Week 8: Space, the Disappearing Frontier by Simon Wiscombe

Star Trek’s adage, the Space is the final frontier left to conquer, seems somewhat commonplace in today’s society. In fact, it has become so commonplace that people have often forgotten its meaning. The idea that space is a place of discovery and endless possibilities is slowly dwindling as more and more negative PR is flushed into the public. With billions of dollars being thrown at it, NASA seems to only be able to associate itself with disasters than successes. None of NASA’s current projects come even close to invigorating the sense of excitement that overwhelmed the public in the 1960s about space. The only missions that people have heard about are the recent ones to Mars. The other great missions that they’ve put on in 2008 alone (Mars Radar, MARVELS, GRAIL, FGST, the NanoSail-D, to name a few) are, in a lot of ways, boring. Even in the examples given, the only one that sounds remotely interesting is the NanoSail-D, a solar sail, but this is the most likely to not work, given its history.

I firmly believe that art is the solution. Art must work together with science to peak public interest. Many of the explorations into space are purely for the sake of science, but there is no reason why the explorations into space can’t be used for the sake of art as well! There are so many examples of this becoming a reality. In fact, art in space (or settings that resemble space) seem to come away with fortunes. Take this portrait, for example:

Homage to Francis Bacon by Nasser Azam

Homage to Francis Bacon by Nasser Azam

This painting was done in a zero gravity environment. While not exactly space, it was painted on the “vomit comet,” which simulates zero gravity conditions. And it was a popular piece: it sold for $332,500.

And while artists should use the medium and create in it, there is so much natural beauty to be found. So many images that are beyond what could be created here on Earth, simply by sticking a giant telescope into the sky and taking pictures, images that the world has never seen can be created:

Hubble 2

Hubble 1

I suppose what I’m ranting about is that I’m deathly afraid that space will slowly fall to the wayside, and there’s good reason to believe it may. Despite the boost that NASA received from the stimulus package, many people are becoming less and less interested in the huge price tag associated with space exploration. I’ve reason to believe that space will slowly move away from the government and soon be into the world of personal space travel and tourism.

So if the future of space is secured within the grasp of personal travel, why worry? If your suspicions are correct, you might say, then personal investment in space will spike, and artistic expression in space will bloom as well. This is undeniably true. However, I’m concerned that it won’t get to that point. Space is a frontier that is difficult to tame. NASA, the Russians, and many other countries have failed many times, sometimes costing lives. There is no doubt that private firms, as they attempt what governments before them have achieved, will falter and fail. Space-X, one of the more successful companies, has already done so many times. I believe that art and space must begin their close relationship as soon as possible to keep the public interested as long as possible and the money keeps flowing for those trying to conquer the final frontier.

by Simon Wiscombe

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  1. [...] Simon Wiscombe offers an interesting take on the role of ART in Space in his article: “Space, the Disappearing Frontier” [...]