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An Official Space Artwork in Orbit

Artist's Conception of Terra Satellite Orbiting Earth
A 21st Century Satellite Orbiting Earth

America's first and only official space artwork was carried to orbit by shuttle Discovery in 1989. It also was to be the last for some time.

The seven-pound cube-shaped sculpture called Boundless Aperture, created by Boston artist Lowry Burgess, was approved for flight by NASA's Non-Scientific Payloads Committee in 1984.

Back then, the agency was accepting civilian requests to orbit non-science satellites. But, after the 1986 Challenger disaster killed civilian Christa McAuliffe and six other astronauts, the Non-Scientific Payloads Committee was disbanded.

Although the space agency cut off civilian access to space, an exception was granted for Boundless Aperture.

Burgess, a professor at Massachusetts College of Art, conceived Boundless Aperture in the 1960s as part of what he called The Quiet Axis.

By the time Boundless Aperture went to space, Burgess already had buried a sculpture in the floor of the Pacific Ocean off Easter Island and lugged another into central Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountains.

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