20 July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s first moon landing in the Sea of Tranquillity, one of the most challenging adventures in human history. During six NASA missions from 1969 to 1972, a roll-call of twelve men landed, walked, drove and worked on the moon: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charles Duke, Harrison Schmitt, and Eugene Cernan. The successive Apollo crews brought a wealth of scientific instruments to the moon´s surface and performed hundreds of experiments, monitored from Earth by radio telemetry, which have revolutionized our understanding of the celestial body and its relationship to Earth. However, the most significant tangible objects obtained from the moon landings and the Apollo program may well be those photos showing how our Earth appears from the surface of the moon. Looking homeward from that great distance and seeing the Earth as a tiny precious oasis of life lost in the vastness of space has generated a totally new sense of what it means to be human. The Apollo program has created a very profound shift in our anthropological perspective, as suddenly and for the first time we can actually see that we are all one planet and one intricately interconnected ecosystem.
The artwork “lunar explorers” is a homage to the first moon landing 50 years ago and the twelve moonwalkers, the most important explorers of the last century. Equipped with Hasselblad cameras, the Apollo astronauts took thousands of photographs; these unprocessed versions of original NASA scans are the source material on which this artwork is based. The composition of the lunar landscape highlights the emptiness of the virgin territory but also the first scientific human activities on another celestial body. The artwork shows the twelve astronauts walking and working together on the lunar surface, conducting experiments, collecting rock samples, driving around with the lunar rover and taking pictures. The left panel of the triptych features the crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin while the right panel shows the Apollo 17 crew, Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon thus far. The centrepiece is given to the other eight astronauts and their diverse activities and technical installations. The grey tones of the arid lunar landscape contrast with the shimmering blue of the Earth which appears as a far distant home while the antenna of the Lunar Roving Vehicle directed at Earth seems a point of connection between our home planet and these extra-terrestrial activities. For centuries, fascination with the moon has created an ideal realm in which our imaginations and phantasies about the expansion of human presence in outer space may freely roam. The moon landing was such a tremendously inspirational event because it demonstrated that human beings can accomplish seemingly impossible ventures when they come together and work together for something that’s much bigger than themselves. Of the 12 Apollo astronauts shown in this artwork, only four are still alive today.