Fallen Astronaut: The First Art Installation on the Moon

the-fallen-astronaut-sculpture-moon (Image: NASA, public domain)

For art lovers looking to track down unique and rare works, the Moon might not seem like the most rewarding destination. But surprisingly enough the Moon is actually the location of what is the most distant work of modern art ever created by man. The 8cm aluminium figure known as The Fallen Astronaut was placed there by the crew of Apollo 15 on August 1, 1971. But since that time the lunar sculpture, created by Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck, has been at the centre of confusion and controversy.

First, there’s an ongoing debate over its precise meaning. The statue was the result of a dinner party conversation between Van Hoeydonck and astronaut David Scott. The latter asserts that the figurine was designed to commemorate astronauts and cosmonauts killed in the furtherance of space exploration, and a plaque on the lunar surface bearing eight names would seem to support that claim.

But as Mental Floss writes, Van Hoeydonck “intended it to be placed upright and that it represented all humanity”.

apollo-15 (Image: NASA via Slate; above: Apollo 15 mission)

Meanwhile, the only officially approved replica of The Fallen Astronaut can be seen at the Smithonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. However, the Associated Press reported in July 1972 that Van Hoeydonck planned to create a batch of signed, limited edition copies of the lunar artwork, which were reportedly withdawn after complaints from NASA.

In 2007 Van Hoeydonck claimed that only 50 copies had been produced, of which all but one remained in his possession. Which begs the question: where’s the other one? Whatever the answer, there’s no doubting that Paul Van Hoeydonck can lay claim to the first ever art installation on the Moon, and it’ll be waiting there for the next human or robot to pass it by.

the-moon (Image: Gregory H. Revera, cc-sa-3.0)

Keep Reading: Find Out How NASA’s Space Shuttles Got Their Names


About the author: Tom


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