Fallen Astronaut is a 3.5-inch (8.9 cm) aluminum sculpture created by Paul Van Hoeydonck. It is a small stylized figure, meant to depict an astronaut in a spacesuit, intended to commemorate the astronauts and cosmonauts who have died in the advancement of space exploration. It was commissioned and placed on the Moon by the crew of Apollo 15 at Hadley Rille on August 1, 1971, next to a plaque listing the 14 men known who died. The statue lies horizontal on the ground among several footprints.
|Dimensions||8.9 cm (3.5 in)|
|Location||Moon, Hadley Rille|
The crew kept the memorial's existence a secret until after completion of their mission. After public disclosure, the National Air and Space Museum requested a replica of the statue. Controversy soon followed, as Van Hoeydonck claimed a different understanding of the agreement made with the astronauts and attempted to sell up to 950 copies of the statue. He finally relented under pressure from NASA, which had a strict policy against commercial exploitation of the US government space program.
Prior to his Apollo 15 lunar mission, astronaut David Scott met Belgian painter and printmaker Paul Van Hoeydonck at a dinner party. It was there agreed that Van Hoeydonck would create a small statuette for Scott to place on the Moon, though their recollections of the details differ. Scott's purpose was to commemorate those astronauts and cosmonauts who had lost their lives in the furtherance of space exploration, and he designed and separately made a plaque listing 14 American and Soviet names. Van Hoeydonck was given a set of design specifications: the sculpture was to be lightweight but sturdy, capable of withstanding the temperature extremes of the Moon; it could not be identifiably male or female, nor of any identifiable ethnic group. According to Scott, it was agreed Van Hoeydonck's name would not be made public, to avoid the commercial exploitation of the US government's space program. Scott got permission from top NASA management prior to the mission to take the statue aboard his spacecraft, but did not disclose it publicly until a post-mission press conference.
Van Hoeydonck gives a different account of the agreement: according to an interview in Belgian newspaper Le Soir, the statue was supposed to be a representation of all mankind, not only fallen astronauts or cosmonauts. He claimed he did not know the statue would be used as a memorial for the fallen space-goers, and the name given to the work was neither chosen nor approved by him; he had intended the figure to be left standing upright. He also denies it was agreed he would remain anonymous. Both his and Scott's versions of events are given in an article in Slate magazine in 2013.
Placement on the Moon
Astronaut David Scott secretly placed the Fallen Astronaut statue on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission, near the completion of his work on August 1, 1971, along with a plaque bearing the names of eight American astronauts and six Soviet cosmonauts who had died in service:
|Theodore C. Freeman||October 31, 1964||aircraft accident|
|Charles A. Bassett II||February 28, 1966||aircraft accident|
|Elliot M. See Jr.|
|Virgil I. Grissom||January 27, 1967||Apollo 1 fire|
|Roger B. Chaffee|
|Edward H. White II|
|Vladimir M. Komarov||April 24, 1967||Soyuz 1 re-entry parachute failure|
|Edward G. Givens Jr.||June 6, 1967||automobile accident|
|Clifton C. Williams Jr.||October 5, 1967||aircraft accident|
|Yuri A. Gagarin||March 27, 1968||aircraft accident|
|Pavel I. Belyayev||January 10, 1970||illness|
|Georgiy T. Dobrovolsky||June 30, 1971||Soyuz 11 re-entry|
|Viktor I. Patsayev|
|Vladislav N. Volkov|
Scott photographed the memorial but waited for a post-mission press conference to publicly disclose its existence. He noted, "Sadly, two names are missing, those of Valentin Bondarenko and Grigori Nelyubov." He explained that the western world was unaware of their deaths because of the secrecy surrounding the Soviet space program at the time. Also missing was Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first black astronaut and a U.S. Air Force officer selected for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program who was killed in a training accident in 1967.
The crew disclosed the statuette's existence during their press conference, and the National Air and Space Museum requested that a replica be made for public display. The crew agreed on the condition that it be displayed "with good taste and without publicity". They gave the replica to the Smithsonian Institution on April 17, 1972, the day after CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite referred to the Fallen Astronaut and plaque as the first art installation on the Moon during the broadcast of the Apollo 16 launch.
In May 1972, Scott learned that Van Hoeydonck planned to make and sell more replicas. He believed that this would be a violation of the spirit of their agreement and of NASA's policy against commercial exploitation of the space program, and he tried to persuade Van Hoeydonck to refrain. Van Hoeydonck placed a full-page advertisement in the July 1972 issue of Art in America magazine offering 950 replicas of Fallen Astronaut signed by the sculptor, sold by the Waddell Gallery of New York for $750 each, a second edition at a lower, unspecified price, and a catalog edition at $5. Van Hoeydonck retracted his permission for the replicas after receiving complaints from NASA, but not before one was sold. Using a box numbered 200/950 and prepared for the limited edition, a sample figure was sold to a Morgan Stanley investment banker who collected space artifacts and works of art. The sale was verified by Van Hoeydonck following an investigation that began in 2015 when the piece in question surfaced on eBay. It was bought by a noted collector living in the UK.
On September 11, 2007, art journalist Jan Stalmans wrote to Van Hoeydonck, asking him how many replicas were in existence. Van Hoeydonk returned a handwritten response on the letter that 50 copies had been made, most of which were still in his possession unsigned.
In January 2019, Van Hoeydonck and Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot Al Worden announced the sale of a limited edition replica inside a blue acrylic block, as Van Hoeydonck originally intended, which would have allowed the statue to be placed upright on the Moon to "symbolize humanity rising" via space travel. NASA had rejected the acrylic enclosure's inclusion on the flight as a fire hazard. A smaller number of enlarged sculptures are also to be sold.
- List of artificial objects on the Moon
- List of spaceflight-related accidents and incidents
- List of extraterrestrial memorials
- Space Mirror Memorial
- Powell & Shapiro 2013
- "Sculpture, Fallen Astronaut". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- Le Soir & 17 July 2009, p. 19
- "2 Added Moonshots Called for by Scott". Hartford Courant. Hartford, Connecticut. Associated Press. August 13, 1971. p. 5 – via Newspapers.com.
- Leonov & Scott 2013, p. 313
- Oberg, James (February 23, 2005). "The Unsung Astronaut". NBC News. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
- "Sculpture, Fallen Astronaut". si.edu.
- Haugland, Vern (July 22, 1972). "Space Agency Deplores Sale Of High-Price Moon Statues". The San Bernardino Sun. 26 (30). Associated Press. pp. 1–2 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection.
- Check-Six.com – Fallen Astronaut – includes copy of July 1972 Art in America ad
- "NASA News Release 72-189". Collectspace.com. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
- Wieck, Paul (July 25, 1972). "Anderson Will Probe Unauthorized Sales". Albuquerque Journal. p. 16.
- Van den Bussche 1980, pp. 16–17
- Corneille, Philip (February 1, 2019). "'Fallen Astronaut' artist offers original idea 'Man in Space' statuettes". collectSPACE. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
- Powell, Corey S.; Shapiro, Laurie Gwen (December 16, 2013). "The Sculpture on the Moon". Slate.
- du Brulle, Christian; Vantroyen, Jean-Claude; Maury, Pierre (July 17, 2009). "Une œuvre d'art sur la Lune ? Quelle extraordinaire galerie ! Quelle fascinante cimaise ! Quel rêve inaccessible". Le Soir (in French). Retrieved December 20, 2013.
- Van den Bussche, Willy (1980). Paul van Hoeydonck. Tielt: Lannoo. ISBN 90-209-0885-5.
- Leonov, Alexei; Scott, David (2013). Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 978-1480449237.