Fallen Astronaut

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Fallen Astronaut and plaque
Paul Van Hoeydonck, 1971
aluminium, height 8.5 cm, 3 in
Hadley Rille, Moon

Fallen Astronaut is an 8.5 cm (slightly over 3") aluminium sculpture of an astronaut in a spacesuit which commemorates astronauts who died in the advancement of space exploration. It is currently at Hadley Rille on the Moon, having been placed there by the crew of Apollo 15.


[edit] History of Sculpture

It was created by Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck, who met astronaut David Scott at a dinner party. Van Hoeydonck was asked to create a small statuette to personally commemorate those astronauts and cosmonauts having lost their lives in the furtherance of space exploration. Van Hoeydonck was given a set of design restrictions: in addition to the physical requirements that the sculpture be both lightweight and sturdy, and that it be capable of withstanding the temperature extremes of the Moon, the statuette could not be identifiably male or female, nor of any identifiable ethnic group. Furthermore, in accordance with Scott's wish to avoid the commercialization of space, Van Hoeydonck's name would not be made public.

[edit] Those listed with sculpture

On August 1, 1971[1], Fallen Astronaut was placed on the Moon by the crew of Apollo 15, along with a plaque bearing the names of eight American astronauts and six Soviet cosmonauts who had died:

Commander of the Apollo 15 mission David Scott notes that "Sadly, two names are missing (from the plaque), those of Valentin Bondarenko and Grigori Nelyubov". Scott explains that because of the secrecy surrounding the Soviet space program at the time, they were unaware of their deaths.

In addition, two USAF astronauts who died in 1967, Michael James Adams who died in a X15 accident and Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., the first black astronaut and part of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program who died in a training accident, were not on the plaque. Both astronauts are remembered on the Space Mirror Memorial.

[edit] Aftermath

After the crew mentioned the statuette during their post-flight press conference, the National Air and Space Museum requested that a replica be made for public display. The crew agreed, under the condition that it was to be displayed "with good taste and without publicity". The replica was given to the Smithsonian Institution on April 17, 1972, the day after CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite revealed, during the broadcast of the Apollo 16 launch, the existence of the "fallen astronaut" and plaque as the first art on the Moon [2]. It is now on display with a replica of the plaque [3] in the Museum's National Mall Building in the Space Race Wing, Gallery 114.

In May 1972, David Scott learned that Van Hoeydonck planned to make more replicas and sell them. Feeling that this would be a violation of the spirit of their agreement, Scott tried to persuade Van Hoeydonck to refrain. It was advertised, in a full-page advertisement in the July 1972 issue of "Art in America" magazine[4][5], that 950 replicas of the "Fallen Astronaut" figurine signed by the sculptor were going to be sold by the Waddell Gallery of New York at a price of $750 apiece.[6], a second edition at a lower but unspecified price, and a catalog edition at $5.[7]

After the negative comments from NASA regarding the intended sale, Van Hoeydonck retracted his permission for it and none were sold.[8]

In a letter of September 2007 Paul Van Hoeydonck writes that only 50 copies were ever made and that most of those are still in his possession, unsigned. With the exception of one copy, Van Hoeydonck writes that he had never received any money for a statue of the Fallen Astronaut despite many offers to do so.[9]

Van Hoeydonck recalls a different set of events leading to the creation of the artifact. According to an interview with the artist in Belgian newspaper De Morgen, the statue was supposed to be a representation of all mankind, not simply fallen astronauts or cosmonauts. Ultimately, he has stated, Van Hoeydonck did not know the statue would be used as a memorial for the fallen spacegoers.[citation needed]

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