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NSS 2015 International Student Art Contest

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Dustfall on Mars space art
Dustfall on Mars space art

The National Space Society is holding a student space art contest which is free to enter and is open to students aged 13-25 years old world-wide. The theme for this art contest is life in a space settlement. Submissions to the contest are to focus on the daily activities of living and working in a space settlement located somewhere in the solar system. A key rule for art being submitted to the contest is that it has to be a realistic depiction of human activities. That means no aliens, no faster-than-light UFOs, and no other violations of science. The contest is particularly interested in photo-realistic submissions.

The contest’s Grand Prize winner will have their artwork published on the cover of Ad Astra magazine as well as receiving a complimentary membership in the National Space Society and complimentary registration to the 2015 International Space Development Conference being held in Toronto, Canada.

In addition to the Grand Prize, First Prizes and Honorable Mentions may also be awarded depending on the artistic merit of the submitted entries. I must point out that the contest does contain a provision that if none of the art submitted adequately meets contest standards, then no prizes shall be awarded – which is reasonable given that unlike most other art contests there is no fee charged to submit art for this contest.

For my part, I will again be serving as one of the art judges for the contest. Here are some tips from me for students submitting art. First, if your artwork is set inside a space settlement then have a window in the scene so that the viewer can identify where in the solar system your settlement is. Second, since the art is to depict settlement life, make sure to have a person somewhere in your artwork. Third, if the subject of your art is an astronaut exploring or working on the surface of the Moon, Mars, or an asteroid, then make sure that you have some sort of habitat somewhere in your scene. For example, an astronaut exploring the surface of an asteroid with a settlement in the distance, either on the surface of the asteroid or in orbit above it. Lastly, be sure to get your science right. In one space art contest I judged, the artist had an astronaut in a spacesuit on the surface of the Moon standing next to a pool of water. No matter how good your art is, if you do something like that your art will not be a winning entry.

Submissions to this art contest are due by March 16. Students who are under age 18 must have their parents permission in order to participate.

Art Contest Reference Links

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I used some of my own space art. Dustfall on Mars is a piece I was commissioned to create for presentation to Mars Society President Robert Zubrin on his 65th birthday. Unlike much of my art, this piece is a straight forward example of painting digitally. The version shown here has been cropped.

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Voting Open For Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

NSS Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest Vote
Enterprise In Space Project

The open submission period for the National Space Society (NSS) Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest is closed and
the polls are now open for the public to vote for the best NSS Enterprise Orbiter design submitted.

For those not familiar with the project, the goal of the Enterprise In Space (EIS) project is to design, build, launch, orbit, and re-enter a satellite. This satellite, the NSS Enterprise Orbiter, will carry approximately 100 competitively-selected student experiments to space. The mission will orbit the Earth for approximately one week before re-entry and recovery. The satellite will then embark on a tour of museums world-wide before becoming a permanent exhibit at a museum yet to be named. Enterprise in Space is a project of the non-profit National Space Society of which I am a former Vice President. Among those who have endorsed the project are Buzz Aldrin, John Billingsley, Hugh Downs, Nichelle Nichols, and Eugene Roddenberry. See also the Enterprise in Space Board of Advisors.

As a part of the desire to involve the public in the project’s progress, it had been decided that the exterior design for the spacecraft would be determined by way of a public contest. Designers and artists were encouraged to submit science fiction inspired designs.

My involvement in the project began in July when I was asked to join the EIS Board of Advisors. Then in mid-November I was asked to take on the job of managing the Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest. I accepted. In addition to managing the contest I will also be serving as one of the judges in the contest’s final selection round. In that round, I and six other judges will formally select the Grand Prize, First Prize, and Second Prize winners. While a major factor in our decision will be the results of the public vote, we will also be considering the design originality, visual aesthetics, and engineering practicality. While engineering considerations were not meant to be a driving factor for the contestants, they will by necessity be a factor in the construction of a spacecraft that will have to carry some 100 student experiments to space will meeting launch-vehicle-imposed restrictions on dimensions, weight, center of mass, etc.

Even though I am a judge in the contest, I still took the opportunity to vote for my favorite design submission. Voting closes on December 19 at midnight UTC so why not vote now in the Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest .

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St. Louis and the Gateway to Space Conference

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

St Louis Gatway Arch day view from Old Courthouse
St. Louis Gatway Arch day view from Old Courthouse

I returned Monday night from my first trip to St. Louis. I was there to attend the Gateway to Space Conference. My participation in the conference consisted of:

  • giving a presentation on newSpace,
  • participating in a group presentation on the Enterprise in Space project,
  • serving as a panelist on the two-hour Rocky Road to Space Settlement Panel,
  • participating in the National Space Society’s website committee meeting,
  • exhibiting some of my space art as a part of the Saturday evening Cosmic Celebration.

In addition to the aforementioned items, I also created the cover art for the conference’s program book and had arranged for the Chicago Society for Space Studies to be an official sponsor of the conference.

My Friday at the conference began with a tour of the Washington University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences Moon and Mars laboratories. The three science presentations that went with the tour – two about Mars and one about the Moon – were very interesting and dealt with some of the research being done there.

For me, the highlight of the conference was the next event. The program Space Retrospective featured a group of McDonnell Douglas engineers who had worked on the NASA Mercury and Gemini programs. Also special was that this event was held in Boeing’s Prologue Room, a "museum" of aviation, space, and missile history that is not generally open to the public.

Boeing Prologue Room Museum
Inside the Boeing Prologue Room

Hearing these engineers, along with Lowell Grissom (Mercury Astronaut Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom’s brother) recount tales of the dawn of the space age and the many challenges they faced was really something. The Mercury and Gemini members of MAC’s Old Team present were Norm Beckel, Dean Purdy, Earl Robb, Jerry Roberts, Bob Schepp, Ray Tucker, and Nelson Weber.

McDonnell Douglas engineers from NASA Mercury and Gemini programs
MAC’s Old Team
McDonnell Douglas engineers from NASA Mercury and Gemini programs
(The man front and center in the tan pants is Lowell Grissom, Gus Grissom’s brother. At the far right is panel moderator Earl Mullins of The Space Museum. Second from the left is Paul Baldwin, President of the NSS St. Louis Space Frontier.)

Serving as panel moderator was Earl Mullins. In addition, The Space Museum, Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum, and St. Louis Rocketry Association all had artifacts and memorabilia from the Mercury and Gemini era on display.

Saturday was a full day of programming at the hotel starting at 9:00am and running until 9:00pm with the Cosmic Celebration and NSS internal committee meetings keeping me until the very end. This was followed by sitting in the hotel bar until about 2:00am speaking with several friends.

My only programming committment on Sunday was the two-hour Rocky Road to Space Settlement Panel. I was then able to sit back and relax as all my formal duties were done. I took the opportunity to go on the conference’s tour of the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum in Cahokia, IL (Thanks Gloria for generously offering to drive there and back). We spent almost two hours exploring the museum and attached hangers.

In the Cockpit - McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
In the cockpit of a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II at the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum

Sunday night Gloria (a local reporter), Libby (Challenger Center), Ronnie (Boeing), Dale (XCOR Aerospace), and myself walked a few blocks to have dinner at the Old Spagetti Factory. I was quite impressed both by the food and the restaurant’s beauty. From there it was back to the hotel bar and an evening of conversation.

Monday morning Ronnie and I hiked over to the Gateway Arch and took the tram to the top (we had bought tickets the night before). The two pictures that follow were taken from the inside viewing area at the top of the arch.

Downtown St. Louis from the Gateway Arch
Fisheye lens photograph of downtown St. Louis

Saint Louis Cardinals Busch Stadium  from the Gateway Arch
Telephoto lens view of Busch Stadium, home of the Saint Louis Cardinals.

Arriving home Monday night, I now have a few days to prepare before heading off to the Windycon Science Fiction Convention – which will be the subject of my next post.

St Louis night view of Gateway Arch
St. Louis night view of Gateway Arch from my hotel window

In closing I want to commend Christine, Paul, and all the other members of the NSS St. Louis Space Frontier for putting on an absolutely wonderful space conference.

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Judging the 2014 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Arcturus Space Settlement
Arcturus Space Settlement by student artist Bogdan Alexandru Cionca

Sunday night you would have found me on a conference call judging the art that had been submitted to the National Space Society’s Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest. I previously wrote about this art contest in December: Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest.

I do enjoy judging space art contests because not only is the artistic composition and skill of the artist judged, but so too is the realism, accuracy, and practicality of the artist’s vision with respect to space engineering. For this contest, artists were expected to create art that satisfied either of two milestones outlined in the National Space Society’s Roadmap to Space Settlement. The two milestones were:

In judging the art, judges were expected to evaluate the submitted art based on the following criteria:

  • The art had to compositionally satisfy either milestone 18 or 19 shown above.
  • The art had to be a realistic depiction of a space settlement or associated activities. For example, the works of Chesley Bonestell, Pat Rawlings, or David Hardy are examples of the realistic representation of space development activities.
  • If the art is an interior scene, then there has to be some aspect of the artwork that makes it clear that the setting is not of this Earth. Obviously the easiest way to satisfy this criteria is to provide a window through which can be seen the surface of the Moon for example.
  • The artwork should have an uplifting, positive message. On the flip side, art depicting battle scenes or criminal activity, etc. were not to be considered.
  • The art had to be non-offensive and family-appropriate.
  • No art with identifiable individuals, real or fictional. The sole exception was if the artist wanted to include themself in the art.

With respect to this art contest, there were three things that disappointed me.

First, I was most disappointed to see over the course of the contest submissions of art that had been taken from NASA and commercial sources and submitted as original works. The contest rules were quite clear on the requirement that the submitting artist be the creator of the art submitted. Fortunately none of these works made it into the contest’s art gallery. As I did during last year’s contest, I advised the committee to issue a ban for life for anyone submitting stolen art to the contest.

Second, it was a real disappointment for me that there was not one single submission from a student from the United States. (Note: I’m not aware of the nationality of those submitters whose art was rejected on the grounds of plagiarism or inappropriate content). So kudos to the student artists from India (6), Romania (4), and the Czech Republic (1).

Third, I was disappointed that there were not more submissions to the contest. I think this was due to the lack of promotion for the contest.

Back to judging the art, I was surprised by how easy it was for us to reach a consensus. According to the contest rules, we were to award one grand prize, up to 10 first prizes, and optionally an honorable mention. We awarded one grand prize, one first prize, and one honorable mention.

The Grand Prize went to Bogdan Alexandru Cionca, an 11th grader from Romania, for the submission Arcturus Space Settlement which illustrated the asteroid-related milestone. This is the artwork I’ve used to illustrate this post. We awarded a First Prize to Aleksandra Voinea, a 12th grader also from Romania, for Asteroid Mining near Mars, another asteroid-related artwork. Lastly we awarded an Honorable Mention to Tudor Tomescu, an 11th grader from Romania for Ancesius Asteroid-Mounted Settlement. So it was a clean sweep for students from Romania.

The contest results are now up on the National Space Society web site. To view the winning entries and all the other art that was accepted into the contest, see the Gallery for NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest (2014).

In closing, if you are a student artist with an interest in space exploration, NSS is expecting to run the contest again next year (December 2014 – March 2015) so keep your eyes open.

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Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Space Colony at L5 Lagrange Point painting by Rick Guidice
Space Colony at L5 Lagrange Point painting by Rick Guidice

The National Space Society (NSS) has announced its Roadmap to Space Settlement 2014 International Student Art Contest. The objective of this art contest is to get students creating space art that can be used to illustrate Milestones to Space Settlement: An NSS Roadmap, a strategic space development planning document that was created to clearly illustrate a path forward in the quest to create a spacefaring civilization.

The artistic theme for this contest is the realistic depiction of either an asteroid settlement or a space settlement that is under construction. With respect to asteroid settlements, asteroids are potentially valuable resources due to their composition. The presence of natural resources combined with a low gravity environment makes them an ideal location for mining operations. Unfortunately there has been very little asteroid settlement art created to date.

While there is an abundance of space art depicting space settlements, there is a scarcity of art that shows these settlements in the process of being built – hence the art category for the construction of space settlements.

The requirement that the art must be a realistic depiction of either an asteroid settlement or a space settlement under construction will hopefully lead the student artists to first do some basic research on the subject.

The art contest is open to full-time students aged 12 to 25 world-wide. Art must be submitted by March 16, 2014 with the winners announced by April 1, 2014. In terms of prizes, there will be one Grand Prize and up to 12 First Prizes awarded on a school grade level basis. There is also an opportunity for some artwork to be awarded an Honorable Mention. Details for the prizes for the art contest’s winners is detailed on the contest web site (listed below).

My Role as Art Judge

As one of the judges for the art contest, I will be paying attention to the aesthetics of the compositions. But artistic aesthetics will take a back seat to realism. It will be obvious which artists researched the subject and which artists did not. One suggestion I have for student artists entering the contest is to seek out a science teacher for advice on the science and engineering of living and working in space.

Art Contest Links and Reference Links

Contest Links

Research Resource Links

In closing I want to wish all students entering the contest the best of luck and do urge you to research the subject of your painting (digital or otherwise). Approach your art project as though you were an engineer or an architect out to create a real working space settlement. Do that and you will greatly improve your chances of being a winner in the contest.

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NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement Student Art Contest

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

NASA Moon Base Art
NASA Moon Base Credit: NASA

I enjoy judging art contests. I particularly enjoy judging space art contests. I concluded my most recent space art judging experience Monday evening. In this case it was judging the student art that had been submitted to the National Space Society’s Roadmap to Space Settlement Student Art Contest.

The goal of the contest was to get students to create art that could be used to illustrate the NSS Milestones to Space Settlement: An NSS Roadmap – a document that was created for the purpose of laying out for the public the major milestones that will likely have to be passed and the major barriers that will have to be overcome in order for humanity to achieve the NSS vision of "People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity." The contest was organized and managed by Lynne Zielinski, the NSS Vice President of Public Affairs (and a member of the Chicago Society for Space Studies).

Unfortunately the contest was run on a very tight time line. The contest was announced on March 25 and the submissions deadline was April 22. Typically art contests provide much more time – both to provide time to promote the contest and to allow artists time to create their submission. However NSS wanted the contest completed in advance of their annual International Space Development Conference (May 23-27).

In spite of the limited time frame the contest received over 300 submissions. Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of these submissions were rejected since they did not meet the contest’s guidelines. Eliminating these non-qualifying submissions left the judges with 14 artworks to evaluate. This was reduced to 13 when it was discovered that one of the submissions was a fraud. The artist claimed to have created his submission using Photoshop and GIMP but the artwork was actually a NASA produced image of a lunar base! I have used that NASA image to illustrate this article. You may have previously seen this image on the NASA or Space.com web sites.

Judging art can be quite challenging at times. However, a well designed set of judging criteria that includes specific elements on which to judge the art helps. For this particular art contest, judges were expected to evaluate the art based on the following elements:

  • the art features one of the milestones listed in the Roadmap to Space Settlement
  • the milestone depicted contains sufficient evidence of accuracy
  • the art is a realistic depiction
  • the art represents more factually based science than fictional science
  • the art uses accurate perspectives
  • the art provides an uplifting, positive message of our future in space
  • the art contains a high level of detail.
  • the art appears to be created in a manner that is consistent with the method described by the artist.
  • all elements of the art appear to be created by the artist

Each judge independently graded each image after which we met to confirm the grand prize winner and to ascertain how many First Prize and Honorable Mention awards would be given out. In the end it was decided to give one First Prize and one Honorable Mention award. The Grand Prize Winner was the entry Asteroid Mining Module and the First Prize Winner was INSPIRE Life – both of which topped my list point wise. An Honorable Mention was awarded to Jupiter Orbital Space Settlement.

It is likely that this contest will be held again next year and, hopefully, I will once again be asked to participate as a judge.

Reference Links

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