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Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future!

The International Space Station                    Credit: NASA

The year 2020 is a major milestone for the International Space Station. This coming November, the station will celebrate 20 years of continuous operation with a human crew aboard. 2020 also marks a very historic moment in the legacy of Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986).

Known as “The Father of Space Art,” Chesley used outer space, planets, moons, and galaxies as the subject matter for countless numbers of his paintings.  He once said, “Space, to me, is the infinite cosmos— the ultimate mystery.”  Born in the days before automobiles and airplanes, Chesley lived to witness great accomplishments in space exploration, just like his artwork predicted. He never got the chance to explore space himself, but just recently, something remarkable happened. On March 12, 2020, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston confirmed that the documentary film of his life, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future, had been transmitted to the International Space Station (ISS) for the “Expedition 62” crew to watch and enjoy.

Special Video Announcement

If you would like to see this video, please click on the image above.
Credit: NASA

Expedition 62 crew members on board the ISS: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (upper left) and Andrew Morgan (upper right) are perched atop Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka

“I could not be more grateful to NASA for allowing us to share our award-winning documentary about Chesley Bonestell with the crew of the ISS,” said the film’s producer/writer/director Douglass M. Stewart, Jr. “I’ve had this particular dream for years and thanks to some wonderful assistance from the team at the NASA Johnson Space Center, it’s become a reality. Things really began to move forward when I met veteran NASA Research Pilot and aerospace engineer Mark Pestana at a lecture he was giving. He was speaking about his involvement with the development of the ISS at the invitation of the Los Angeles-Las Vegas Section of the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics). Mark is a huge Chesley Bonestell fan and made the connection with NASA for us to inquire about sending our film to the ISS.”

You can read more on Mark’s “Space Hipsters” Facebook post by clicking the link below:

NASA’s Mark Pestana and filmmaker Doug Stewart

Mark’s involvement with NASA goes back a long way. Before his most recent assignment as a Research Pilot at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, he served as an Operations Engineer in the NASA Astronaut Office. He also helped develop the flight crew operations of the International Space Station. That assignment took him to Moscow and to Star City, the cosmonaut training base, to interface with the Russian Space Agency, an important partner in the ISS.

Mark is an award-winning artist member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA). He credits Chesley Bonestell for pointing him to the fields of aviation and space. “Chesley’s paintings inspired me to pursue a career in aerospace. One nice part is that I also get to use my skills as an artist in my work. I have the unique honor of having designed the astronauts' mission patches for nine Space Shuttle flights, one of which docked at the ISS.”

STS-123 Mission Patch created by Mark Pestana

Chesley was no stranger to space stations. His work with Wernher von Braun included turning von Braun’s mathematical formulas and sketches into practical renderings that were featured in magazine articles like the 1950’s Collier’s series  “Man Will Conquer Space Soon!” and books such as Across the Space Frontier (1952).

Courtesy Bonestell LLC
Chesley Bonestell rendering for the 1952 book Across the Space Frontier
Credit: Paramount Pictures
From the opening scenes of Conquest of Space (1955)

A space station appears in a 1955 film that Chesley worked on with producer George Pal called Conquest of Space. Since then, Chesley’s work has been a part of television shows like Men Into Space and influenced iconic films like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The news that Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future now circles the Earth at 4.76 miles per second brought smiles to its Co-Producers Ron Miller and Melvin Schuetz.  “This is a signature moment that just astounds me. It’s incredible!” said Ron, a space artist himself. "Chesley Bonestell has been one of the pillars of my career. I would not be doing what I do today had it not been for his influence...and every painting I do is a tip of my hat to his inspiration.”  Melvin, himself a renowned Bonestell historian, agrees. “As a young boy, I became fascinated with Chesley’s extraordinary art. It’s wonderful that he has now been taken up into space—something that fascinated him so much. That fascination inspired him to create paintings that have encouraged others to accomplish what humanity has dreamed of for centuries—the exploration of the Final Frontier.”

Special thanks must be extended to NASA’s Behavioral Health and Performance team, who transmitted the film to the ISS. This team supports the astronauts’ leisure time activities like family teleconferences and viewing live sporting events.  It should be noted that NASA does not specifically endorse the music or films they provide to the ISS crews.  They also can't confirm if the crew has actually watched the film but we’re hopeful about hearing some out-of-this-world reviews in the days or weeks ahead!  Would that Chesley could be alive today to see how important his life's work has become in a film that now orbits 254 miles above the earth.

The Chesley Bonestell Film Team is deeply indebted to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and to Mark Pestana for their extraordinary efforts on behalf of this film.

Copyright © 2020 Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future, All rights reserved.

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