Title: FALLEN ASTRONAUT
Author: Paul van Hoeydonck
Location: The Moon, Hadley Rille
Year complete: 1971 – August 1st
Description: Aluminum sculpture – 8.5 centimeters in length
Prior to the launch of the Apollo 15 lunar mission, astronaut David Scott was attending a dinner party. Also in attendance that evening was the Belgian painter and printmaker, Paul van Hoeydonck. This was especially pleasing to Scott for he was on the search for someone to commission a small monument. After some discussing, it was agreed upon that Hoeydonck would create a small statuette for Scott to place on the moon.
Scott’s purpose for this all was to commemorate and memorialize all of the astronauts and cosmonauts who had lost their lives in any means relating to space exploration. In addition to Hoeydonck’s statuette of the abstract astronaut, Scott designed and made a plaque which held the names of the fourteen men known at the time to have so died.
With the commission completely by the crew of the Apollo 15 mission, Hoeydonck was given a set of design specifications in which to follow when formulating his design. The sculpture was to be extremely lightweight, yet sturdy. It had to be capable of withstanding the extreme temperatures that take place on the Moon. It could not be identifiable as either a male or a female, and it couldn’t identify with and specific ethnic group.
During the commissioning and placing of the memorial, the crew managed to keep the existence of the memorial a secret. It wasn’t until after the completion of their mission that the knowledge of the memorial became public.
After public disclosure of the memorial took place, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. both requested and received a replica of the statue.
During the Broadcast of the Apollo 16 lunar launch, the memorial was mentioned. It was considered to be the first art installation on the Moon. This displeased both Scott and Hoeydonck, for they didn’t want to the piece to be seen as art, but more as a memorial. However, this wasn’t the only reason Hoeydonck was upset. During the entire process, Hoeydonck’s name was left out intentionally, and to made public as to avoid the commercial exploitation of the US government’s space program. Seeking acknowledgment, Hoeydonck made plans to make and sell more replicas of the piece and this time they would be signed by the artist, himself. After Scott gained knowledge of this, he urged Hoeydonck not to continue for it would be in violation of the spirit of their agreement as well as NASA’s policy against commercial exploitation of the space program.