a New Shepard. Blue Origin’s public participation initiative, Club for the Future, welcomes your art on the back of postcard

At Club for the Future:

Draw or write your vision of millions of people living and working in space on the blank side of a self-addressed, stamped postcard, and send it to us. We’ll pack the first 10,000 postcards received before July 20, 2019 inside the Crew Capsule on an upcoming New Shepard flight. Your idea will launch into space! Once New Shepard returns to Earth, we’ll send your postcard back to you, officially stamped “flown to space.”

To participate, see the step-by-step guide on the Club for Space homepage or download these instructions (pdf).

** Amazon Prime’s “Artist Depiction” documentary profiles 3 space artists: Don Davis, Charles Lindsay, and Rick Guidice discuss their

Space Habitat - Rick Guidice
A rendering of a pair of large space habitats by Rick Guidice.

** Check out the terrific images created artist Sam Taylor who is inspired by the SpaceX Starships now in development in Florida and Texas:

SpaceX Starships - Sam Taylor
SpaceX Starship inspired artwork by Sam Taylor.

** A CNN article on the space arts covers astronaut and dancer Mae Jemison’s views on the importance of both the arts and STEM in a well-rounded education, the paintings of the Moon by the late Apollo astronaut Alan Bean, astronaut Nicole Stott’s use of art to teach kids about space, and the role of effective illustrations in explaining complex space science and astrophysics phenomena: Art and space: ‘A quest never to end’ – CNN

For the past 15 years at Caltech, the artistic duo of Robert Hurt and Tim Pyle has been creating illustrations of how gravitational waves, myriad exoplanets and even the top of the Milky Way might look if we could see them for ourselves. The images look so realistic that the captions have to remind people that they’re artistic renderings.

Trappist-1 Planetary System - Tim Pyle and Robert Hurt
A rendering of the TRAPPIST-1 exo-planetary system illustrates the relative sizes of the earth-scale planets, their orbits around their ultra-cool red-dwarf sun, and the habitable zone band where water can be in liquid form rather than steam or ice for a planet with an earth-like atmosphere. Credits: Tim Pyle and Robert Hurt.

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Einstein’s Monsters:
The Life and Times of Black Holes