A small ceramic disc with original artwork by famous American artists snuck aboard the Apollo 12 rocket in 1969. The disc (above) contains works by such artists as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenburg. Thanks to this secret operation, the moon has a “permanent miniature art museum.”
The disc is three-quarters of an inch by half an inch and holds six pieces of art. Only a few people knew about the disc until the PBS series “History Detectives” covered the story recently.
How did this happen? Each work was sent to Bell Laboratories, where scientist Fred Waldhauer reduced the size and imprinted the sketches onto ceramic wafers. Waldhauer made one disc for Apollo 12 and extra copies for participants and the artists. An engineer secretly attached the disc to the lunar module.
Gwendolyn Wright, historian and host of “History Detectives,” found out about the disc from a curator in Florida. Although the sketches are quite simple and do not compare to the artists’ best work, the secrecy and planning of the whole operation makes for an interesting story. According to Wright, the real story isn’t the quality of the art—it’s the bravery of the engineers who decided it was important that art, one of the things that separates mankind from the animals, should be represented on the moon.