One Small Step for Space Art

A new artwork by Sacha Jafri could travel to the moon next month

Sacha Jafri's We Rise Together—With the Light of the Moon is designed to endure on the moon’s surface. Sacha Jafri

Next month, a new piece of art may be landing on the moon, joining an exclusive collection on the lunar surface.

Created by Dubai-based artist Sacha Jafri, the artwork is titled We Rise Together—With the Light of the Moon. The launch is expected to take place next month at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, reports CNN’s Nadia Leigh-Hewitson. 

The piece depicts male and female figures surrounded by 88 hearts, all carved into a gold alloy developed to endure on the moon’s surface. The figures, wrote Jafri last year in a statement, are “entwined in love, reaching for a newfound understanding of unity and consequential hope, as they embark on their journey of exploration from our inhabited planet to our uninhabited moon.” 

Commissioned by the space robotics company Spacebit, the artwork will go to the moon with the help of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services. It will be hitching a ride on a United Launch Alliance rocket, which is powered by engines developed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. 

Delivering the work to the moon should take between 5 and 14 days, the artist tells CNN. Once it arrives, it will be placed in a crater called Lacus Mortis, or “Lake of Death,” where Jafri said it will remain “for eternity.” 

But even though the piece will stay on the moon, collectors on Earth can still get in on the action. 

“When we land the physical work of art on the moon, a little beep sounds in the control room,” Jafri tells CNN. That’s when 88 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will be released, all facilitated by the blockchain company Selenian.

Sacha Jafri's original painting
Sacha Jafri's original painting Sacha Jafri

Not everyone is impressed by the plan—or the art itself. “In the ongoing race to ensure that humanity’s extra-planetary footprint includes the world’s worst artworks, an underwhelming-looking piece by British artist Sacha Jafri is preparing to head to the moon,” writes Hyperallergic’s Sarah Rose Sharp. As for the NFT release? “Even artificial intelligence lacks the power to come up with ideas this bad,” she quips.

Jafri, however, isn’t the only artist shooting for the moon. As the Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow reported last year, Jafri and the artist Jeff Koons are locked in an artistic space race to display their creations on the lunar surface. Koons has previously said that he intends to beat Jafri with his project, titled Moon Phases, but so far there’s “no evidence that any of Koons’ sculptures have actually been launched into orbit,” per Hyperallergic.

Both artists have claimed that their respective pieces will be the first “official” or “authorized” artworks on the moon. They may be using those qualifiers for a reason: The moon’s inaugural artworks actually arrived decades ago.

In 1971, crew from the Apollo 15 mission placed two items on the moon’s surface: a small aluminum figure by Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck and a plaque bearing the names of 14 Americans and Soviets who died during their time as astronauts. Titled Fallen Astronaut, “the original sculpture is still there, intact,” writes Atlas Obscura’s Evan Nicole Brown, as aluminum can withstand the moon’s “extreme temperature swings and abrasive dust.” The artist made a replica for the National Air and Space Museum in 1972.

Another artwork may have landed on the moon in 1969, two years before Fallen Astronaut, though that claim has never been confirmed. Legend has it that a group of renowned artists—Robert Rauschenberg, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Forrest Myers, David Novros and Andy Warhol—each contributed a small drawing to a postage-stamp-size ceramic tile called the Moon Museum. Without NASA’s knowledge, an engineer allegedly attached the piece to a leg of Apollo 12’s lunar module, which has been on the moon ever since. 

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.