Later this year, American artist Jeff Koons will exhibit some of his latest sculptures in their most exotic location yet: the moon’s surface. Thanks to a new collaboration, Koons will create some new sculptures that will travel to the lunar surface on a robotic lunar lander made by Houston-based company Intuitive Machines.
Intuitive Machines’ lander is called the Nova-C, which the company developed in partnership with NASA. In recent years, NASA has been actively working to send humans back to the moon through their Artemis program. And as part of that effort, NASA has worked with commercial companies to develop an entire fleet of vehicles — from smaller robotic landers and rovers to landers that can carry people — that can land on the lunar surface.
In 2019, NASA awarded contracts to three private companies to develop robotic lunar landers that can demonstrate ways to land on the moon. Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C was one of the winners, and the company has been working toward the lander’s launch ever since. The large, cylindrical Nova-C spacecraft will carry five scientific payloads for NASA and some commercial payloads, all mounted on the spacecraft’s exterior except for one, which is intended to reside in the lander’s propulsion tanks.
Koons is best known for his popular stainless steel balloon animal sculptures. Now some of his new sculptures will join the payloads on the outside of Nova-C. According to Intuitive Machines, the Koons sculpts will be encased in a transparent, thermally coated cube measuring 6 inches on all sides. According to Pace Gallery, which represents Koons, the tiny sculptures will reportedly be the first “authorized” works of art to reach the lunar surface – although that title will only work if Intuitive Machines can get to the moon relatively soon. Rival space company Astrobotic, also working with NASA, will send an artwork by Dubai-based artist Sacha Jafri to the moon on its lander. Astrobotic also intends to launch its lander on United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket later this year.
If Intuitive Machines successfully land Nova-C on the moon, the sculptures will remain in the box on the outside of the lander “forever”. However, people on Earth should still be able to get a glimpse of the art on the lunar surface. Intuitive Machines plans to add a camera to the top of its lander that should be able to capture the art in its new home. Pace Gallery officials declined to give details of what the art will look like, how large it will be, or what materials it will be made of. “Details on the artwork will be announced in the coming weeks,” said Adriana Elgarresta, Pace’s director of public relations The edge.
Originally, Intuitive Machines had planned to launch its lander by 2020. The company has a deal with SpaceX to launch Nova-C on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Now the launch is scheduled for later this year, according to Intuitive Machines. The company aims to land Nova-C in an area of the moon called Oceanus Procellarum, the largest of the mares of the moon – dark basaltic plains that criss-cross the lunar terrain.
The sculptures accompany the mission as part of Koons’ first NFT collection. The project, called Moon Phases, “will explore human imagination and technological innovation,” according to a press release. “Reveling in past and future human achievements, the artist was inspired by the moon as a symbol of curiosity and determination.” Each NFT from the phases of the moon will have a corresponding sculpture, with a group being sent to the actual moon.