Somewhere in the Hadley–Apennine region of the moon, near the Apollo 15 landing site, sits a small aluminum sculpture: an abstract representation of a human form, its surroundings as desolate as the rest of the moon save for the glove prints left by astronaut Dave Scott as he placed it and a small plaque with fourteen names on it in the lunar dust, which formed a lonely gallery for humanity’s first extraterrestrial memorial. For Dave Scott, the intent behind the creation and “installation” of this work of art, which has come to be known as “The Fallen Astronaut,” was clear and heartfelt. When Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck approached Scott with an interest in making artwork to be sent to the moon, Scott saw it as an opportunity to create a memorial in honor of the men who had died in the pursuit of space exploration. The plaque carried the name of fourteen astronauts and cosmonauts who had died at the time in service. These many men were represented by the sculpture, a prone astronaut looking upwards forever towards the stars.
The Fallen Astronaut serves as an acknowledgement of the dangers of exploration and of the sacrifices made by the people who made it possible for us to explore. Gus Grissom, one of the fourteen men whose names are written beside The Fallen Astronaut, had said, “If we die, we want people to accept it. We’re in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.“ Each one of the 400,000 people who worked on Apollo had their own thoughts and feelings about the program, as did each of the millions of spectators who though television and radio and newsprint became participants themselves. The personal experiences of every one of the people who lived through the age of humanity’s early exploration of our planetary neighborhood can never be captured in any one single piece of art. But the ideas that have endured throughout human history about our relationship to moon and our need to explore are as persistent as our desire for expression and our need to create. Fallen Astronaut represent the part of the journey that looks inward at the motivations and sacrifices involved.