Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. Sometimes it requires seemingly irrational detours, taking you off track and temporarily away from the trajectory of your dreams.

For the team at Mars2025, this was the exact predicament in which they had found themselves. This group of space enthusiasts, billionaires, astronauts and NASA chiefs (both past and present) realized that in order to fund their 60 billion dollar manned mission to Mars (employing Dr. Robert Zubrin’s Mars Direct approach), they must first build a base support and pop culture enthusiasm that rivaled or eclipsed the optimism of space travel that existed in a post WWII America. And that, they concluded, was done by returning to the Moon in two highly publicized and propagated trips in the summer of 2016.
The space community is not terribly excited about a return to the Moon. Sure it has been 44 years since man last stepped out of Apollo 1 and planted a flag into the silver dust of the Moon, but the cost-to-scientific-gain ratio did not pencil out – in many minds a return to the Moon is a dog-and-pony show, specifically designed to bolster support both publically and politically for the much more expensive, much more dangerous, and much more rewarding mission to Mars. But as Sir Richard Branson said, “I’d enter myself in the Westminster Dog Show if that is what it took to get to Mars.” His group held a ‘by any means possible’ attitude, and Mars2025 could never be accused of a lack of passion or resource.
Mars2025 is a privately funded group of space enthusiasts and scientists that include equal part billionaires, such as Elon Musk, Paul Allen, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, with seasoned aerospace veterans Dr. Alan Stern, Mike Griffin, Burt Rutan and Peter H. Diamandis. Their first return flight to the Moon is branded “scientific” and their second flight to the Moon considered “artistic”. In an attempt to bolster support for a manned mission to Mars, they are sending an artist to the Moon. Sending an artist to the Moon. I could say that over and over all day long…
The technical specifications are inspiring all by themselves. From their artist call:
The two-person crew will consist of one NASA certified astronaut and one “artist”. If the selected “artist” does not meet the physical and psychological requirements of the mission, an appropriate substitution may be made. The mission will last approximately 48 hours with 26 hours spent on the surface of the Moon. Two space walks will be performed totaling 4 hours outside of the craft. The “artist” is allowed no more than 6 cubic feet of cargo weighing no more than 30 kilograms. Installation, performance, sculpture, dance, and/or land art will be considered for selection. Select artist proposals will be judged by the Mars2025 board of directors and awarded based upon originality, inspiration, and artistic merit.
That was the extent of their artist call. No prize money offered, no material expenses, just one trip to the Moon (at a value of approximately 600 million dollars). The sheer opportunity to walk on the moon and brilliance of glancing back and viewing our planet from space would be enough to motivate just about anyone. Being the first artist to create a work of art on the Moon? Priceless. (I’m actually surprised Visa didn’t want in on that campaign.)
Walden Three was honored to host this amazing selection of artist proposals in the Mercer Gallery this May. Guest curator Jeffrey Deitch and company rolled up their sleeves to task through the 10,851 submissions, narrowing down the selections to the most compelling (and accomplishable) proposals from 98 countries.
Andy Goldsworthy was a tough act to follow, requesting only a wooden handle gardening hoe with which he planned to carve into the moon dust a 100 meter fingerprint. Yoko Ono wanted to bring the flags of the other 195 countries not currently represented on the moon, reflecting a planetary conquest that is not nation-driven but humanity-driven. There were a surprising number of graffiti artists in the group, all wanting to tag a moon rock, or in some cases construct a wall so they have a man-made surface to tag (Banksy, Zephyr, Inkie, Ewok, as well as Seattle’s own NKO and Jeff Jacobson rounding out the final cut).
Seattle artists also included John Sutton – whose proposed 3M collaborated solar ‘yarn toss’ would have propelled nearly a mile of illuminating high-tech string into black space, and Iole Alessandrini, whose laser installation would scan and map passing asteroids and other space junk.
Kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen presented beautifully detailed drawings of his solar powered mechanical “Strandbeests” that would roam the surface for (potentially) generations to come.  Ai Weiwei partnered up again with Olafur Eliasson for an architectural structure called TIMEOUT. And maybe it was expected to see a host of architecture and design firms raise their hand for structures both metaphorical and dysfunctional. It was nice to see Tom Kundig in the mix and Zaha Hadid proposing about the most insane ‘tent construction’ I’ve ever witnessed. Even actor Zach Galifianakis put on his thinking cap, proposing a 280-foot collapsible ladder that would help a moon walker get 280 feet closer to Earth (it was entitled CAN WE GO HOME NOW?).
But in the end, the Mars2025 jury bypassed the A list artists, the starchitects, and the comedians for the more serious and introspective proposal by artist/educator Nevdon Jamgochian.
Never before had an opening at Walden 3 been so populated by security measures and private bodyguards, but then again, we did have 5 billionaires in the Mercer Gallery at once. And it isn’t just radicals and would-be kidnappers that follow billionaires around – we had a surprising amount of celebrities rubbing shoulders during the private reception and subsequent party at the Four Seasons. Who knew Kim Kardashian was interested in outer space?
– GL