Stargazing And Remembering Robert McCall Robert McCall, who science fiction writer Isaac Asimov described as "the nearest thing we have to an artist-in-residence from outer space," died last week. Commentator Andrew Chaikin talks about his appreciation for the NASA artist who chronicled the space program.
NPR logo

Stargazing And Remembering Robert McCall

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/124588185/124604197" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Stargazing And Remembering Robert McCall

Stargazing And Remembering Robert McCall

Stargazing And Remembering Robert McCall

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/124588185/124604197" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Robert McCall is seen here painting a mural. Many of his murals can be found throughout NASA centers and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. His artwork can be seen on posters for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and U.S. postage stamps. Courtesy of NASA hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of NASA

Robert McCall is seen here painting a mural. Many of his murals can be found throughout NASA centers and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. His artwork can be seen on posters for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and U.S. postage stamps.

Courtesy of NASA
Robert McCall Mural
Courtesy of McCall Studios

Andrew Chaikin is the author of A Passion for Mars.

Just inside the National Air and Space Museum is a six-story-high mural by Robert McCall celebrating the Apollo moon landings. Look beyond his larger-than-life astronaut and you can see other worlds, yet unvisited, beckoning amid the stars. McCall always had his mind on tomorrow.

That was true even in the early 1960s when he envisioned the Apollo missions, still on the drawing board, for Life magazine. Those paintings gave millions of Americans their first glimpses of the fantastic adventure about to unfold.

As a NASA space artist, he had a ringside seat for the moon landings. He was in Mission Control, sketchpad in hand, when the Apollo 15 astronauts drove the first lunar rover. Later, his artwork became a U.S. postage stamp commemorating the event. He also created stamps for the Skylab space station and the Viking Mars landings.

McCall once told me he dreamed of going into space himself. He never made it, but his work did: He created the mission patches for the final Apollo landing in 1972 and the first space shuttle mission in 1981.

What I loved most about Bob McCall and his work was his joyful optimism, the sense of promise in every painting. It wasn't just about astronauts and spacecraft; it was about humanity's journey beyond our home world, into a bright future on an endless frontier.

With NASA's future so up in the air, I hope we can find a way to honor that promise — to have a space program that McCall's countless fans would recognize.