March 15 – Per Aspera Ad Artibus

Today’s factismal: Apollo 15 left a sculpture on the moon in honor of fallen astronauts.

There’s no getting around it; exploration is a risky business. And space exploration is no exception. We’ve sent some 536 people into space (along with four monkeys, a dog, and a whole bunch of fish) and eighteen of them have died in the attempt while another eight died preparing for the flight.  And even when they aren’t preparing for a trip into space, astronauts live dangerous lives, flying small aircraft, traveling long distances by car, and working with politicians. So it should come as no surprise that there are memorials to fallen astronauts all around the world. But what may come as a surprise that there is a memorial to fallen astronauts on the Moon.

A tree in the astronaut memorial grove at Johnson Space Center (My camera)

A tree in the astronaut memorial grove at Johnson Space Center
(My camera)

When the crew of Apollo 15 left for the Moon, a total of fourteen astronauts had died, either in space or on Earth. And so David Scott, the commander of Apollo 15, decided to create a memorial on the Moon. He worked with Paul Van Hoeydonck, a Belgian artist who was well known for his prints, to create a small figurine of an astronaut. Because the fallen astronauts included people from many races and both sexes, the figure was made so that it didn’t have an identifiable gender or race (not that these are visible in a spacesuit). In addition to Van Hoeydonck’s sculpture, Scott created a small plaque listing the 14 who had died. And when the crew of Apollo 14 got to the Moon, they created a memorial with the plaque and sculpture near Hadley Rille, where it remains to this day.

The Fallen Astronaut Memorial on the Moon (Image courtesy NASA)

The Fallen Astronaut Memorial on the Moon
(Image courtesy NASA)

Because the memorial is so small, the only way to see it would be to actually visit Hadley Rille. If you can’t wait for the next flight, you can still explore the Moon and find lots of other interesting things. To learn more, head over to the Moon Zoo where you can look at original NASA images and help classify the things you see:

One thought on “March 15 – Per Aspera Ad Artibus

  1. Pingback: January 28 – “Not Because They Are Easy” | Little facts about science

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