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New Space as Art

I had a rather enjoyable evening at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History last night. Quite an unusual event, although perhaps not so unusual for a community that hosts the Skunkworks, is not all that far from Edwards Air Force Base and NASA Dryden Research Facility… not to mention the Mojave Spaceport where there is a higher density of folks working in New Space than in any other spot on the planet.

So. What was so special? Perhaps the proverbial picture (of the main room of the Art Exhibit) is worth a thousand words.

An early XCOR rocketship and several rocket engines are the central attraction of the art show.

An early XCOR rocketship and several rocket engines are the central attraction of the art show. Copyright DMA, All Rights Reserved.

A work from Doug Jones'  Middle Period.

A work from Doug Jones’ Middle Period. Copyright DMA, All Rights Reserved.

Yep. There is a strong wing of the Art’s community that is excited about not just the concept of the adventure, but also the sheer beauty of the creations of engineers in the field. As major exhibitors, we were part of the after exhibit dinner in the museum and us rocket guys got on great with the artists. I found many of them think the ‘two cultures’ was a farce that needs to end. From my conversations I would say it was no accident some of the works refered to Leonardo da Vinci.

I also was quite surprised at one exhibit item that was a reproduction of the original. Gob-smacked might be a better word. It seems that a tiny art museum was smuggled on board Apollo 12. A tiny metal rectangle contained six even tinier works by 6 artists, among whom were Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. Yes folks, there is an original, albiet tiny, work by Andy Warhole still attached to an Apollo landing leg. On the Moon.

After dinner, the remaining crew, made up entirely of artists and rocket guys. Sort of. Even us rocket guys gave lie to the two cultures thesis. Doug Jones, a long time reader of Samizdata, was a stand up comic for awhile. As for myself I was in the music business professionally for many years.

XCOR engineer Doug Weathers and his wife Anne discussing the EZ-Rocket cockpit with Lancaster artist and teacher Monica Mahoney.

XCOR engineer Doug Weathers and his wife Anne discussing the EZ-Rocket cockpit with Lancaster artist and teacher Monica Mahoney. Copyright DMA, All Rights Reserved.

After the entire group of artists and XCORians were filmed flying about the exhibit room pretending to be airplanes… yes artists have fun doing silly surreal things… we headed for Bex’s bar across the street where a marvelous time was had by all as we sat outside in a perfect desert evening talking art and space flight.

I also talked to one businessman who is a big arts supporter and a fed up Republican who has a solid dislike for the religious right. He asked a key question: How are Libertarians different from Conservatives? I think the illegal Edison Light Bulb went on over his head when I explained.

Naturally I was the last one of the crew to leave the bar. Those old music biz habits die hard.

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7 comments to New Space as Art

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Very nice, but why is no-one working on an electric rocket? rechargeable, of course!

  • llamas

    The engineer’s precept that ‘if it looks right, it probably is’ is not so very far from the artist’s sensibility.

    Geoffrey de Havilland was well-known for taking this position, and another of his contemporaries (Handley-Page, perhaps?) famously refused to use a wind-tunnel for aerodynamic development, insisting that a skilled and experienced designer could tell by looking if a design would ‘work’. He wasn’t always right, of course, but still . . . .



  • Bod

    Well, GdH was damn right on the Mosquito.

    This serves as a perfect segue to scratch one persistent itch of mine – is one of our esteemed hosts in any way connected to GdH?

  • M. Thompson

    Art and engineering are both demonstrate how we work with others and the world.

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    Yes, he is. Perry’s uncle I think.

  • jsallison


    This does much to explain the H-P Heyford, or it’s derivative, the Humbley-Pudge Smudge.

  • llamas

    I checked online and it was not Frederick Handley Page. I will look out the book when I get home and find out who it was.