Extraterrestrial Art

On the 2nd of June 2003 an artpiece was send to another planet for the first time in human history. The painting, by Damien Hirst, consists of 16 multi-coloured spots on a 5cm by 5cm aluminium plate which was bolted to the lander, which was send to Mars . It had to cope with the cold of Mars, where temperatures drop to minus 70C, and pre-launch sterilisation which heats the painting to 155C.
Every part was designed to be useful. The aluminium plate was used to calibrate Beagle 2’s X-ray, the colours will check the camera, and minerals in the pigments would correct the sensor measuring the soil’s iron content. Beagle 2, named after the famous exploration-ship of Darwin, was launched on board the European Space Agency Mars Express craft from Kazakhstan.
Before Mars Express enters the orbit of Mars, Beagle 2 will be jettisoned and bounce to the planet’s surface, cushioned by inflatable bags. It will analyse sub-surface soil and rocks and take samples of the atmosphere to find out if life ever existed there.
Prof Pillinger, who commisioned Hirst said: “This collaboration is not about displaying art in space but about finding out if there is life on Mars.”
Just a few inches across and resembling a child’s watercolour paint box, the trademark Hirst spot painting was bolted to the British Beagle 2 space probe after a preview at London’s White Cube gallery.


The pop group Blur also has a Beagle 2 connection. They wrote the call sign which the probe would send to mission control when it landed on Mars. (listen to the song on BBC website)

Beagle 2 was last seen heading for the red planet after separating from its European Space Agency mothership Mars Express on December 19 2003. Part of a mission estimated to cost $85 million, the probe was supposed to land on Mars a few days later on Christmas Day and search for signs of life, but vanished without trace…

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is an exploratory science that seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology. (http://www.seti.org)