Fallen Astronaut

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Fallen Astronaut and plaque
Fallen Astronaut.jpg
Artist Paul Van Hoeydonck
Type aluminium
Dimensions 8.5 cm (3.3 in)
Location Moon, Hadley Rille

Fallen Astronaut is an 8.5 cm (slightly over 3") aluminium sculpture of an astronaut in a spacesuit, which commemorates astronauts and cosmonauts who have died in the advancement of space exploration. It is at Hadley Rille on the Moon, placed there by the crew of Apollo 15 on August 1, 1971.[1]


It was created by Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck, who met astronaut David Scott at a dinner party. It was agreed that Van Hoeydonck would create a small statuette to be placed on the moon by Scott, though their recollections of the details disagree. For Scott the purpose was to commemorate those astronauts and cosmonauts who had lost their lives in the furtherance of space exploration, and the plaque was designed and made separately by Scott. Van Hoeydonck was given a set of design restrictions: that the sculpture was to be both lightweight and sturdy, capable of withstanding the temperature extremes of the Moon; it could not be identifiably male or female, nor of any identifiable ethnic group. According to Scott, to avoid the commercialization of space, it was agreed Van Hoeydonck's name would not be made public, something Van Hoeydonck disputes.[2]

Van Hoeydonck recalls a different set of events leading to the creation of the work. According to an interview with him in Belgian newspaper Le Soir, the statue was supposed to be a representation of all mankind, not simply fallen astronauts or cosmonauts. He has stated that he did not know the statue would be used as a memorial for the fallen space-goers, and the name now given to the work was neither chosen nor approved by him; he had intended the figure to be left standing upright.[2][3] Both his and Scott's different versions of events are given in an article in Slate magazine in 2013.[2]


On August 1, 1971,[4] 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:

Scott, Commander of the Apollo 15 mission, noted that "Sadly, two names are missing (from the plaque), those of Valentin Bondarenko and Grigori Nelyubov."[citation needed] He explained that because of the secrecy surrounding the Soviet space program at the time, the western world was unaware of their deaths.


Query from Jan Stalmans to Van Hoeydonck about the number of outstanding replicas, with handwritten reply

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, on condition that it 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 the existence of the "Fallen Astronaut" and plaque as the first art installation on the Moon during the broadcast of the Apollo 16 launch.[5] It is now on display with a replica of the plaque[6] in the Museum's National Mall Building in the Space Race Wing, Gallery 114.

In May 1972, Scott learned that Van Hoeydonck planned to make and sell more replicas. Believing 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,[7][8] that 950 replicas of "Fallen Astronaut" signed by the sculptor would be sold by the Waddell Gallery of New York for $750 each;[9] a second edition, at a lower, unspecified price; and a catalog edition, at $5.[10]

After negative comments from NASA about the intended sale, Van Hoeydonck retracted his permission for it and no statues were sold.[11]

On September 11, 2007, art historian Jan Stalmans wrote Van Hoeydonck, asking him how many replicas were in existence. Van Hoeydonk returned a handwritten response on the letter, that 50 copies had been made, most of which were still in his possession, unsigned. Van Hoeydonck wrote that he had only ever received money for one copy of "Fallen Astronaut", despite many purchase offers he had received.[original research?]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sculpture, Fallen Astronaut". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Powell & Shapiro 2013
  3. ^ Le Soir 17 July 2009, p. 19
  4. ^ "images.jsc.nasa.gov". images.jsc.nasa.gov. 1971-08-01. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  5. ^ Smithsonian Collection Database – Object: A19860035000
  6. ^ Smithsonian Collection Database – Object: A19772403001
  7. ^ Associated Press (21 July 1972). "Commercialism Taints Another Apollo Memento". Modesto Bee. p. page 7. 
  8. ^ Check-Six.com – 'Fallen Astronaut' – includes copy of July 1972 "Art in America" ad
  9. ^ "NASA News Release 72-189". Collectspace.com. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  10. ^ Wieck, Paul (25 July 1972). "Anderson Will Probe Unauthorized Sales". Albuquerque Journal. p. page 16. 
  11. ^ Van den Bussche 1980, pp. 16–17


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 26°07′56″N 3°38′02″E / 26.13222°N 3.63386°E / 26.13222; 3.63386