The Apollo 15 mission was launched on July 26, 1971 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Four days later it landed on the moon in the Montes Apenninus. Aboard Apollo 15 was a three-man crew, their various research instruments, and one very special object from Earth – a statuette by the Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeyndonck. This 8.5 centimeter tall figurine, entitled Falling Astronaut, was created as a dedication to those US astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts that are no longer with us. It commemorates the victims of space missions and serves as a monument to mankind’s outstanding achievements beyond national affiliations, as so it is the only work of art on the moon.
The figure represents all space travelers and all mankind, as such it has no ethnic or gender characteristics whatsoever. It’s aluminum build enables it to withstand large temperature fluctuations on the moon. Initially, Van Hoeyndonck had it embedded in an acrylic block, only to find out that this material was at risk to burn during flight. Because of that, it did not meet NASA’s strict requirements and the artist had to change his approach. Now, almost fifty years later, the astronaut figure is floating in his original acrylic block and is obtainable as a highly limited edition.
As a young artist Paul Van Hoeyndonck was fascinated by the vastness of space and the possibilities of space travel. He used various material to create artworks that engaged and reflected upon astronomy and astronautics, its successes and its challenges. He was a cosmic artist at a time when man’s technical wonders were slowly being utilized to explore our universe and its mysteries.
During the 60s, the Belgian artist exhibited at the Waddell Gallery in New York. It was there that they conceived of the idea to bring one of his artworks to the moon. Van Hoeyndonck met the Apollo 15 astronauts at a dinner party, where he convinced them to let the idea soar. The rest is history - a history of galactic art and humanity’s ability to accomplish greatness.