For him, the growing importance of sending art reflects the fundamental shift in what is driving space exploration in recent years, from military and research-based to commercial.
“Over the last two decades though, space has started to become 'democratised'--it has been possible for individuals, albeit very wealthy ones, to travel to space or to launch their own payloads (Elon Musk's Tesla, for example). On a smaller scale, people can now send small payloads to orbit or to the International Space Station for a relatively modest cost and--crucially--just because they want to,” Welch says.
Sending art to space is one example of this, he says, though he warns the novelty will wear off.
“At the moment it seems unusual but, if access to space continues to become easier and cheaper, it will seem much less so.”
Here are some of the works Welch showed for which we were able to obtain permission to publish:
In 1971, an aluminium sculpture of an astronaut in a space suit with a plaque listing the names of the 14 men known to have died in the name of space exploration was secretly placed on the moon by crew of the Apollo 15.
This Zero-g sculpture by Pierre Compte was taken to the space station in 2001.
Photo: Pierre Comte
In 2007, sculptures by Ragnhild Becker and Gunar Seitz and known as Weltraum Visitor, were attached to the TerraSAR-X.
Photo: Airbus Immenstaad
Celestial charging station
Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humour? In 2013, the Ukube 1 CubeSat, designed by John Gibson and Amanda White to look like a charging station for space craft, was sent into orbit.
Photo: Iam8bit & clydspace
In 2015, this mosaic invader was taken on the International Space Station by ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
The Contour of Presence
On 29 June 2018, an interactive artwork by Mexican artist Nahum, was sent into space. The Contour of Presence will tell a story from outer space that explores the meaning of presence and the politics of existence.
The inner workings of the piece consist of a series of mirrors arranged in a kaleidoscopic fashion, livestream cameras, lights and motors. It will be used in real-time during the performances of The Contour of Presence.
The story begins with a pre-recorded journey on Earth through poetical imagery in various natural settings, the rocket departure and finishes with the real-time connection with the artwork in outer space.
In 2018, a reflective, non-functional satellite designed by artist Trevor Paglen and built with Global Western. The sculpture is intended for launch into low Earth orbit to encourage people to look up into the night sky with a renewed sense of wonder, consider their place in the universe and reimagine how we live together on the planet.
A collaborative sculpture comprised of four chambers containing hundreds of images, poems, music, nano-objects, mechanism and earthly samples being sent to the moon in 2020 by Carnegie Mellon University aboard an Astrobotic lander. Pictured are the ether chamber components.