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Moon NASA

The Strange Story Of the Sculpture On the Moon 132

Posted by timothy
from the cheese-cutters-for-michaelangelo dept.
braindrainbahrain writes "Slate magazine has written a story about the only work of art placed on the Moon: the Fallen Astronaut sculpture. It was placed on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission to commemorate both American and Soviet deceased astronauts. The little statue, rather than bringing fame and fortune, ended up being nearly forgotten, and got both Apollo astronaut David Scott and Belgian sculptor Van Hoeydonck in hot water with the U.S. government."
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The Strange Story Of the Sculpture On the Moon

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  • Art? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by msobkow (48369)

    That is the ugliest chunk of milled aluminum I have ever seen. I'd have been ashamed to admit creating it. They should have skipped the statue and just laid a larger plaque instead.

    • by pla (258480)
      That is the ugliest chunk of milled aluminum I have ever seen. I'd have been ashamed to admit creating it. They should have skipped the statue and just laid a larger plaque instead.

      Agreed, but TFA mentions that it couldn't have any clear race or even gender.

      I find it more bizarre that people actually wanted a copy of it. I mean, the stamps that had actually gone to the Moon, sure, I can see the appeal there. But a copy of an ugly statue merely left there, rather than the original? Meh. Maybe as a $
    • It could have been worse. The statue could have had pointy Spock ears and the plaque contain the lyrics to Surfin' Bird.
    • Re:Art? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DogDude (805747) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @12:07PM (#45812217) Homepage
      I'd have been ashamed to admit creating it.

      Not everyone can appreciate art, but there's no reason to be a prick about it.
      • The artist himself claimed it was not his best work.

        Having seen some of his other work, I'm inclined to disagree.
        • by DogDude (805747)
          It doesn't matter. The point is, there's no need to shit on somebody else's art.
          • The point is, there's no need to shit on somebody else's art.

            Indeed. Unless the artist is Piero Manzoni, [wikipedia.org] then it's alright.

          • by mwvdlee (775178)

            |>E#

            I just made that up and pronounce it to be art.
            You are allowed to either appreciate it's beauty or admit that you hate all art.
            Any -1 mods are merely people who don't understand art and whose opinion on art should therefore be ignored.

            • Re:Art? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @02:48PM (#45813117)

              |>E#

              I just made that up and pronounce it to be art. You are allowed to either appreciate it's beauty or admit that you hate all art. Any -1 mods are merely people who don't understand art and whose opinion on art should therefore be ignored.

              I'm reminded of the scene in L.A. Story [wikipedia.org] in which Harris (Steve Martin) is admiring and remarking on a painting hanging in the museum:

              Harris: I like the relationships. I mean, each character has his own story. The puppy is a bit too much, but you have to over look things like that in these kinds of paintings. The way he's *holding* her... it's almost... filthy. I mean, he's about to kiss her and she's pulling away. The way the leg's sort of smashed up against her... Phew... Look how he's painted the blouse sort of translucent. You can just make out her breasts underneath and it's sort of touching him about here. It's really... pretty torrid, don't you think? Then of course you have the onlookers peeking at them from behind the doorway like they're all shocked. They wish. Yeah, I must admit, when I see a painting like this, I get emotionally... erect.

              [The camera pulls back and the painting is revealed to be of a large red rectangle.]

            • by geekoid (135745)

              In the correct context, it would be art. This is not the correct context, so no.
              Really, stop discussing art because you don't know jack shit.

              • by mwvdlee (775178)

                Why is it not the right context?
                Who made you the arbiter of all that is art?

                • by mcgrew (92797) *

                  Unlike you he probably went to college, where he took an art or art history class as part of his undergraduate studies. Even if your goal is to study physics you're going to have art and literature as an undergrad.

                  He is absolutely right, there's nothing artistic whatever about your doodle and you obviously know little to nothing about art. What you learned in high school is probably mostly wrong.

                  • by mwvdlee (775178)

                    So basically art can only be understood if you took some course at school first?
                    I just don't get this snobbery of people believing they get to decide what is and is not art.
                    If enough people enjoy it, does it not become art regardless of context, regardless of anything really?
                    If an established artists makes something nobody cares about, is it still art?
                    Why should it be impossible for art to be created as a comment on a website?
                    I fully agree my doodle isn't art; it wasn't intended to be nor is it of any value

                    • by mcgrew (92797) *

                      So basically art can only be understood if you took some course at school first?

                      Of course not, there are other ways of learning, like reading books. But if you've never taken a chemistry class or read anything about chemistry then you know nothing about chemistry and your opinions about chemistry are completely invalid. The same goes for any field of study.

                      I just don't get this snobbery of people believing they get to decide what is and is not art.

                      "I just don't get this snobbery of people believing they get

          • Re:Art? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hey! (33014) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @02:36PM (#45813057) Homepage Journal

            Most people are priggish busybodies. If they don't understand something, they act like that's proof its worthless.

            That said, a lot of the fun of art is having opinions about it. Not liking a piece of art isn't the same as "shitting on it". You like what you like; where you end up on treacherous ground is when you have an opinion about what other people *ought* to like.

            I don't like the novel Twilight. I have very specific opinions about things that are not good about that novel. On the other hand, I understand why the people who like that novel like it. My not liking that novel doesn't make me better than them, only different. Likewise I can tell you a lot about what's wrong with Lord of the Rings as a novel, but it's a story I love and re-read every couple of years.

            The more serious you are about an art form the less it becomes about what you like or don't like. Liking or not like is still important, but it's not everything.

            • by geekoid (135745)

              Twilight is a bad novel ofrm pretty much every technical view.

              Really, bad.
              There are 4 stones..I mean position:
              There is good art, there is bad art, there is art you like and there is art you don't like.

              It's perfectly fine to like bad art, but that doesn't make it good art. I like a lot of bad movies.
              Of course, we should keep this is context of the type of art.
              Sculpture that couldn't have race, gender, and had to withstand extreme temperature swings and bot weigh too much, and show to anyone who look at it t

              • by gordo3000 (785698)

                there is no such thing as bad art. just art that some people think is of low artistic quality. Art is not science (which is why I think it all is roughly equivalent to ... fill in the blank with whatever you want), there is not scale but whatever arbitrary one you have chosen. My childhood finger painting are as much art as the modern art I see in galleries... and frankly they are just as "good" (if you can use such an adjective regarding art). On the other hand, your last two categories are correct,
                you

            • by vux984 (928602)

              My not liking that novel doesn't make me better than them, only different.

              I disagree. Twilight is terrible. Not liking is sensible. :)

              Likewise I can tell you a lot about what's wrong with Lord of the Rings as a novel, but it's a story I love and re-read every couple of years.

              Sure it has its failings. But it is also amazing on so many levels.

              The more serious you are about an art form the less it becomes about what you like or don't like.

              Right. You can recognize good art from bad, and you can appreciate good

              • Like a pollack, perhaps the price is part of the piece.

                If no one paid 1.8 M, then you wouldn't have something to talk about and the artist would still be trying to unload his unfinished Cambodian flag.

          • Good grief... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Frosty Piss (770223) *

            It doesn't matter. The point is, there's no need to shit on somebody else's art.

            Why not? Art is in the eye of the beholder, and indeed people actually get paid to shit on other people's art (figuratively). If an artist can't take criticism, they need to get out of the art biz (though they can still produce crap for their friends).

            Seriously, no one can criticize "art"?

            • by geekoid (135745)

              That's not what he is saying, Don't go around saying it's not art becasue you don't like it.
              That's all.

            • by IICV (652597)

              This misinterpretation of criticism as "shit[ting] on other people's art (figuratively)" is what leads to comments like OP's.

              Real criticism isn't just taking a verbal dump on the piece and saying "I'd have been ashamed to admit creating it". It's saying why you'd be ashamed to admit you created it, explaining what's gone wrong with the piece.

              This was just seagull criticism - OP swoops in from nowhere, shits all over everything, and disappears. Nobody knows why, nothing is improved by it, that's just how OP

          • Why? Art isn't holy, and this figuring barely interpretable as 'art'. We are allowed to criticize poot construction or poor car design, but not allowed to criticize a not well executed figure because an 'artist' fabricated it?

            Please.
      • by Livius (318358)

        He wasn't

        Art *is* fair game to criticism. He made an objective statement of fact that followed from his opinion.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Having an opinion about so-called "art" is "flamebait?"

      Mods: Flamebait is not a "Disagree" option

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I disagree. It's perfect for what they were representing.

      "I'd have been ashamed to admit creating it."
      I'd be amazed if you could create it at all.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Beauty != art and art != beauty. The worst insult you can hurl at an artist is "oh, that's pretty." Art is supposed to affect one's emotions, and from your comment I'd say it succeeded well.

      Art can be beautiful (e.g., Audrey Flack's photorealistic airbrush paintings) but don't have to be (Picasso's Guernica)

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @11:06AM (#45811909)

    The Chinese will recover it and put it on display in a Beijing museum. Plastic replicas on sale in the lobby gift shop.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      The Chinese will recover it and put it on display in a Beijing museum. Plastic replicas on sale in the lobby gift shop.

      And charge the USA a littering fee

      • by Teancum (67324)

        And charge the USA a littering fee

        That would be a presumption of a sovereignty claim upon at least a portion of the Moon... and a retroactive claim at that. Besides simply a violation of the Outer Space Treaty, it would also be setting an interesting long-term precedent.... ...a precedent that IMHO the U.S. government wouldn't mind seeing somebody else set at first and be gladly welcomed. If anything, any such littering fee would be gladly paid in full.

        • That would be a presumption of a sovereignty claim upon at least a portion of the Moon...

          Yes, yes it would.

          ...and a retroactive claim at that. Besides simply a violation of the Outer Space Treaty

          And when they discover a valuable exploitable resource, they will withdraw from the treaty..

        • by leuk_he (194174)

          They can charge the US what they like. it would never be a penalty, but money for service.

          In this case polishing the statue, making some more pictures of it in front of the chines space buggy would be far more valueable. (and adding a list of the challenger/discovery flight crew, to point out the failure of the NASA flight program)

          And yes, of course make a 3d scan for a copy/reproduction of it.

          And as of the outer space threaty, if someone finds out a way to make a profit from space mining..... well see Iro [imdb.com]

        • China never signed the Outer Space Treaty. Treaties only "work" for people who agree to it.
          • by Teancum (67324)

            China never signed the Outer Space Treaty. Treaties only "work" for people who agree to it.

            That isn't true. It would help to actually read the list of signatory nations [fas.org] before you make a statement like that.

            Technically it was the Nationalist government of China (aka Taiwan.... acting on behalf of all of China) which originally signed the treaty in 1967, but the People's Republic of China has recognized this particular treaty as international law for which they are also a part. Perhaps a technical nitpick to say they haven't "signed" the treaty, but it still has as much force as any other major



            • http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/t/outer_space
              http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/s/china

              I used a different source to look up signatories.

              You may call it a 'technical nitpick', but the U.N. certainly doesn't consider it as such.
              • by Teancum (67324)

                Well, the U.S. State Department claims that China is a signatory country. They are the ones that really matter, and would likely put up the largest stink if China did something contrary to that treaty.

                BTW, Did you actually read that UN page? It said that China reached "Accession" to the treaty. In other words, they agreed to the terms of the treaty after the formal negotiation and ratification by the original signers. They are still bound by the terms of the treaty, according to the very link you were u

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That statue sits next to a plaque that has the names of 14 American and Russian cosmo/astronauts who gave their lives in the pursuit of space travel, do you really think the PRC is going to disrupt something like that? It disturbs me how lightly many seem to treat this, even calling it littering, very disrespectful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PPH (736903)

        do you really think the PRC is going to disrupt something like that?

        Of course not. That would offend our Western sensitivity to foreign cultures. Just like the Elgin marbles and all the other SWAG our forefathers hauled back from journeys of exploration. Or carving the heads of four white guys on to the side of a sacred mountain (just so I'm not pointing the finger at one country).

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        If anything, I'd expect them to place a slightly updated plaque next to it with the additional lives lost in pursuit. Two shuttle crews, mostly.

    1. Convince a cosmonaut to take an item to the Moon and leave it there.
    2. Ride the post-landing enthusiasm by selling millions of copies of the item.
    3. PROFIT

    Whether this was, indeed, the intention or not, it could've been suspected. Indeed, TFA says, Van Hoeydonck was "accused of profiteering from the public space program". I personally see nothing particularly wrong with such "profiteering", but I would not work for the government either...

    • by cusco (717999)

      Coincidentally I was just reading Al Worden's book (the Command Module pilot for the mission). The agreement that the astronauts had with stamp suppliers and the sculpture artist was the same as previous astronaut crews had; that nothing would be sold until the entire crew had retired from the space program or had passed away. Of course stamp collectors being what they are they couldn't just sit on their treasure while the value gradually decreased, and the resulting tempest in a teapot damaged the reputa

    • Profiteering from art dedicated to astronauts who died in the pursuit of science seems particularly tasteless.

      • by mi (197448)

        Profiteering, actually, is defined [princeton.edu] as:make an unreasonable profit, as on the sale of difficult to obtain goods

        So, selling copies of the statues — at the normal price for such trinkets — would not be profiteering by definition. This is why I put the word in quotes... No doubt, people, who think "profit" is a dirty word, failed to notice...

  • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @11:12AM (#45811961)

    The sculpture was meant to commemorate the dead astronauts and cosmonauts, not to promote the guy who made it. Van Hoeydonck failed to understand this, and that was his undoing.

    • Indeed.

      It seems almost poetic, in a way. He was shuffled into obscurity for trying to become famous. I can't help but feel that, had he remained utterly silent about creating the sculpture, he would be even more famous now. People love discovering unsung heroes, especially on the internet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Any fucking moron is allowed to make money off just about anything, only artists are apparently supposed to starve for the rest of their lifes. No wonder we live in such a trash world.

      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @11:55AM (#45812163)
        And what about honoring agreements that are made? Are artists so special that they are allowed to ignore them? From Scott's perspective, he had an agreement with sculptor Van Hoeydonck to make the original and the copy as the only two to be made as they were memorials to fallen astronauts. Van Hoeydonck contends that they were for all of mankind and thus he can make and sell as many copies as he wanted. This is no different from any commissioned work of art; the artist doesn't get to make as many copies as he/she wants.
        • by immaterial (1520413) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @12:30PM (#45812343)
          That's Scott's side of the story. Since we weren't there and they didn't put anything in writing, we can't know who is telling the truth. Most likely when they discussed the art and it's placement they both left unsaid the things they thought were obvious - and what is obvious to an artist (I get credit for my work) and obvious to an astronaut with a strong spiritual sensibility (this is going to be subtle and dignified) are two very different things.

          Your claim of a "commissioned work of art" is wrong, because it was the artist that went to THEM to get them to put his work up there. Look at the artist's reaction to being called "the workman" - "then you might as well call Scott 'the postman.'" It was in reality a collaboration, but one where both sides unfortunately had different expectations.
          • Your claim of a "commissioned work of art" is wrong, because it was the artist that went to THEM to get them to put his work up there. Look at the artist's reaction to being called "the workman" - "then you might as well call Scott 'the postman.'" It was in reality a collaboration, but one where both sides unfortunately had different expectations.

            What does it matter who went to whom? The only thing that matters is if they had an agreement (just like any other contract). If they agreed that there would be only so many copies, then that's all that matters. The article makes it clear that there were initially only three public copies (two of which were made after the Apollo 15) and two prototypes. It seems from the article that the Van Hoeydonck wanted more credit but that Scott maintained that there an agreed anonymity. A year ater Apollo 15, Van

            • by fatphil (181876)
              > there were initially only three public copies (two of which were made after the Apollo 15)

              I'd say that meant that there was initially only one, not three.
        • And what about honoring agreements that are made? Are artists so special that they are allowed to ignore them? From Scott's perspective, he had an agreement with sculptor Van Hoeydonck to make the original and the copy as the only two to be made as they were memorials to fallen astronauts. Van Hoeydonck contends that they were for all of mankind and thus he can make and sell as many copies as he wanted.[. . .]

          I know this depends on stereotyping to some degree but:

          Have you ever worked with the engineering type whose rational demeanor and levelheadedness allows for the calm deliberate action one must take in the face of rapidly changing potentially deadly environmental conditions?

          Being on /., I'm going to take a guess you have.

          Now, have you ever worked with the artistic type whose sensibilities are attuned to impossible-to-quantify and difficult-to-articulate aesthetic contours and dimensions of plastic art, whose

          • Could these two types of people ever have a "meaningful" enduring contract sealed only with words and a handshake?

            Well there are more than two types of people. Another type is an arbiter whose job is to decide in disagreements like this i.e. judges. Those types would see that if the two had a contract, then the artistic type doesn't get to ignore it simply because they want to do so.

        • by Toad-san (64810)

          And he still doesn't get it. At the Smithsonian event (barely attended by 40 people, probably mostly the artist's entourage):

          "Van Hoeydonck retells the origin story of Fallen Astronaut with a mix of pride and hurt. He is still upset at having to remain quiet after Apollo 15. "

          It's a crappy little piece of work, I must say. I submit that I (and probably any of you) could guide a 12-year-old into replicating that with some aluminum scrap and a jigsaw.

          Why doesn't someone do that? And politely ask the Chines

    • I would think that the person who made the sculpture knows best what it was meant for.

      • by garyok (218493)

        You're assuming that the art is solely the product of the sculptor but it's not. The piece is a collaboration between Scott and Van Hoeydonck. Without Scott to commission (in whatever sense), transport, and arrange the installation, then neither the sculpture or the the plaque (Van Hoeydonck's sense of artistic fulfillment notwithstanding) would have had a lot of significance.

        If you want to get all classical greek about it, Van Hoeydonck, controlled the material and formal causes of the installation but S

      • by fatphil (181876)
        I would say the person who commissioned the scupture knows best what it was meant for.

        I say that as someone who has been commissioned to make various artworks. I can confirm that it's a weird feeling walking with muddy shoes all over what you considered to be one of your best works. But it's work for hire - not really my business.
    • by Sique (173459)
      Wrong. That was not how van Hoeydonck got involved in this. And if that was the sole reason, David Scott took the figurine to the Moon, he totally failed to tell van Hoeydonck about it.

      It's not easy to understand something that was never explained to you.

      • by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

        It is not the artist (nor the guy who commissions the piece) who gets to decide what a piece of art is about. They may give their opinion, but in the end it is the public who decides, and in this case they clearly saw it as a memorial.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @11:25AM (#45812023) Homepage Journal

    The most interesting art on the Moon is the full-size replica of the Deutschlandhalle, built on the dark side.

    It's where the Nazi Moon Olympics are held every four years, without any Jesse Owenses to spoil the fun.

  • by obtuse (79208) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @11:26AM (#45812027) Journal

    Is this a promotional piece for the artist? Interesting that van Hoeyndonck's pride isn't in his chubby tuning fork, but in conning other people into doing a tremendous amount of work for him. "I am the only human being who has been able to get a sculpture to the moon." That, and the tendency of the Apollo era astronauts to be stand-up guys, makes me skeptical of skewing all those misunderstandings in his favor. They negotiated pretty carefully with the stamp dealer, but didn't discuss the intention of the piece or marketing of copies or any timeline? I don't feel sorry for the guy, and am a little irked that this promotion will likely make him a pile of money.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Artists that make money during their lifetime by doing art tend to be pretty aggressive. Most consumers of art do not tend to belive living artists should be well compensated, perhaps only thinking that consumables and a minimum wage is required. Artists have to aggressively create a value added.

      We can idealize astronauts and space, but ultimately we are all just humans trying to make a living. Astronauts do this by leveraging the opportunities they were given by the taxpayer. Hard earned opportunitie

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Wrong. Most people do not understand why money should be wasted on crap. Most art today is crap, created by people without without talent or technique. For the last century, artists has strived to alienate the great unwashed masses, and they have succeeded to the point that most people see no esthetic value in it. Today, art is like collecting baseball cards for the rich - the only value is in financial speculation by the Wall Street types that the artistic types despise.

        BTW, the "statue" looks like a poor

    • by cusco (717999)

      The Apollo 15 crew had made the same arrangements as previous crews, that nothing they carried would be sold until all crew members retired from the space program. Unfortunately for them the people they worked with were not as trustworthy as those of previous crews.

  • by freax (80371) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @11:36AM (#45812081) Homepage

    “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.’

  • by danomatika (1977210) on Sunday December 29, 2013 @12:21PM (#45812279)

    Don't forget the allegedly smuggled "Moon Museum" etching on Apollo 12 [popsci.com]. Andy Warhol penis sketch FTW.

    This somewhat bizarre story stems from research conducted by Colombia University historian Gwen Wright, whose PBS show History Detectives unearthed evidence that a tiny, penny-sized ceramic chip etched with six sketches – one each from Warhol, Oldenburg, Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain and Forrest "Frosty" Myers – landed on the moon with the Apollo 12 mission and is still there today.

  • The MTV "Moon Man" would have been far better statue than that piece of junk.
  • Hoax! (Score:1, Funny)

    by mtthwbrnd (1608651)
    No Statue could ever have survived the radiation belt to get to the moon! [/sarc]

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