During the first Moon landing, the world stood transfixed in amazement. In the intervening decades, only 10 more people set foot on the Moon, leaving the future of tangible space exploration in question. We need to reawaken the sense of sublime wonder fundamental to our relationship with the Cosmos and create meaningful artifacts that extend the reach of the human footprint.
In 2016, Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotic Institute will send a rover to the Moon in competition for the Google Lunar X Prize. Legendary roboticist and founder of Astrobotic, Inc., William L. “Red” Whittaker, has invited a team of artists to join this expedition and has reserved payload space for such a meaningful artifact. Whittaker’s consortium has already won $1.75 million from Google in support of their plans to reach the Moon nearly ensuring the viability of their quest. During this mission, the lander, which will remain on the moon indefinitely, will house a non-encyclopedic view of humanity and life on earth – the MoonArk – intended to be a Cultural Heritage Site.
Led by renowned space artist and art professor at Carnegie Mellon (“CMU”), Lowry Burgess, a team of international artists, scientists, designers and engineers involved with emerging media, new and ancient technologies, as well as hybrid processes have developed a deep human gift and gesture for the Moon. The MoonArk contains elements representing all the Arts and Humanities (art, architecture, design, music, drama, ballet, and poetry) – all engaging the most advanced sciences, engineering, technologies, and material science from the nano- and micro- scales towards the infinite scales, including ongoing deep space radio-wave transmissions. This gift will take the form of four elaborately constructed chambers that each hold two engraved sapphire disks, metal sculptures, microcapsules containing evidence of life on earth, high resolution dye sublimation imagery on metal foil, and a variety of information in the form of data, imagery, and physical traces. Together, these four chambers will occupy no more than 6 ounces of payload – an extreme technical feat. A twin of these chambers will also be constructed to be exhibited on Earth.
Professor Burgess’ Moon Arts Group is a collaborative team of CMU students, faculty and alumni working alongside independent artists and professionals and coordinated by the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry in the College of Fine Arts at CMU. The demands of preparing for a mission to the Moon allows for no margin of error and requires the best design, engineering, and fabrication. Lunar Art, integrated into the physical and digital architecture of the lander and the rover, must be sufficiently robust to endure the 238,000 mile journey through space, work reliably under extreme conditions on the lunar surface, and remain operational long after the rover completes its mission to win the prize. When the lander reaches its final resting place, this historic object will become a time-capsule with the potential to last many millions if not billions of years.
CMU’s team of Moon Artists hold degrees and faculty appointments in diverse areas including, but not limited to design, engineering, architecture, chemistry, poetry, music composition and visual art. The range of materials and emergent technologies employed in the Moon Arts Project reflects the integration of the team’s diverse knowledge, their expertise, and resourcefulness. Several of the projects have already catalyzed the invention of new technologies, applications for rarified materials and specialized applications.
Following the landing and exploration of the Rover on the Moon (a two week process), there will be exhibitions of the Moon Arts Project in Paris and 10 other European cities curated by Jean Luc Soret, a photography and new media art curator at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris. He is the artistic director and co-founder of the @rt Outsiders International Festival, launched at MEP in 2000 and devoted to works at the intersection of the arts, sciences, and technology.