Friday, 29 January 2010

Moon Museum Redux

A couple of years ago I briefly posted about the "Moon Museum" - a secret project where some people at NASA had incorporated some modern art into the Apollo 12 Moonlanding Unit.

A few weeks ago, whilst doing some blog maintenance, I noticed that there had been a lot of comments on this post. It turned out that some people who had worked on this project had both found my blog - and got in touch with each other through the comment postings. Worth having a read!

I wrote to Burt Unger and, he gave me a little history about the project, and his involvement, which I thought you'd like to see. Imagine being the person who broke that mold!

I've done some research on the Moon Museum, especially before I got involved in the project so I think I can cover most of the details.

The project was a brainchild of Forest Meyers who is a renowned sculptor and artist. He petitioned NASA to allow them to transport an example of modern pop art to the moon onboard one of the space moon landers. NASA did not respond to his request so he went ahead anyway hoping in one way or another to put some art on the moon. Forest contacted five top artists in the field and asked them for a sketch or a doodle that he hoped would be the first art on the moon. The six artists; Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, John Chamberlain and Forest Meyers made sketches. Their drawings can be seen on the web by Googling Moon Museum.

Forest dubbed the collective art the Moon Museum. Forest Meyers knew two engineers/ scientists at Bell Labs, Fred Waldhauer and Bill Kluver. They had worked together in a group named Experiments in Art and Technology. The six sketches were given to Fred Waldhauer who worked at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ. He in turn gave them to Bob Merkle , an engineer at Holmdel who worked in a thin film processing laboratory. I was the supervisor of the laboratory.

In 1969 the Thin Film Lab was built in Holmdel to support circuit designers with microcircuits. The Lab was a large clean room with laminar flow hoods that had equipment for metal deposition, photolithography and etching, plating and bonding. The circuits were made on alumina (aluminum oxide) ceramic with thin film resistors and capacitors made from tantalum and conductors from gold. The resistors were adjusted to exacting tolerance by anodization. We bonded silicone chips to complete the circuits.

Bob had the six sketches photo-reduced and arranged in a three by two pattern on a glass mask that we used in our lithography process. The patterns were replicated in photo resist in tantalum that covered the ceramic surface and then etched to provide the sketches. Multiple patterns were made on three ceramics. They were then sawed apart and oxidized in a 500 degree centigrade oven for one hour. The patterns came out a vibrant purple color that is very hard and durable. I then broke the glass mask to prevent the wholesale processing of the Moon Museum.

Fred Waldhauer took most of the Museums and distributed them to the artists and I think he knew someone at the Cape that attached one to the lunar lander. I took some of the museums and gave them to my engineers as mementos. I don't know who the contacts at the Cape were and who attached it to the LEM.There will be a television program on the Moon Museum, called Histories Mysteries sometime next summer. I'm told they are video taping it now.

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