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There is plenty of art ABOUT space, but this video explores art ACTUALLY IN space. Learn about cosmonauts sketching orbital sunrises, the Moon Museum, Carl Sagan's Golden Record, and the sculptures currently orbiting Earth today, among other works of space art. Journey over to It's Okay to Be Smart to watch their Summer of Space episode:

Thanks to our Grandmasters of the Arts Vincent Apa and Ernest Wolfe, and all of our patrons, especially Iain Eudaily, Patrick Hanna, Nichole Hicks, Eve Leonard, David Moore, Frame Monster Design Laboratory, Jane Quale, Constance Urist, and Nicholas Xu. To support our channel, visit:

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You may know that the first human to spacewalk was cosmonaut Alexei Leonov.

But did you know that he was also the first human to make art in space? In 1965, while wedged into the tight quarters of the Soviet space program's Voskhod 2,.

Leonov sketched an orbital sunrise with some colored pencils he'd customized by attaching them to a box with thread. He later made a painting of his experience of floating above the earth. But we're not going to focus on that because that's just art about space, and today we're talking about art actually in space.

Which there's been a lot more of than you'd think. NASA was established in 1958 and created an art program just four years later, commissioning portraits of astronauts and inviting artists to visit their facilities and document their efforts. NASA thought it was important to commemorate these historic events, and expected artists, in the words of program advisor and National Gallery director John Walker, “…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race.” NASA's art program produced great work then, and continues to this day, taking seriously the mission established at its outset.

But the first time a work of art was created on earth to be sent into space was maybe, possibly in 1969, when Apollo 12 launched on November 14, and may have carried with it, a tiny ceramic chip just like this one. Artist Forrest Myers had the idea to get six artists together and make a miniature museum to put on the moon. To contribute he tapped Andy Warhol, who made this drawing that is supposed to be his initials.

AW but also really looks like both a rocket and male genitalia. David Novros and John Chamberlain made circuitry inspired drawings. Claes Oldenburg made his signature Mickey-Mouse-like figure, which he had explored before and would stick with after.

And Robert Rauschenberg wows with a single hand drawn line.

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Although to be fair, he had made some cool work through the NASA Art Program that same year. And Myers himself contributed a symbol he called “interconnection.” So how this came to be was that Myers was part of a group called E.

A. T., or Experiments in Art and Technology, founded by Rauschenberg along with artist Robert Whitman and Bell. Labs engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer.

The whole point was to see what would happen when you brought together artists and engineers. And Waldhauer helped inscribe the postage-stamp-sized, iridium-plated ceramic wafers with the same cutting edge technology then used to make telephone circuits. Waldhauer also had a friend at Grumman Corporation who was working on the moon lander, and who remains unknown but reported back that the chip did successfully make its way on the mission, signing off with the likely-to-be-a-pseudonym “John F”.

If it did make it on board, it's thought that the chip is somewhere between blanket layers on a leg of the module, along with the family photos and other small safe, lightweight items secretly placed there by those working on the spacecraft. You're seeing such good pictures of it because Myers made an edition of about 40 of the chips, so we thankfully have the privilege of knowing what it looks like, while imagining the one maybe possibly resting up there on the moon. We are certain that an artwork was sent into space in 1971 with the Apollo 15 mission.

And that is a small aluminum sculpture titled Fallen Astronaut made by Belgian artist Paul van Hoeydonck. He was commissioned to create a memorial for those who had died in the space exploration effort, and it had to be light, sturdy, and able to withstand extremes of temperature. It also needed to be neutral in terms of gender and ethnicity.

Along with a plaque listing the names of fourteen deceased American and Soviet astronauts, the sculpture was installed on the surface of the moon on August 2, 1971. It was a small but meaningful way to recognize the lost, which also happened to leave us with an extremely potent, apt image of a tiny figure amid a vast landscape. 

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When Pioneer 10 and 11 launched in 1972 and 73, they both carried with them gold-anodized aluminium plaques that were attached to antenna support struts in order to help shield them from erosion by interstellar dust.

The idea has been credited to science reporter Eric Burgess, who presented the concept to. Carl Sagan, who went on to develop the design with help from Sagan's wife Linda and astronomer. Frank Drake, who was involved with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

With NASA's blessing, they had three weeks to resolve the design, which includes a schematic representation of the hyper-fine transition of hydrogen. That's intended to help decode the radial pattern below that describes the relative position of the sun and 14 pulsars to the center of the galaxy. There's also a diagram of the solar system, and the trajectory of the spacecraft past.

Jupiter. Then we've got a silhouette of the spacecraft shown to scale with two figures meant to represent a human man and woman. These were supposedly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man--which would have been hilariously misleading for aliens.

But this depiction was called out as problematic from its outset, the woman's genital region smoothed over because of obscenity concerns, the man being the one to take the lead to give the wave, and the general failure to make the figures appear anything other than Caucasian, something Sagan had hoped to avoid. Anyhow, the whole point was to assist any being who might encounter the craft in figuring out something about where it came from and who put it there. The likelihood of that aside (!), both Pioneer 10 and 11 are still out there.

Hurtling toward different constellations and unlikely to pass near any stars for two to four million years. Sagan was also responsible for the famous Voyager Golden Records that launched in 1977, which--with their spacecraft--are the farthest human-made objects from Earth. Voyager 1 left our Solar System in 2012 and Voyager 2 in 2018, 

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each carrying with them small metal plaques identifying their time and place of origin, and 12-inch gold-plated copper phonographic records, containing sounds and images selected to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials.

It's cover includes handy instructions for how it might be played, and it's contents include a rather beautiful mix of sounds like footsteps and rain, greetings in 55 different languages, music from a variety of traditions, from Beethoven's Fifth to a performance of pan pipes from the Solomon Islands, and a series of understandably low resolution images, which are at turns beautiful and striking and also amusing. Now in the 1980s NASA initiated their “Small, Self-Contained Payloads” program, known as the “Getaway Special,” when they realized they wouldn't make full use of the volume and weight capability on every mission. So they offered individuals and groups the chance to fly small experiments aboard their shuttles, like one in 1986 designed by artist Ellery Kurtz and environmental psychologist.

Howard Wishnow. Four oil paintings by Kurtz were loaded into a test canister, and orbited 98 times around the earth with the space shuttle Columbia, over the course of 6 days. Afterward, the paintings were assessed and found to bear no signs of degradation despite extreme conditions.

Now we know. 1993 brought us the launch of a sculpture by Arthur Woods called Cosmic Dancer, the first 3-dimensional artwork specifically designed to be experienced in microgravity. Made of painted, welded aluminum tubing and weighing just 1 kilogram, Cosmic Dancer was brought to space by the Soyuz-U2 rocket, released on board the Mir space station, and allowed to move about. The intent was to investigate the properties of sculpture in the situation of weightlessness, but also to underline the importance of, in its maker's terms, “bridging the terrestrial and extraterrestrial environments of human civilization.” The possibilities of three dimensional art in space were further explored in 2009 and 2011 with Takuro Osaka's Spiral Top, performed aboard the International Space Station in 

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the Japanese Experiment Module.

It was a spinning top whose LED-illuminated arms created aurora light traces when spun in microgravity, with random shifts in the light arcs due to the object's changing center of gravity. In case you're worried Mars has been neglected on the art front, fret not. The European Space Agency sent a work by Damien Hirst on board the unmanned Beagle 2 on its 2003 Mars Express mission.

Hirst was invited to create one of his signature spot paintings for the flight, this one with a concrete function, as an instrument calibration color chart. He used pigments that could withstand the conditions. And the test card would have been used as a reference chart for scientists back on earth if Beagle 2 hadn't dropped completely out of contact.

It was presumed destroyed, until 2015 when it was spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance. Orbiter on the planet's surface. But it's not the only art out there.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover placed two copies of a digital artwork by Australian artist Stephen Little on the surface of Mars in 2004. And in 2008, the Planetary Society dispatched a collection of recordings to Mars with NASA's. Phoenix Lander.

Conceived as “a message from our world to future human inhabitants of Mars,” the archival silica-glass mini DVD is encoded with messages from earthlings and a collection of writings, art, and radio broadcasts about our knowledge of Mars and visions possible futures there. If this is leaving you a little bummed that you don't have access to a major rocket to get your art into space, please know there are other ways. In 2014, Makoto Azuma launched his work into space using a specially designed balloon and frame from Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

For his series Exobiotanica, Azuma propelled a 50 year old white pine bonsai tree and a bouquet of flowers nearly 100,000 feet into the stratosphere. 

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Six cameras mounted to a frame took stills of the journey, capturing the artist's goal of seeing “what kind of beauty shall be born… by giving up the [plant's] links to life--roots, soil, and gravity.” And in 2016, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding launched what they called their Sound Ship, descender 1, into the stratosphere from New South Wales, Australia. under a specially rated helium balloon that bursts once it reaches zero pressure. The artists designed air blown instruments into the structure so that it would react to air pressure, wind currents, and gravity along its way and produce sound.

It also had multiple tracking and recording systems on board that captured the unique composition, and a parachute was deployed to bring it safely back to earth. The recent expansion of the space game beyond government agencies has been a boon for those hoping to get art out there. A work by Tavares Strachan created in collaboration with the LA County Museum of Art launched in December 2018 on a SpaceX Falcon 9.

Titled Enoch, Strachan's work brings light to the story of Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr, the first African American astronaut selected for any national space program, who died in a plane crash while training in 1967. The satellite holds a 24-carat gold jar topped by a bust of Lawrence, modeled after canopic jars used in ancient Egypt to enshrine organs for entombment. Bringing together a variety of beliefs about the afterlife, the jar was blessed pre-flight at a Shinto shrine in Fukuoka, Japan, designating it as a vessel for Lawrence's soul.

And it's title refers to the biblical Enoch, who was able to forego death and proceed directly to the afterlife. The artist shared his aim “to put someone into space who didn't get the chance to go.” And it is up there, and will continue to circle the Earth for a number of years to come. Not all space art efforts are successful, of course.

Trevor Paglen's Orbital Reflector launched on the same SpaceX rocket as Enoch, but didn't work out quite so well. His was made of polyethylene coated in titanium dioxide, and was designed to be released into orbit 

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and then inflate into a 100 foot-long diamond-shaped balloon. The satellite was supposed to have no other function than being exactly what it was, able to reflect the sun's light and be tracked as point of light in the sky from Earth.

Due to a variety of issues, they didn't get the permission to inflate it at the right time, and now it's just floating somewhere, not quite achieving its goal of encouraging “all of us to look up at the night sky with a renewed sense of wonder, to consider our place in the universe, and to reimagine how we live together on this planet.” But in a way it kind of did, because most of these projects exist in our imaginations more so than in our physical experience. By merely learning about them or seeing pictures, this art can be incredibly effective at reactivating our wonder at the night sky, and our appreciation for our place in the universe. And this isn't even all of it.

Even Space Invader has invaded space. And there is much more in the works, including a project called MoonArk from Carnegie Mellon planned to be sent to the moon aboard an Astrobotic lander in 2021. Weighing only 8 ounces, the tiny sculpture is the collaboration of many and contains hundreds of images, poems, music, nano-objects, mechanisms, and samples from earth.

Yes, all of these projects are very cool and interesting. But what they do for me is underline a key truth. And that's that everything that has ever escaped the atmosphere is art.

The machines and computers that make it happen are art. The insane dedication and cooperation of the whole effort is art, as is the mind power and ingenuity and bravery and innovation it involves. Every photograph that has ever been captured in space is art.

Each image more miraculous and thought-provoking and awe-inspiring than pretty much anything you'll find in a museum. But what art proper has done is help us imagine space, and appreciate it, and deepen our understanding of it. Rather than help us communicate with otherworldly beings, I see the key role of art in space as helping us to learn about ourselves, and our irrepressible drive to bring art with us wherever we go.

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PBS is bringing you the universe with SUMMER OF SPACE, which includes six incredible new science and history shows streaming on and the PBS Video app, along with lots of space-y episodes from PBS Digital Studios creators. Thanks to all of our patrons for supporting the art assignment, especially our grandmasters of the arts, Vincent Apa and Ernest Wolfe. Follow me over to IT'S OKAY TO BE SMART to check out their Summer of Space episode on.