Paul van Hoeydonck «Fallen Astronaut» 1971.
Apollo 15's journey to the moon was the most perilous mission planned by NASA. It's destination was the Apennine region of the Moon (Hadley-Apennine landing site). By all accounts a success, it provided a rare moment of introspection for astronauts.
David Scott's final task of his moon-walk was to drive the Rover out a distance from the Lunar Module to a point where the TV camera could watch the lift off. He left a small Bible on the Rover's dash panel; and, beside the Rover, he laid a figure of a fallen astronaut and a small plaque recording the names of all the astronauts and cosmonauts that had lost their lives in the furtherance of space exploration. The Rover carried its own message, «Man's first wheels on the moon. Delivered by Falcon, July 30, 1971.»
Belgian Artist Paul Van Hoeydonck was commissioned to created the small statuette, made of tin, for the occasion. Smuggled aboard the lunar module without the knowledge of NASA officials, David Scott and Jim Irwin performed a brief, yet reverent, ceremony on the lunar surface.
The crew of Apollo 15, in their own words:
Mission Time - 167:41:30
[Without Houston's knowledge, Dave is preparing and photographing a memorial to the astronauts and cosmonauts who had died in space and in other circumstances. Dave talked about the memorial during the post-flight press conference. Photos AS15-88- 11893 and 11894 are a stereo-pair of the memorial.]
[Jones: It was in your post-flight press conference.]
[Scott: That's where we told 'em about it. I was thinking I had discussed it on the Moon, but I didn't.]
[Jones: Tell me about it.]
[Scott: We made a plaque for all the astronauts and cosmonauts that had been killed. And a little figurine, a Fallen Astronaut, and we put it right by the Rover. You can see it in the picture (AS15-88-11893). That was just a little memorial, in alphabetical order. In relative terms, we had both lost a lot and, interestingly enough, we didn't lose any more after that until Challenger. That's what I was doing when I said I was cleaning up behind the Rover (at 167:43:36). Jim knew what I was doing. We just thought we'd recognize the guys that made the ultimate contribution.]
[In a 2000 exchange of e-mail, Dave Scott adds: As I recall, we had the idea for the memorial and then looked around for the manner in which it might best be realized. The plaque was the obvious baseline. And either Al or Jim found van Hoeydonck. I remember meeting him at least once.]
[Jones: I'm glad you did it.]
[Scott: We felt satisfied in doing it. Several good guys didn't get to go.]
[Jones: I was just checking to see if there was any notation in the printed version of your checklist.]
[Scott: Probably not. That's one of the things that's easy to remember.]
[Scott: The plaque is explained in the Apollo 15 movie (Apollo 15: In the Mountains of the Moon), too, because they folded our press conference into that.]
The fourteen astronauts and cosmonauts listed on the memorial are:
- Charles Bassett (died Feb. 1966 in an aircraft accident)
- Pavel Belyayev (Jan. 1970, disease)
- Roger Chaffee (Jan. 1967, Apollo 1 fire)
- Georgi Dobrovolsky (Jun. 1971 re-entry pressurization failure)
- Theodore Freeman (Oct. 1964, aircraft accident)
- Yuri Gagarin (Mar. 1968, aircraft accident)
- Edward Givens (Jun. 1967, automobile accident)
- Gus Grissom (Jan. 1967, Apollo 1 fire)
- Vladimir Komarov (Apr. 1967, re-entry parachute failure)
- Viktor Patsayev (Jun. 1971, re-entry pressurization failure)
- Elliot See (Feb. 1966, aircraft accident)
- Vladislaw Volkov (Jun. 1971, re-entry pressurization failure)
- Edward White (Jan. 1967, Apollo 1 fire)
- C.C. Williams (Oct. 1967, aircraft accident)
The Apollo 15 crew desired to make a personal, private, symbolic gesture commemorating all deceased astronauts and cosmonauts; this desire was reinforced by the death the month before of three Soviet cosmonauts during the Soyuz 11 flight. Scott had met Paul Van Hoeydonck, a Belgian sculptor specializing in space themes, at a dinner party and had discussed the possibility of such a memorial. From that discussion came the Apollo 15 crew's decision to place on the moon a small sculptured aluminum figure provided by Van Hoeydonck, together with a plaque listing the names of the deceased, as the memorial. The crew's clear understanding with Van Hoeydonck was that there was to be no commercial or personal exploitation of this memorial.
In a post-mission press conference, the crew reported the memorial ceremony and, in keeping with their understanding, did not reveal the sculptor's name.
In November 1971, the Smithsonian Institution indicated a desire to display a replica of the memorial statue and plaque; the Apollo 15 crew agreed under the conditions that the display be in good taste and without publicity. Scott undertook to get the replicas for the museum.
In March 1972, David Scott forwarded replicas of the plaque to the museum. In April, responding to Scott's request, Van Hoeydonck presented the museum with a replica of the statuette. The replicas are currently on display there.
In May 1972, Scott learned that further replicas of the statuette might be offered for sale. He wrote Van Hoeydonck asking him to check on this rumor. In his response, Van Hoeydonck confirmed that replicas were intended for sale and indicated that he felt no constraints or restrictions in this matter. The Apollo 15 crew strongly disagree with this position, feeling that their solemn understanding with Van Hoeydonck prohibits any such commercialization.