Dean Ellis (1920 – 2009) “US / USSR Astronauts on Mars” Signed lower left. Tempera on Illustration Board. Provenance: Collection of James A. Helzer (1946-2008), Founder of Unicover Corporation.
This painting was originally published on the Fleetwood Maximum Card for the U.S. 29c Soyuz, Mercury and Gemini Spacecraft stamp issued May 29, 1992.
It was May 14, 1973. Severely damaged by the force of its launch, America’s ambitious Skylab project appeared to be a $2.6 billion write-off. A large piece of Skylab’s heat shield had broken away, tearing off a 2,000-watt solar panel in the process. A second solar panel was jammed by debris. Three times Mission Control radioed a message commanding the second panel to open. Three times nothing happened. Back on Earth, NASA scientists worked frantically to solve the problem. All the while, temperatures were rising in the stricken craft, eventually reaching a sweltering 165deg before a booster rocket was fired to turn the unshielded area away from the sun. When, 10 days later, astronauts Joseph Kerwin, Pete Conrad and Paul Weitz arrived, the temperature in Skylab was still hovering around 130deg. Hastily, they erected a sun-blocking parasol and soon temperatures dropped to the 70s. Later, repairs were made to the remaining solar panel, permitting Skylab to function at near-normal levels, making possible some very fascinating research. Over the next year, two more teams of astronauts utilized Skylab for a broad range of experiments, studying the sun, mapping the Earth to locate natural resources and observing animal and human adaption to weightlessness. When Skylab fell to Earth on July 12, 1979, it had traveled nearly 950 million miles over six years and two months. And, overcoming a shaky start, it had provided endless fascination for the ever-curious men of planet Earth.
Image Size: 13.75 x 19.5 in.
Overall Size: 16.5 x 22 in.