Ars ad Astra

Mir space station

Ars ad Astra was a project conceived by the OURS Foundation, a cultural and astronomical organization based in Switzerland. The idea was to put space art in orbit aboard the late, great Russian Mir space station (right). Conceived as a "cultural experiment" the first task the OURS organizers had was to convince the European Space Agency to OK to the idea.

Eventually, the ESA agreed so long as the materials used were non-toxic and the total weight of the exhibit didn't exceed one kilogram, or 2.24 pounds. Word went out and 82 artists answered the call. A panel of artists, space agency administrators and OURS officials selected 20 works featuring artists from nine countries.

Soyuz capsule On Sept. 3, 1995, the artworks blasted into space in a Soyuz capsule (left) along with ESA cosmonaut Thomas Reiter and his Russian comrades Sergei Avdeev and Yuri Gudzenko. Once aboard Mir, the trio struggled to pick a winning entry, as Reiter described during a live link-up to the space station on Nov. 30, 1995.

"It was quite difficult for us to select a favorite picture because we like them all," he said. "We took the task very seriously -- in fact, it took us more than a week."

The winner was American artist Elizabeth Carroll Smith for her painting "When Dreams Come True."

Mir re-entry

Smith's work stayed aboard the Mir until its fiery demise in Earth's atmosphere on March 23, 2001 (right). The rest had been flown home aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle in February 1996.

OURS president and noted space artist Arthur Woods says, "Ars ad Astra was proposed out of my deep conviction that the future of humanity -- and perhaps all life on Earth -- hangs on a narrow thread, and that narrow thread is our understanding of the importance of developing space to meet the growing needs of our species."

Here's the Cosmic Cafe's sampling of the world's only paintings that can truly be called "space art!"




Elizabeth Carrol Smith

When Dreams Come True

1st place -- Elizabeth Carroll Smith (USA)




Mark Maxwell

Promise

2nd place -- Mark Maxwell (USA)




Alessandro Bartolozzi

Unforgettable Home

3rd place -- Alessandro Bartolozzi (Italy)




Michael Carroll

The Glory

Michael Carroll (USA)




Werner Beyeler

Life Probes

Werner Beyeler (Switzerland)




Michael Bohme

Encounter

Michael Bohme (Germany)




Edward Mendelsohn

Let There Be Life

Edward Mendelsohn (UK)




Karl Draeger

Painting in Space

Karl Draeger (Germany)




Peter Eickmeyer

Tracks

Peter Eickmeyer (Germany)




Claudine Varesi

Unity

Claudine Varesi (Switzerland)

To see the entire exhibit, hop on the flying saucer for a ride to the Ars ad Asra website

ufo



Next: David A. Hardy

Return to the Galactic Gallery from Ars ad Astra