Gregory Manchess

We’re coming up on fifty years of space program accomplishments. I was a kid when we were reaching for the moon. What many people seem to forget is the reality of the situation. We were not sure we were going to make it happen.

It’s taken for granted so much today, but back then, it was a gigantic risk. NASA made it look almost easy, going from one successful launch to another and making great strides toward success. I didn’t get to see all the footage of the launch failures leading up to those milestones until decades later. Tragically, we lost some explorers along the way, and it was always a hard reminder that, indeed, there was no guarantee.

As a kid, I followed the program as much as I could. My daydreams were full of spacemen bouncing across moonscapes. (The coolest thing in my short life then was watching the LEM blast-off from the moon’s surface, bound for home.)

Sure, I was interested in other things besides astronauts. Spies. Fighter pilots. Code-breakers. Scientists. Artists were powerful heroes because they could give all of those subjects the impact to make you feel their struggles in your gut. I suppose the artists made me realize that I could dream all sorts of things with a brush, without having to risk life and limb. That and motion sickness put me behind the easel and not the cockpit.

I’ve started a new series of paintings, just for me. Astronauts, past, present, or future, doesn’t matter. I was intrigued by Scott Carpenter’s face looking out from behind bright reflections bouncing off his face mask. And below, a shuttle crewman stares with that timeless look.

As a kid, I was always looking skyward, staring out into interstellar space from behind the atmospheric face mask of Earth. I feel a kinship with these explorers. Perhaps it’s the promise of all that discovery.

There’s just something so fascinating about people in space suits.