Odysseus mission puts Jeff Koons artwork on the Moon

Moon's surface
Moon's surface Copyright Canva
By Jonny Walfisz
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The first ever commercial spacecraft has now landed on the Moon. On board, it carried sculptures from the American artist Jeff Koons.

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Intuitive Machines, a Houston, Texas-based aerospace company has landed its Odysseus robot near the lunar south pole. The landing is significant as it marks the first time an American craft has reached the Moon’s surface since 1972.

It is also the first time that a privately owned spacecraft has reached the Moon, with all previous attempts being made by government space agencies such as NASA. Although the mission itself was a collaboration between Intuitive Machines, NASA and SpaceX.

Odysseus has been sent to research lunar dust, and scope out the southern pole for signs of ice. On board Odysseus was also a unique cultural piece.

Designed by renowned American sculptor Jeff Koons, ‘Moon Phases’ consists of 125 unique stainless steel balls that represent the different phases of the Moon.

‘Moon Phases’ was attached to Odysseus in a box on the outside of the craft. While this element of the piece will remain on the Moon in perpetuity, another component will remain on Earth, with a final component existing in NFT form.

“The artworks within ‘Moon Phases’ are each associated with people who have made accomplishments in human history,” a press release for the piece explains.

Rendering of Jeff Koons: Moon Phases
Rendering of Jeff Koons: Moon PhasesJeff Koons

“The list of names is universal, including individuals from various parts of the world, fields, and time periods, with Plato, Nefertiti, Artemisia Gentileschi, Andy Warhol, Gabriel García Márquez, Mahatma Gandhi, Sojourner Truth, Leonardo da Vinci, Ada Lovelace, David Bowie, and Helen Keller among them. These and other names will be individually displayed in front of the Moon Phases, memorialising the figures on the occasion of the Moon mission. In this way, Koons honours some of the greatest achievements of the past to inspire future generations.”

Are there any other artworks on the Moon?

Koons’ work isn’t the first piece of art to make it to the Moon. Discounting national flags (although they are arguably artworks), the first artwork to be placed on the Moon happened in 1971.

For the Apollo 15 mission, Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck was commissioned to create ‘Fallen Astronaut’, an aluminium sculpture of a stylised astronaut.

The 8.9cm figure was made to be light, solid and able to resist the extreme temperature variations of the Moon’s surface. It was placed by David Scott, on 1 August 1971 alongside a commemorative plaque with the names of eight US astronauts and six Soviet cosmonauts.

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