June 2, 2014
Artist Wants To Put House On The Moon
Recently, I wrote a blog about how Japanese sports drinks makers Pocari will aim to put a can of their product on the moon, or rather a powder inside a canister that could be filled by any astronaut who found water on the moon, and mixed to make Pocari Sweat to drink after their thirsty work. Now I learn that a Swedish artist wants to send up a self-constructing house on the same craft, the Falcon 9, and simultaneously establish the moon’s first art installation and its first house.
The Moonhouse project is crowdfunded, with potential contributors being told that every dollar donated will get the house 25 meters closer to the moon. The target is over 15 million dollars, making it one of the largest crowdfunding projects ever. The website shows that so far, only a few thousand dollars have been delivered, but things only began on May 28th, so there is plenty of time.
The house will be red in color, or more specifically Falun red, to match the traditional color of many rural houses in Sweden. The one-story house will have a base of two by three meters and will be outlined by a special space-cloth, which is very thin, to be stretched over the carbon frame and structure of the house. It will construct itself once on the moon without the need for an astronaut’s involvement, making it a remarkable example of engineering as well as artistic ambition. The artist, Mikael Genberg, first conceived of the project around a decade ago, but was thwarted by the global economic crisis.
When he first tried to get things off the ground, literally, he appealed to politicians in an attempt to go to the moon in the only way possible previously in space exploration history — through government programs. But now, with the Falcon 9 from SpaceX and the private space robotics company Astrobotic — and the direct involvement of the public through crowdfunding — space exploration is diversifying. As I discussed in the Pocari blog, this raises complex questions about the ethics of space exploration.
Genberg, like almost everyone with a crowdfunding appeal video it seems, claims that his project is meant to inspire, to prove that anything is possible and that all dreams can come true if we just dream them hard enough, and even that the world can be a better place as a result of said project. He possibly has a better claim to these things than someone who, say, is trying to invent a noiseless leather catflap (I just made that example up), but his assertion that this project is more inclusive of all people, because they can get their name on the walls of the house with a big enough contribution (excluding some people, then), or because people will think about what sort of decor would be in the house should someone really live in it, may be slightly ambitious. Space exploration has captured the public imagination since the idea was conceived of, and one may argue that it is knowledge of the nature of space that inspires many of us, rather than the option to help the process of putting human clutter on the moon.
Admittedly, there is quite a lot of human stuff on the moon already. The traditional spacecraft method of landing us was basically just a controlled crash landing, and so a lot of debris is left behind. There are also bags of human waste and food from astronauts, as well as the odd more palatable deposit — such as an urn containing the ashes of planetary geologist Eugene Shoemaker, who dreamed all his life of going to the moon. But if the Moonhouse goes up with the Pocari Sweat can in 2015, it will signify not only a new age of cluttering the moon with things other than space equipment and detritus from moon missions, but also one of the commercialization of the moon’s surface. Not quite as marketing-focused as Pocari Sweat’s efforts, sure, but the Swedish artist is also referred to as an entrepreneur, and the red paint will be supplied by the Swedish paint company Falu Rodfarg, which makes the signature Falu red paint on traditional Swedish houses, as a way of marking their 250th anniversary. A nice anniversary gift to themselves, but also great for self-promotion.
The project claims that mankind belongs in space, and that this house could make us begin to think of the day when people may live on the moon. But to what extent do we ‘belong’ in space? To whatever possible extent we can explore and learn about it, I agree that we should be in space. But plunking stuff on the moon for, if not only cynical marketing purposes, then at least for the glory of the companies or individuals involved more than that of all mankind, despite the claims… I’m not convinced.
Image Credit: Moonhouse.com