Here Be Dragons, Maybe.

NASA Juno & Eindhoven Airport

Created at Eindhoven Airprort during a lengthy sprint of visits to the local Starbucks and airport panorama terrace. Taking in the views and busy energy of people, machines and majestic aircraft moving, living and breathing life into an otherwise quiet area of Eindhoven city. It was the beginning of an evening in the Netherlands on July 4th 2016 when NASA Juno quietly arrived at Jupiter after a chilly five year journey from Earth.

NASA’s announcement was anything but quiet, spreading quickly on social media. Twitter bursting with excitement about the milestone, live streams pumping video of excited expert scientists who’d been waiting for the kickoff for the past five years.

Wildly enthusiastic panels of science experts across the globe relaying incoming news as quick as it came from NASA HQ sending waves throughout the public consciousphere.

The Juno scientists themselves broadcast with an apprehensive yet confident tone awaiting the first signs of a data stream arriving directly from Jupiter when Juno – for the first time ever, spoke directly to Earth confirming successful insertion into Jovian orbit.

Even from within NASA HQ, the July 4th celebrations underway outside could be heard, eruptions of fireworks clearly audible in the background as the American public illuminated the sky with rapturous explosions of light & sound. A fitting soundtrack of earthly Independence Day celebrations, tied into a a historically inspiring moment for all to admire around the globe as the live Juno scientists announced the acquisition of signal, racing to determine if the first of several monumentally difficult trajectory adjustments meant a successful orbital insertion.

Juno had arrived. The first dedicated probe to take up temporary residence orbiting the gas giant. Gleaning up-close images and data for detailed analysis of the monumentally massive planet. This was no small feat as Jupiter has a dangerous and extremely hazardous environment that reaches far out into space, way beyond the planet’s atmosphere. The highly volatile electromagnetic radiation from Jupiter is sufficient to disrupt electronics at great distance, so hardening electronics to survive the Jovian environment and provide science from sensitive instruments was why Juno had to be built to withstand the bombardment from significant electromagnetic interference and highly charged particles trapped in Jupiter’s vast & dangerous Van Allen belts.

Joining the excitement- the team that physically launched Juno on a ULA Atlas V rocket as well as the NASA Juno team themselves announced an impromptu competition inviting the public to participate contributing artworks to mark the celebration.

The competition piqued my interest instantly, as soon as I saw the invitation it was as if a huge spark leapt across my mind causing a vision that cascaded into an overwhelming sense of urgency to create- a jolt that seemed to run up the spine, the foundations of reality appeared to flex & vibrate- a sensation that is best described as one of those “oh my god” moments as childhood memories of poring over encyclopaedias, space books, technical manuals- anything I could get my thirsty hands on flooded back with a vengeance. Dormant for decades, now they had purpose.

That’s what the inspiration felt like.

We were sat inside the upstairs restaurant taking in the very last glimpses of the glorious sunscape as it set the airport alight with intensely golden hues, I had just finished sipping the last of the whipped cream from a frappuccino when I flipped my pad sketch app open and began- a process still very new to me at the time. This would be my Second painting, I decided, and with that- I flipped on the autopilot and flew into the night.

I rolled in to bed approximately 8 hours later yet social media was still ablaze with tweets about Juno, the excitement was palpable – tangible evidence that people still get it. What you see above is a result of that night’s energy.

So, what are we looking at?

Mostly painted in “watercolour”, to a deadline. This is a hybrid with some mixed painting techniques- this was after all the 2nd painting I ever made so some experimentation is visible. It’s a 100% digital creation.

Left hand side

  • “Wintje” – that’s a depiction of me when I was out in The Great Storm of 1987, aged 7. Yardley, England. Watching in awe as my contraption spun into action, my imagination running wild – it is a very vivid memory.
  • The functional concept contraption, my earliest “Wind Turbine”. Basically a stick with rotating top & a home made dynamo. It would not normally have worked in anything BUT hurricane level winds. I had little opportunity to revisit the magical place throughout my youth- but when commercial turbines began appearing in the mountains & hills, whilst trying to do some holidaying in Caeseus- a spot of nowhere in the middle of Wales, my mother took me on an impromptu adventure. We both wanted to go and see some brand new cutting edge turbines up-close & personal. So we did. Wow.

Lower Middle

  • A prototype wormhole generator, purely imaginary? I wonder if anyone else recognises the design! The generator is what was being used to get a view of Jupiter as Juno arrived, in realtime.
  • Laid on the ground next to the anomaly generator is an old disassembled full size 8MW wind turbine. Sense of scale is a little off but please remember you’re looking at a gravitational anomaly 😀
  • She loves tulips.

Upper Middle

  • Jupiter, the planet.
  • The NASA Juno Probe.
  • The eye (The infamous Great Red Storm).
  • The purple fluorescence above the pole is a depiction of the natural aurora on Jupiter, mostly invisible to the naked eye but very detectable in x-ray wavelengths.

An unexpected update

Two weeks pass after the submitting the first version of the painting, I honestly believed there would be floods of entires to the competition, but I sent mine in knowing that at least I had contributed something to the occasion. It was very therapeutic for me. What happened next was most unexpected:

ulalaunch_tweet_2

Stunned. Huh. How was this possible? I was convinced that my contribution was too amateur, that it would be discarded amongst the entries from proper artists, yet there it was- my name, first place. I had no idea what I’d won but was asked to forward an address for a surprise swag package.

Bear in mind, nothing like this has ever happened to me before. Stunned in awe that someone had seen my stuff and determined it good enough? You could say that. Nobody mentions what ULA are sending- could be anything, but wow, this “swag packet” was actually something which took things up a notch, as you will come to see.

Approximately a month later, a FedEx package arrived here in the Netherlands- heavy for its size. Here is the “unboxing” video for your entertainment!

With compliments of Tory Bruno, the CEO and president of ULA Launch (ULALaunch.com).

I am not ashamed to admit that when I first opened the packet together with my wife Ilona, this chunky metal thing slipped out, I burst into tears. I realised in a heartbeat that I had been awarded something significant and extremely rare, by people who had gone out of their way to send it across the globe to us in The Netherlands. An actual mission coin. These, these are not handed out willy-nilly to just anyone but only to those who had worked on or been directly involved with the missions. Some may say these are “nothing special”, those few would be incorrect, you probably heard me say what I felt about the whole experience it in the unboxing video. I hope those involved in the mission can come to know that this gesture had a very deep emotional impact upon someone who didn’t get a good start in life. Had to grow up too young, had education opportunities destroyed by abusive evils whom, years later were put in prison for what they did to me. This symbolic gesture by a group of scientists to a person on the other side of the planet felt as powerful as it sounds.

From me, A most profound thank you.

The Swag

But there is more…

Not satisfied that the painting was actually finished, the final touches came a little later- after capturing light from a very special place (De Efteling) this inspired the final touches in the form of electromagnetic radiation, a significant part of the research done by Juno as part of the scientific endeavour to understand exactly how dangerous Jupiter is for humans and technology. It’s worthy noting that Juno only will be able to orbit a finite number of times around Jupiter before the gravitational pull of Jupiter takes Juno on a collision course with the Jovian giant.

Presenting the final, second painting:

Commence Commission

Here is what it looks like on canvas, commissioned print by a good friend who now has this hung in their main office where all his patients see it, he tells me they stare at it and ask many questions, that’s why I wrote this blog because there is, if you look for it- more than meets the eye.

Oops.

This particular print has what appears to be a defect, and it is very apparent when comparing images, what was is it? Oh no. It was a mistake caused by my thumb while exporting the image to the printers! If you own this copy of the print, it’s rare. Only two have been produced that are in “public” circulation. One is owned by my friend, the other is at United Launch Alliance’s HQ. Both defective but still nice!

2 thoughts on “Here Be Dragons, Maybe.

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