From: Titusville, FL USA
Registered: Feb 2005
posted May 02, 2008 05:21 PM
"Past Is Prologue"
Celebrating 50 years of America in Space
(Original: 24" x 48", acrylic on stretched canvas, 2008)
By Timothy Alan Neil Gagnon
[click above to enlarge]
The goal was to capture the essence of the entire history of US space exploration onto one canvas. So obviously I had to begin at the beginning…Sputnik. The launch by the former Soviet Union on October 4, 1957 kicked USA efforts into high gear. The United States followed three months later (January 31, 1958) with the launch of Explorer 1, a scientific satellite that was able to confirm the existence of a radiation belt surrounding the Earth. In the lower left is Sputnik followed closely by Explorer 1.
In 1961 the new American President stung by the flight of Yuri Gagarin and bolstered by the reaction of the American people to the flight of Alan Shepard challenged this nation to “land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth.” The Space Race was on. In 1965 the cover of Time Magazine had an artist’s representation of a race to the Moon between an American Astronaut and Soviet Cosmonaut. I adopted and altered that illustration to represent the spacewalks of Soviet Alexsei Leonov and American Edward White, each carrying their flag as they race towards the goal.
The spacecraft and launch vehicles that we flew are represented in the painting also: the X-15, Mercury / Redstone and Atlas, Gemini / Titan, the Apollo / Saturn, Soyuz, Mir and the Space Shuttle. To illustrate that we, (the USA) won the space race, I painted a Lunar Module sitting on the surface of the Moon as an astronaut climbs down the ladder.
After the Moon program we turned our attention towards the Earth. The Skylab space station and Apollo – Soyuz Test Project illustrate our goals of making life better for people on our own planet by studying our environment, ourselves and learning to work together.
After Apollo-Soyuz, the United States would not launch an astronaut into orbit for almost six years. On April 12, 1981 the Space Shuttle made its debut. From 1981 until today the Space Shuttle has flown 123 missions as we’ve learned how to truly work and live on orbit. When you consider what we have learned from the shuttle program from microgravity research to satellite repair to international cooperation you will understand why I painted the shuttle launch in the center.
In two years when the shuttle is retired, we will have built the International Space Station, a monument to cooperation and teamwork and a true state of the art scientific laboratory that promises to teach us what we need to learn before we can venture out past the Moon and onto Mars. The ISS central truss is painted as the Flags of the participating countries to illustrate that cooperation.
There are sixteen portraits across the bottom of the painting. The most difficult thing was to choose which people who made the most significant contributions - who to include and who to leave out. As “ambassadors” they represent all of the people who worked along side them. They are from left to right: Sergei Korolyev, Werner von Braun, Yuri Gagarin, Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Valentina Tereshkova, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Guion Bluford, Fred Gregory, Mae Jemison, Eileen Collins, Bill Shepherd, Yang Liwei, Pam Melroy and Peggy Whitson.
To honor the fallen I attempted to make the center of the painting a “Space Mirror” a high gloss set of panels which represent the Astronaut Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center. The names of those who were killed in the line of duty are displayed as they are on the monument.
Next up, the Constellation Program which will transport up to six astronauts to the ISS and send four astronauts to return us to the Moon, this time to stay. The rockets that will take us there are the Ares V heavy lift cargo launcher and the Ares 1 launcher with the “Orion” Crew Exploration Vehicle. I have painted these vehicles in shades of black and white as they are not a certainty due to the challenges the new President will face when he or she takes office in 2009.
This painting was created by Tim Gagnon of Titusville, FL. A graphic and portrait artist with a life long passion for space exploration, his work is on display at the Kennedy Space Center, City Hall in Elmira, NY and the International Space Station.