Thursday, May 31, 2018

SALE EXTENDED! Final chance to save 50% on a digital subscription.

Support journalism that matters. Save 50% on a Basic or Premium subscription.
© 2018 The Washington Post
1301 K St NW, Washington, DC 20071
You received this email because you are registered on washingtonpost.com or have signed up for a newsletter.
Unsubscribe from Washington Post Special Offer emails.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Speaking of Science: The first artist from another world

Speaking of Science
Sarah Kaplan and Ben Guarino on Science
 

Astronaut and artist Alan Bean stands in front of one of his paintings at the National Air and Space Museum in 2009. (Michael Temchine/For The Washington Post)

Astronaut Alan Bean, who died Saturday at 86, was the fourth person to walk on the moon and the fourth person to visit Skylab — the U.S.'s first space station.

But he was the first person to return from another world and make art about what he saw there.

"I'd never imagined myself as an artist," Bean said in a documentary for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. "And then I thought, you know, I am the only potential artist that's ever been anywhere but this Earth, maybe I can make a contribution in art. Maybe I can tell some stories that would be lost forever."

The paintings Bean created after his retirement from NASA in 1981 were painstakingly precise recreations of his experiences in space. He often pored over photographs and interviewed colleagues to get the details exactly right. Planetary scientist Phil Metzger, who once interviewed Bean for a study on Apollo 12, recalled on Twitter that the astronaut even built a diorama of the landing site to make sure the shadows and perspective in his paintings were accurate.

This photograph of the eclipse of the sun was taken from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its trans-Earth journey home from the moon. (NASA Johnson Space Center)

Many of the paintings also bear a physical link to Bean's time on the moon. For some works, he textured the wet paint using soil tools like the ones he used during his mission. Other paintings are marked by footprints — Bean walked across them wearing the same boots that trod the surface of the moon. These tiny traces of another world made his work "special," Bean told Astronomy magazine — something no other artist on Earth could create.

Likewise, Metzger pointed out in his Twitter thread, Bean depicted the world of the moon as no other astronaut could. Though 11 other people visited Earth's only satellite, Bean went there with an artist's eye as well as a scientist's mind.

-- Sarah

ADVERTISEMENT
A stone crushed a man fleeing a volcano. Archaeologists just found his 2,000-year-old remains.
The man might have survived the first blast of Mount Vesuvius, only to be crushed by a stone block launched by the volcanic cloud.
 
NASA astronaut reveals the lows of space travel: packing poop with her hand
The toilet on the International Space Station looks like a wet vac crammed into a fridge and "flushes" only once every 10 days.
 
These bugs' babies get eaten by birds but it might be for their own good
Stick insect eggs may survive passing through a bird's digestive tract — a weird way to spread into new habitats.
 
Antarctica has enormous mountain ranges and valleys deep beneath its ice
Scientists discovered three massive valleys underneath West Antarctica; one has a length that's nearly the distance between Washington, D.C., and New York City.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The catastrophe that killed the dinosaurs created a global hothouse for 100,000 years, study says
Earth got roasted, frozen and then slow-cooked in cascading disasters after the Chicxulub impact.
 
These white animals are struggling to hide in a world with less snow
It's camouflage mismatch: White fur is a stealthy trait in snow and a vulnerability without it.
 
How deadlines thwart our ability to do important work (and what we can do about it)
Urgent tasks can get in the way of the most important things in life.
 
Scientists plan to scour Loch Ness for the elusive monster's DNA
"It really does resonate with people of all cultures all around the world," said the project leader — a Nessie skeptic. "I honestly don't know why. "
 
 
Recommended for you
 
 
Get The Energy 202 newsletter
Your daily guide to the energy and environment debate.
Sign Up  »
©2018 The Washington Post  |  1301 K St NW, Washington DC 20071