Introduction: Fallen Astronaut 2

About: I'm all about Making and Mental Health. Reach out if you need a chat - find me on Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter as @KitemanX.

At 12:18 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Aug. 2, 1971, Commander David Scott of Apollo 15 placed a 3 1/2-inch-tall aluminum sculpture - an aluminium statuette known now as Fallen Astronaut - onto the dusty surface of a small crater near his parked lunar rover. At that moment the moon transformed from an airless ball of rock into the largest exhibition space in the known universe. Scott regarded the moment as tribute to the heroic astronauts and cosmonauts who had given their lives in the space race.*

Forty-six years on, this is my recreation (hence the "2") of the work, this time cut from acrylic.


Step 1: Background and Sources

One crisp March morning in 1969, artist Paul van Hoeydonck was visiting his Manhattan gallery when he stumbled into the middle of a startling conversation. Louise Tolliver Deutschman, the gallery's director, was making an energetic pitch to Dick Waddell, the owner. "Why don't we put a sculpture of Paul's on the moon," she insisted. Before Waddell could reply, van Hoeydonck inserted himself into the exchange: "Are you completely nuts? How would we even do it?"

Deutschman stood her ground. "I don't know," she replied, "but I'll figure out a way."

She did.

The sculpture was secretly placed as a memorial to the 14 astronauts who, to that date, had lost their lives in the space race, and it's existence was revealed after the mission ended. It was supposed to make the artist's career but instead created a huge scandal that can be read about here and here. Van Hoeydonck's website is here.

I used the images to create a shape that could be laser-cut from a single piece of 5mm acrylic.

Step 2: Cutting

The trick to cutting the Fallen Astronaut is turning the piece part-way through the cut, a technique I first tried when I made acrylic "diamonds".

The files I have attached to this step include both steps in one file - you will need to edit the files to suit your cutter, and scale them to match the thickness of your materials.

Cut the profile (side view) first. Hold the rest of the material very still, and lift out the two parts. Discard the scrap, then lay the main piece on its back in the hole left by the first cut.

Run the second cut in exactly the same place as the first, and it will trim off the last pieces of waste.

Step 3: Clean-up

When cutting small parts in acrylic, surfaces can sometimes weld back together.

I found that the "shoulder" scraps sometimes stick to the side of the head, but they can be removed with a thumbnail.

The scrap from between the legs was slightly trickier - I had to press a knife-blade between a leg and the scrap. Press slowly and firmly; pushing too hard and fast can snap a leg off.

Step 4: Done!

You now have your own space-age sculpture, only an inch long.

How you display it is up to you, but mine is currently lying along the top edge of my keyboard - the clear acrylic looks good on the black keyboard and illuminated by the glow of the screen.

If you make your own Fallen Astronaut, I would love to see a picture of it - leave a comment with an image.