DECEMBER 2009

Taking Art to the Moon: Lunar Rover Will Transport Projects
Carnegie Mellon Homepage Stories, December 2009

Lowry BurgessThink of it as one small step for artists, one giant leap for Carnegie Mellon. The university — known for its interdisciplinary strengths in art and technology — will take a series of interactive art projects to the moon in December 2011.

The artworks will be on board Carnegie Mellon's lunar rover enterprise — in pursuit of the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize. Carnegie Mellon's legendary roboticist William "Red" Whittaker is leading a team with Astrobotic Technology Inc., a Carnegie Mellon spin-off company, to develop the lunar rover that will compete for the prize.

After landing on the Sea of Tranquility and traveling to the Apollo 11 landing site, the rover will project images, video and sound back to earth. Artists from all around the world will then use the material to create new artwork — interacting with the art projects on the web.

Renowned space artist Lowry Burgess is overseeing the group of Carnegie Mellon musicians, architects, poets, designers, roboticists, engineers and visual artists involved in the arts effort. Burgess created the first official art payload taken into outer space by NASA in 1989 among his many space art works.

"Carnegie Mellon has a unique advantage in the integration the arts, the sciences, and technologies, engaging their advanced forms in original works of art for the moon," Burgess said. "As humans move into the solar system, and further into outer space, we will take all aspects of human culture with us, including all the arts. What happens on the moon deeply effects how we feel and think about both earth and our surrounding cosmos."

Highlights include Moon Marks, developed by Carnegie Mellon's Pablo Garcia, assistant professor of architecture. He will use the tracks created by the rover to delineate drawings on the surface of the moon.

"This project could only happen at a place like Carnegie Mellon," said Garcia. "The interdisciplinary nature, not just between arts and technology, but also within the College of Fine Arts, is not easily found anywhere else."

He added, "I also think that the stakes are high, and the context so unexplored, that the project can reset a lot of expectations of how art is made."

Send Me to the Moon, Picture Me on the Moon, and Hear Me on the Moon projects would engage a worldwide audience by allowing people to see and hear themselves on the orb via internet connections to a robot.

Moon Bell uses radio waves, telescopes and emerging computer software to create a sound from earth to the moon, and would create a reflected sound that can be heard and shared on earth. The project would also be heard as a set of events for national and international radio and web broadcast — involving the Carnegie Mellon orchestra and chorus.

The artworks project is being managed by Carnegie Mellon's STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, directed by Golan Levin. Founded in 1989, the STUDIO is a center for experimental enterprises across academic disciplines on the Carnegie Mellon University campus, the community of Pittsburgh and internationally.

Photo: Mocked up image of the Moon Marks project

Related Links: Google Lunar X Prize | STUDIO for Creative Inquiry | College of Fine Arts