Hard Science

Hard Science

Hard Science

An explorer abseils from the eastern cliffs of Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the Solar System. On the way geological samples are collected to help understand the geologic nature of this vast extinct shield volcano. The descent takes time as the explorer must master the problems of abseiling in full EVA suit.

Ever since this painting first appeared it has been controversial within the space exploration community because it bridges the fine line between adventure and risk, a paradox for those who seek to pioneer the great exploratory frontiers of the Solar System. It fuels enthusiasm for its sense of adventure or criticism for its brazen disregard for astronaut safety, depending on the person it is shown to. The painting was part of two long-term exhibits in the Houston Museum of Natural Science and has appeared in numerous publications, books and magazines. It was the first rendition of a mountaineering expedition to Olympus.

Copyright status : NASA – Although the original is owned by the Foundation, the copyright is NASA and the image can be freely published in the public domain.

About the Artist

Pat Rawlings is a native Texan whose extraterrestrial paintings of space events give a sense of what future explorers will experience while exploring other worlds.

Rawlings’ deep desire to travel in space motivates him to make scenes as accurate as possible. Before beginning a work, he consults with numerous space experts. Often during his discussion with an engineer or scientist, he will discover an unusual point of view or detail that will enable him to infuse his art with realism. While discussing the Mars Pathfinder landing sequence with a project engineer, Rawlings realized that the missing was to land at night. In his painting of the landing, Rawlings illuminated the landscape with three solid rocket engines in the aeroshell that fire just as the airbag covered lander is released.

After consulting with experts, Rawlings will uses hand-built and computer models, topographical maps, and space and family vacation photos to create mental pictures of these worlds. Some of these geometrically precise models are created from foamcore or plastic, while others are constructed using modeling software on the artist’s powerful G3 Macintosh. The spacecraft models are based on engineering drawings produced by the artist or provided by the client. The setting models are usually based on US Geological Survey topographical maps and/or orbital photography.

Rawlings was formerly the exhibits designer at Johnson Space Center in Houston. He has been doing NASA art for 17 years, and works are often seen in a huge number of publications, but are most often only credited “courtesy NASA”.

All images in the Foundation’s collection are copyright to the artists or the Foundation. Reproduction of these images is not allowed without permission (in some cases permission for reproduction can be obtained directly from the artists who maintain reproduction copyright). These images are low resolution versions of the originals.