A Missed Opportunity
I watched a documentary about cave paintings last week, and it got me thinking about the longevity of artwork. The title of “most ancient art” seems to be widely claimed, and depends largely on one’s definition: do stone tools count? What about rocks with seemingly decorative hatch marks? Or representational images of critters on cave walls with pigmented paint, rather than spirals, lines, or dots made with charcoal? Generally, it seems that contenders are usually in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 thousand years old, whether one is discussing cave paintings or little carved objects, as several continents can claim some work or another in that neighborhood.
So, it seemed to me that the moon would be a great canvas for an art project: anything doodled in the loose “soil” up there would last for perhaps 10 to 100 million years before it got filled in by the gradual settling of dust. Or it could be erased after five minutes by a random meteor strike– but that could be said of most terrestrial artwork too. Nevertheless, anything up there would last, in all likelihood, for quite a while, at least until it gets more foot traffic again. No one’s been to the moon in over forty years, and at the the time of this writing it seems like it will be at least another ten years before anyone might step on your drawing.
Do you suppose the astronauts were tempted to make anything? Alan Shepard played golf– who’s to say Buzz Aldrin didn’t stamp out the word BUTTS in 60-foot letters? Maybe that’s the whole point of those probes that periodically crash into the moon– it’s a vast conspiracy to erase embarrassing moon-vandalism. Speaking of government cover-ups, if you delve too much into YouTube moon conspiracy videos, you’ll discover both that the Apollo missions never happened (secret CIA money pit), and that they stopped going to the moon because they found “something” (aliens). So… logically, we know at least one of those conspiracy theories is wrong.
While making this comic, I did discover that, aside from a few commemorative plaques here and there, and a bunch of government logos, the moon is home to at least one art object: Fallen Astronaut. Evidently it was placed there by the astronauts of Apollo 15 without fanfare to quietly commemorate the American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts who had died in service to mankind’s explorations of space. Space travel really was a serious business, so while Shepard may have swatted a few golf balls around as a sort of joke, it seems unlikely that any of those guys would’ve scratched “Go Bears” or something equally mundane into what many of them likely regarded as a near-sacred destination.
Also, I found out that some rock art in Namibia, evidently the oldest known on the African continent, is found in the Apollo 11 Cave, named after the space mission, so it seems that rock art and the moon landings have some moderate association after all.