Science

NASA's Next Launch: An Art Exhibition

Eileen  Collins, 1999

hide captionEileen Collins, 1999

Annie Leibovitz/Courtesy of Smithsonian

It's well-known that the dawn of the Space Age inspired a renaissance in American science. Less well-known is the art that the space program helped give rise to.

Liftoff at 15  Seconds, 1982 i i

hide captionLiftoff at 15 Seconds, 1982

Jack Perlmutter/Courtesy of Smithsonian
Liftoff at 15  Seconds, 1982

Liftoff at 15 Seconds, 1982

Jack Perlmutter/Courtesy of Smithsonian
Grissom and  Young, 1965

hide captionGrissom and Young, 1965

Norman Rockwell/Courtesy of Smithsonian

In 1962, NASA began commissioning artwork to chronicle the ecstasy and agony of manned spaceflight — from those early successes breaking the chains of gravity to enter Earth orbit to the Columbia shuttle tragedy and beyond. That collection goes on display starting Saturday at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Gemini Launch  Pad, 1964

hide captionGemini Launch Pad, 1964

James Wyeth/Courtesy of Smithsonian

Some 70 works are on display. Among the gems is a delicate 1964 watercolor by James Wyeth that hints at humbler days in the space program, when technicians rode bicycles to check on the launchpad. And then there's William Wegman's playful 2001 vision of dogs in space (see them suited up?) — not the starry night of Van Gogh's imaginings, for sure, but mesmerizing in its own way.

Chip and  Batty Explore Space, 2001

hide captionChip and Batty Explore Space, 2001

William Wegman/Courtesy of Smithsonian

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