Spaceflight Insider

Dutch artist’s work captures Galileo’s light

Henk Pander Galileo Jet Propulsion Laboratory image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Galileo. Image Credit: Henk Pander

In 1987, Dutch-born painter, Henk Pander, sat in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California and observed the construction of the Galileo Spacecraft. This spacecraft, named after famous astronomer Galileo Galilei and built for the purpose of studying Jupiter among other parts of the Solar System, stands as one of history’s most important assemblies. Not only did Pander watch and study Galileo’s construction, but his role at the JPL was to document this vital event in the history of space.

Test Chamber Jet Propulsion Laboratory image credit Henk Pander posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Test Chamber, JPL. Image Credit: Henk Pander

It is not rare that works of art Henk produces center around documenting particular points in history and the age of technology. His artistic career has been filled with national and state commissions as well as portraits, that are showcased in museums such as the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands and the Portland Art Museum.

But there is something vastly unique about Henk’s work with NASA in comparison to the rest of his incredible portfolio. This unparalleled nature could be a result of his lifelong interest in astronomy, or it could be the contrast of his often brooding pieces, and his art with NASA; a subject that largely represents optimism and curiosity.

Henk’s role with NASA’s art program began with the acceptance of one of the first Individual Artists Fellowships from Oregon’s Arts Commission. With this fellowship, artists like Henk were funded to take on projects and experiences that beneficially influenced their career.

Henk’s journey revolved around traveling through deserts, where he began in Nevada and ended in Arizona. There, he visited various space age facilities and being welcomed by the guards, Henk captured landscapes and incidents, like painting the solar radiation at the Kitt Peak observatory, where his interest in capturing more grew tremendously.

In an entry Henk wrote for Sky & Telescope, “I am trying to assimilate this experience and turn it into paintings which convey, above all, my added sense of amazement at the cosmic structure of which we are a part.”

interior space simulator image credit Henk Pander posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Interior Space Simulator. Image Credit: Henk Pander

Henk’s celestial documentation didn’t end with the Galileo. In oils and watercolors, he continued to document the solar vacuum test, the Goldstone telescope in the Mojave Desert and in Cape Canaveral 1989, the launch of Atlantis space shuttle which carried his familiar Galileo.

His works of art during this period with NASA not only chronicled technological fabrication, but captured the scientists hard at work and attempted, if possible, to reveal the unbelievable amount of exertion put into each aspect of studying space. Henk’s paintings as part of the NASA Art Team have been shown in the JPL Library, NASA Art Collection, Oregon’s Museum of Science, Cape Canaveral, among others.

“Galileo looked dark, huge, forbidding, and rather sculptural. Simple volumes, but mysterious and inexplicable. It expressed great power. Built around it was an eight foot aluminum platform with a stair entry. A huge translucent curtain filled the opening. Long, triangular-zippered walls allowed one to enter.

Only men in white doctor suits with white caps were allowed inside. They were working on the blanketing to protect the spacecraft from the heat. Since it will fly close to Venus, it will be exposed to the incredible heat and cold at once. I was allowed to work right in the middle of all this activity.”- An excerpt from Henk Pander’s “Galileo Diaries”, 1988

Goldstone DSN Water ColorHenk Pander posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Deep Space Network, Mojave. Image Credit: Henk Pander

solar thermal vacuum test facility image credit Henk Pander posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Solar Thermal Vacuum Test Facility. Image Credit: Henk Pander

mt wilson observatory Henk Pander image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Mt. Wilson Observatory . Image Credit: Henk Pander

The preceding was written by Cather Stewart, an associate of Henk Pander and should be considered a release issued on his behalf.


The preceding is a press or news release either issued by one of the space agencies or by an aerospace firm or organization. The views expressed in the above post do not necessarily reflect those of SpaceFlight Insider.

Reader Comments

I would be interested to know what ever happened to the painting by Henk Pander of the 60″ telescope at Mt Wilson. My late husband, Dr. Arthur H. Vaughan, an astronomer helped Mr Pander gain access to the telescope. We had first met Mr. Pander because he was a nephew of our close neighbor, Dr. Lewis B. Smedes. At one time I had contacted Mr Pander with the hope of purchasing the painting for Mt Wilson, but I was not able to do that.

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