Shortly after John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, a NASA administrator had a fortuitous thought: Of course cameras would document every stage of the space program, but what if the agency enlisted artists to make a different kind of record? John Walker of the National Gallery of Art quickly agreed to help, arguing that artists could "probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."
The results of this stunning collaboration between scientists and artists are collected in NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration, by James Dean and Bertram Ulrich, published by Abrams Books. For 50 years, artists got remarkable access to all aspects of the space program: They watched launches from the firing room, and interviewed astronauts on their return. They also dreamed of exploration. In this painting, the team of Kahn & Selesnick imagined a future adventurer on Mars.