Wells & Mendip Astronomers
IN the UK we are generally unaware that our space industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy (8.8% annual growth since 2000). It supports directly or indirectly 100,000 jobs and is now worth almost £12 billion per year to the economy.
This is set to treble by 2030, provided the right investment is made and that we have a qualified workforce to drive it. Beyond this, the exploration of space is the greatest human adventure of our time, and may one day ensure our survival and that of our planet.
It is against this background that the Wells & Mendip Astronomers collaborates with international bodies like the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) – the world’s oldest space advocacy organisation – to raise public awareness of the space industry and to inspire both young and old. In this context, the Wells & Mendip Museum has been privileged this June to host ‘Visions of Space 2’, a breathtaking exhibition of art works by the UK’s and USA’s top members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA), including Britain’s David A. Hardy. Many of the artists were also well-known writers, scientists and engineers, and there were even three astronauts, including Apollo 12 Moonwalker and Skylab Commander Alan Bean.
During a distinguished career of over 60 years, David A. Hardy’s work has been featured in many astronomy publications, as well as in hundreds of science fiction books and magazines. He is one of only a few artists to have an asteroid named after him.
The exhibition also included a history of space exploration illustrated with spacecraft models by Mat Irvine, TV and film special effects wizard, designer and producer.
Following its opening with illustrated talks by Hardy and Irvine, and two live Skype-ups with IAAA artists and astronauts at Spacefest 8 in Arizona, the show attracted visitors from far and wide, and was also taken out to local school children by Joanne Richardson’s Space Detectives and IAAA artist Jackie Burns. Feeding the dreams of young people can, as Alan Bean says, "motivate them to believe that they, too, can take an active part in the explorations and adventures of their lifetimes". He and other astronaut artists, like cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, are the first, but certainly won’t be the last.