On January 10, 2016, the world lost something precious and profound when David Bowie left the planet. Shortly afterwards, I had the chance to collaborate with my bride on a concept for inclusion in a show with the hypothetical premise: if you could make art on the moon (with a laundry list of practical limitations), what would you make? The show was the Greg Lundgren conceived and curated 'Giant Steps', and our concept was a tribute to our dearly departed hero, and we called it Major Tom.
MAJOR TOM: FIRST [Fashionably Inclined Robotic Space Traveling] Stepper
Presented by Troy & Catherine Gua
The cold war has ended, but the space race hasn’t - it’s moving faster than ever due to technological advances and the speed of information sharing. Our competitive nature and powerful desire to be first, though motivating, ultimately divides us, and is therefore heavily flawed. If we’d slow down and work together, imagine how efficient and comfortable - even relaxed - we could be.
Life is stressful enough without having to worry about being first. MAJOR TOM is a robotic lunar walker designed to take the pressure off any competitively predisposed explorers. MAJOR TOM will walk continuously, powered by the sun, imprinting the entire surface of the moon with a series of ‘first steps’, tirelessly and determinedly moving with purpose, eliminating the necessity of the human being’s innate drive to make their mark. Relax - someone (or something) beat you to it.
MAJOR TOM is essentially a solar panel with legs...in platform boots. It sports two almond-shaped LED screens above its upward slanted panel, displaying illuminated images of the legendary windows to the soul of one of our solar system’s greatest artists and ‘first steppers’, David Bowie. He was a true cultural pioneer and the most planetarily influential artists since the space race began, entering the popular global consciousness during the very same week that humankind first landed on the moon - clearly no coincidence.
MAJOR TOM is one smart cookie. It’s programmed to detect threatening terrain, altering its course accordingly to preserve self, steadily forging new ground and never repeating the same path, just like Bowie. Its battery holds enough charge to keep it truckin’ through the dark side and plot the most direct course back into the sun, all the while blinking its soulful, mismatched eyes and stepping in time to the tune of its epic Bowie playlist, inaudible due to the extremely thin atmosphere but broadcast across the universe in radio waves.
In addition to removing the need for human lunar competition by taking and making the first steps moonwide, MAJOR TOM is an artwork, existing as a kinetic sculpture that also creates art by stamping lasting patterns into the moon’s regolith surface.
MAJOR TOM knows its job and it knows it well: keep on stepping, lay new first footprints, and do it in style. It’s out there, so you don’t have to be.
Cargo: MAJOR TOM kinetic sculpture
Cargo Weight: 60 kg
Honda assemblage contract
Structure – ARC 13.6 - Two stepper legs with carbon rod strut design - Hybrid spaceframe & sandwich panel construction
Propulsion - Honda i-WALK technology with automatic detour function - Autonomous navigation sensors (one laser, one infrared) - Propellant and pressurant tanks
Electric Power - .37 m2 fixed solar array with 65° orientation from horizontal - Secondary 130 WHr lithium-ion battery
Command and Data Handling - RAD750 PCI - BAE Systems
Sound and Vision / Telecommunications - COTS Apple iPod mp3 player - LGA monopole whip antenna (omni S-band) 0.6 - COTS Go-Pro camera - LED-backlit LCD eye screens - Transponder – Aero-Astro
Footwear - Kansai Yamamoto platform boots with 1” treaded RTV630 silicon soles
To improve footprint impressions, weight will be added by filling each boot’s platform sole and leg, and a compartment within the CPU below the solar panel, with 195 KG of moon rocks.