NASA researchers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida have made a remarkable discovery: When you hang a well-traveled space shuttle from the ceiling of a very large building, the shuttle becomes a sophisticated piece of contemporary art.
In the vein of Richard Serra perhaps?
Combined with a twist of Damien Hirst?
NASA's artistic discovery was described recently by Craig Couvault from Aviation Week and Space Technology. Couvault visited the shuttle Atlantis as it was being prepared for its next flight, STS-122, inside the 525-foot tall Kennedy Vehicle Assembly Building. Along the way, he was able to see the scorched bellty of Atlantis as the ship was being stacked onto its rocket boosters. Couvault writes:
Processing the space shuttle for launch enables one to see it as much as art form as flight hardware. Sadly, scenes like this at the Kennedy Space Center will occur for only the next three years, as the shuttle program flies into history in 2010. Atlantis (left and above) first flew in 1985 and has perhaps only 2-3 more missions before retirement. But on STS-122, as early as Dec. 6, it is to launch the much-anticipated European Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station. Atlantis has been the space shuttleâs bridge between the Cold War and international space operations. It first flew secret military space missions in the late 1980s, but also performed the first U.S. docking with the Soviet Mir space station (1995) and has been heavily involved in [International Space Station] assembly. Atlantis has been a bridge to deep space as well, launching the Magellan imaging radar to Venus and the Galileo orbiter to Jupiter (both in 1989) as well as the Gamma Ray Observatory (1991) to probe the most powerful explosions in the ancient universe.
And what will become of Atlantis after she is retired? Telstar Logistics can't say for sure. But if Damien Hirst is reading this, might he be persuaded to try encasing Atlantis in a really, really, really big tank of formaldehyde? Or perhaps he knows someone at the Tate Modern?
(PHOTOS: Space shuttle photos by Carleton Bailie, AWST. Serra and Hirst photos from the Wikipedia.)