Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the moon has died and because of that the media have done a little nostalgic look back to the event that made him so famous.
The space race was going on during my childhood. When I was most impressionable, one of man’s most impressive ventures was being enacted. The thrill of manned space “exploration” was still untarnished by familiarity. It was heading towards something exciting that had never been done before – then, not long after Armstrong’s foot hit the surface of the moon, the decline began. People started losing interest.
Only two missions later the space race had lost a lot of its public appeal– until an on-board explosion turned into a potential tragedy and brought attention back to men somewhere between the earth and the moon.
However this time the focus was changed. No longer was the challenge to get them to the alien landscape of the moon – it was to get them back to their own planet safely so they could set their footprints upon earth’s surface again.
Until the explosion, the media had shown little interest in Apollo 13.
I remember following those early missions. I remember the excitement of that first moon landing, and the expert observers predicting man would set foot on mars within the next decade. How quickly the decline set in and exposed the over optimism of those predictions. Not only was the mars venture soon ruled out – interest in the moon was lost. The achievement of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins in Apollo 11 became a peak in mankind’s history instead of a genuinely world changing springboard to greater achievements. It remained a reached destination instead of becoming the first step of a greater journey.
Part of the experience of those moon missions was recorded by Alan Bean, “the only artist to have walked on the moon” (http://www.alanbeangallery.com/ ). I now have quite a substantial library of art books, but one of the very first was Bean’s Painting Apollo, illustrating many of his paintings related to the Apollo missions.
When I bought it my interest was more in their depiction of the Apollo missions than in “art”. However I found some of his painting technique fascinating – how he added significance to the texture to the paintings by using the sole imprint of the boots he wore on the moon’s surface, as well as imprints of tools used on the moon. Some works contain traces of moon dust mixed with the paint as well as fragments of artefacts associated with Bean’s Apollo 12 mission.
Here is a brief video outlining some of his surface preparation prior to applying paint: