Science & Technology

Artists create paintings designed to be tempered in space on Blue Origin’s rocket

and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ rocket venture plan to put paintings where virtually no art has gone before: on the side of a rocket ship.

The “canvases” for these works are exterior panels that will be mounted on Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceship, sent to the space frontier during an uncrewed test flight, then returned to Earth for delivery to the .

Two Utah artists known for their realist and surrealist paintings —  and — will come up with creations that are meant to weather the aerodynamically challenging ascent and descent through the atmosphere. Uplift Aerospace has conducted tests to ensure that the paint’s adhesion, integrity and relative coloration will endure the rigors of space travel. But the tests also suggest that the trip will alter the art. And that’s OK.

“The Mona Lisa would not move today’s viewer quite so poignantly without the telltale signs of its now centuries-old story and its emergence from the brush of a Renaissance master,” Dakota Bradshaw, a museum specialist who’s associated with the project, . “Journey and story will also leave a unique and indelible mark on Uplift Aerospace’s first artwork to return from space travel.”

Josh Hanes, the owner of Utah-based Uplift Aerospace, made the arrangements with Blue Origin and the artists to get the project off the ground. “The idea that the artwork will be lit by distant galaxies, with Earth as a backdrop, is a beautiful visualization — and I think this characteristic will allow viewers a closer connection with the cosmos and the precious planet we call home,” Hanes said.

The artists worked with engineers and experts on space materials to concoct their creations. “I like to create art as a mix of traditional imagery with modern elements,” Pugh said. “Painting with a classical approach on the side of a rocket is an exciting way to merge the traditional with the modern.”

For his part, Hein said it’ll be “thrilling to have an expression of my humanity propelled into outer space.”

“After 18 years of painting, I have been fortunate to show my work all over the world, but I’ve never shown in space,” he said. “It’s truly amazing.”

There are plenty of precedents for space art — whether we’re talking about the late Apollo astronaut, who devoted himself to painting visions of spaceflight after his 1969 trip to the moon; or shuttle astronaut , who painted watercolors during her stint on the International Space Station; or , the earthbound artist who painted “Galactic Girl” on the nose of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane.

Blue Origin got into the act last year with a that was organized with support from OK Go, a geeky band that specializes in viral music videos.

Bezos’ space company hasn’t yet announced when New Shepard will next fly. The most recent test flight took place last December, when the winning entries in the OK Go contest were taken for a ride.

Since then, the has put a giant crimp in Blue Origin’s development timeline. But if it took Michelangelo , Uplift Aerospace’s artists can surely wait a few months for space to put the finishing touch on their paintings.

Update for 9:40 a.m. PT Sept. 5: With Blue Origin’s go-ahead, Uplift Aerospace has released another picture showing what the unpainted panel looks like. This spare panel was used for testing the paint that’ll be used on the real thing:

A post shared by (@upliftaerospace) on Sep 5, 2020 at 5:16am PDT

Uplift Aerospace is currently accepting bids for the New Shepard paintings. for access to the bidding portal and further information about the art.

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