Locking up the Rocks

Neil holds the lid down while securing the seal

Painting Completed 1985
24 x 20 inches, Acrylic on Masonite

We knew even before Apollo 11 blasted off that the single most important thing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could do was to bring back pieces of the Moon. These samples would be loaded into two return containers, each formed from a single piece of aluminum. A ring of soft metal called indium lined the lip of each box while, around the edge of the lid was a knife-like strip. I painted Neil just as he activated one of the four locking levers which causes the knife edge to bite deeply into the indium, thus sealing the rocks in the Moon's vacuum for their quarter-million-mile trip to Earth.

I thought about painting this for a long time, but put it off again and again. I concentrated, instead, on painting astronauts working in the intense lunar sunshine because I enjoy the bright white, sun-struck space suit. This painting would be different because Neil would be in the shadow of the lunar module.

All Apollo landings were made with the Sun to the rear of the lunar module so that the craters and boulders would be most visible during the landing descent. After landing, the area in front of the lunar module is then in total shadow, and this is where Neil stood to fill, close, and lock the rock sample box. To my delight, this total shadow effect worked beautifully, with Neil somewhat dark and colorful in shadow and the Sea of Tranquility a bright counterpoint.

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