November 10, 2021
Poet and space lover Christopher Cokinos recently made a pitch for the creation of Mission Laureates, artists in all areas that would be part of the public engagement process with all space missions.
Here’s an excerpt of the pitch from the co-author of Beyond Earth’s Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight, an anthology of poetry that spans from the dawn of the space age to the imagined futures of the universe:
The arts have long been engaged with the night sky, astronomy, and, more recently, with space programs. Consider, in the latter case, NASA’s famed fine arts program that placed painters and illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and Robert Rauschenberg in the middle of launch facilities, training centers and recovery zones. There is a long tradition of “space art,” first popularized by Chesley Bonestell. Fine arts photographers, such as Michael Light, have given their craft over to space imagery. Many writers have turned their attention to space; in the modern era, consider Oriana Fallaci or Margaret Lazarus Dean. As co-editor of Beyond Earth’s Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight, I know that poets have responded vigorously—if not always enthusiastically—to the Space Age.
A fine overview of NASA, ESA, and the visual arts can be found in Dr. William A. Bezouska’s paper for The Aerospace Corporation, Space and Art: Connecting Two Creative Endeavors. His focus, as has been the focus of most art-space ventures, is strictly with the visual, from Apollo 15’s Fallen Astronaut memorial to various imagery, from large installation work to film, from classroom displays to art contests. And, of course, we await the possibility of the SpaceX dearMoon mission, in which artists will be billionaire-curated for a lunar orbital flight.
Yet other arts have gotten the short shrift: ceramicists, say, or modern dancers or textile artists. Or, in my case, poetry, though listing the number of real and fictional aerospace figures who have called on poets to be launched in space would take some time. (It’s interesting to note that at least two astronauts have come back from space to write poetry, Story Musgrave and Alfred Worden, both of whom are represented in Beyond Earth’s Edge.)
To read Cokinos’s entire pitch, visit here.