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Unique Views of the Moon,
This review is from: Alan Bean Artist Astronaut (DVD)
Jeff Roth Productions made the excellent feature-length documentary film, "The Wonder of It All", with the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon now being shown at special presentations around the country and at various film festivals. I was fortunate to be sent a copy for review (see "Review: The Wonder of It All" in "Previous Articles" or the "Archive" at TheSpaceReview.com for Monday, November 12, 2007). Paul Basta, the cinematographer of the company, recorded ca. 14 hours of interviews with 7 of the 9 surviving Moonwalkers using a Sony high definition camera in 16 x 9 format which served as the basis for the movie. This skillfully edited film gives us a very personal picture of these astronauts by the astronauts themselves not available heretofore. They talk about private matters related to growing up, their education, why they became astronauts, how the trip to the Moon affected their lives, religion, philosophy, and how they want to be remembered. "Wonder" will certainly inspire kids of all ages with the feeling that any of them could become an astronaut and fly to the Moon. The film therefore gives parents the opportunity to encourage their children to take a deeper educational interest in science and engineering.
On a slightly different, but related plane, "Alan Bean, Artist - Astronaut" was produced from the extra footage from his interview for "Wonder". It, too, is thematically well-edited. Al describes why he left NASA to become an artist, what his friends and associates thought of that bold and unusual step, how he trained as an artist, and how and why he paints. Al's interview was recorded in his art studio, so he shows us around some of his paintings, pointing out that like any artwork, they can either reflect reality, or a particular fantasy of the artist.
For example, one of his paintings shows Al and Pete Conrad, who commanded the Apollo 12 mission, standing side-by-side in front of the Surveyor III spacecraft. They had put down within yards of this unmanned spacecraft, which had landed on the Moon more than two and a half years earlier. Al wanted to take a picture of them both in that pose using a timer inserted into the Hasselblad camera mounted on a tripod. People would then be puzzled over who made the photo since there were only the two of them on the surface. Both Al and Pete searched the toolbag but unfortunately could not find the timer, so the photo was never made. Al, as an artist, was consequently able to recreate the moment in one of his paintings even though the event did not happen quite like they planned!
Of particular interest is his description of how he prepares an artboard for a particular painting using his hammer and core tube bit which he brought back from the Moon. He has also had "bronzed booties" (in this case, boot soles) made from the boots he wore on the Moon, and with these places a couple of steps in the gesso-like surface of the board (the original rubber ones are not used because bits and pieces would have been pulled off after each step, thus eventually destroying their tread). He then makes marks and scrapes with the hammer in the surface and gouges out circles with the core bit. Finally, during the painting he places into the paint bits of Moon dust (captured from his spacesuit parts), ashes from the Apollo 12 Command Module's heat shield burnt during reentry when he returned from the Moon (saved for him by the Museum director who put the capsule on display), and bits cut from the beta cloth patches, flag, and other suit parts which he wore on the Moon. Thus, any one of his original paintings is absolutely unique in the annals of art history, having not only been painted by the only artist to have walked on the Moon, but also made with tools used on the Moon and consisting of bits and pieces of the Moon or that have been to the Moon.
Anyone who would like to see more of his artwork should visit his online gallery at alanbeangallery.com.
Hopefully, the team of Jeff Roth Productions will give us longer, similar "fireside chats" with the other Moonwalkers to supplement their exceptional autobiographical documentary. Meanwhile, this DVD gives us a special human view of a pioneering individual who has made the most of several different careers and is an inspiration for those contemplating drastic lifestyle changes. As Al pointed out in "Wonder", if you don't sing the song that's in your heart before you die, nobody else will!