The Power of Art from Space

Image Credit: Soviet Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov’s Painting – Near the Moon (1967)

By: Sarah Cruddas

When we think of space exploration, what comes to mind for many is science. Science and technology and making new discoveries. All of these things are vital. The findings we are making in space are helping us to answer some of the most extraordinary questions of all time, such as: Where did life come from? And are we alone? And What else is ‘out there’?

The science being conducted from space is also significant for life on Earth, astronauts are conducting experiments on the space station which can bring real life benefits to areas such as medicine and material science, to name but a few. And, of course, it goes without saying that space technology advances the speed of technology here on Earth. Simply put we live in a better world because of space.

Yet one aspect which is sometimes overlooked is art. The world we live on would be a rather dull place with no art. Art brings beauty to our surroundings and helps stimulate both emotional and intellectual thoughts. The value of art cannot be measured in the same way as other advances, but throughout human history art has been used to tell a story of the time. From the early cave paintings in prehistoric times to the art of Ancient Egypt, Leonado DaVinci and the war paintings of great battles. You can almost think of it as a time capsule for what life was like.

Today we live in a Space Age. A world transformed by space, from the space receiver in your pocket – yes, that means your smart phone – and the digital technology and satellite TV we use. To the schools and offices decorated by images from space which were once seen as stranger than fiction. Today, space is defining our art. Even the clothes people choose to wear have been influenced by the Space Age, from the metallic futuristic visions showcased by Vogue during the 1960s, to the NASA sweatshirts worn by celebrities and Space Nerds alike. There is a definitive shift in our art because of space.

This matters because not only does it show historically how exploring space started to influence our society, but it helps to inspire people about space. Everyone would have at some point seen an image from the Hubble Space Telescope, or the Apollo missions to the Moon, or the Earth as seen from the International Space Station. These images, like all pieces of art spark curiosity, intellectual thoughts and they often create emotional responses – such as seeing a human being standing on the surface of the Moon and then being able to go outside and look at the Moon with the knowledge that people have been there. To be able to view an image of your home country, taken by your nation’s astronaut from space, with the visceral knowledge that these nation-state boundaries define us less as human beings than the fact that we can all call the same planet home.

Even astronauts have turned to art to express what they see. From the first spacewalker Alexie Leonov, who took coloring pencils to space to create the world’s first art FROM space. To Apollo 12 Moonwalker Al Bean, who turned to art to answer  the often difficult-to-answer question of ‘what was it like on the Moon?’. And modern astronaut artists such as Nicola Stott and Chris Hadfield who beside from his music playing in space, worked on a Japanese experiment to recreate ancient traditional art from orbit. Art helps us tell our story.

Space for Humanity’s goal is to send global citizens to space. Not just scientists and engineers – of course if you are one that’s still ok, but people from all over the globe who may not necessarily have had an opportunity to be involved in space. People from all walks of life who are able to help tell a powerful story to their community, be that through using the art of literature or simply telling their story to inspire their community for the better.

To date fewer than 600 humans have voyaged to space. Almost all of them were scientists, engineers or test pilots first. Imagine what would happen when we are able to send painters, writers and musicians, or sales assistants, carers, office managers, sports players, accountants, lawyers or those whose life path was defined simply by the country they were born into. They might not be a typical space enthusiast, but their lives have already in some way been touched by space. How will these citizen astronauts’ experiences of space travel help them to play a part in recording the story of our time?

As a species we have largely – with the exception of the oceans – explored the Earth. Space is now our next journey. Following a process, no different to what we have seen on Earth – governments have gone in first and now private industry is following (compare this with Christopher Columbus and then later the Mayflowers). But going to space makes sense, curiosity is what defines us as a species and the furthest people have ever traveled is a mere 250,000 miles. When you really think about it, we have barely left our front porch.

If just 600 hundred humans in space, along with a series of incredible robotic missions has inspired and influenced the world in such as profound way, what will happen when that number is double? Triple? Or even ten times? At Space for Humanity, our goal is to be instrumental in increasing that number. Our legacy will be the way that Space for Humanity citizen astronauts communicate their experience to influence the world around them.

In exploring and understanding our universe, we have only just scratched the surface. In order to dig a little deeper we need to work with people across the globe to inspire them about the possibilities and inspiration that comes from space. It is only through working together, as one species, that we will truly move forward in the greatest story that is yet to be told. And it will be these stories and the art created by the next generation of citizens in space – including Space for Humanity astronauts, that will help us to do this.