The mysterious satellite is a collaboration between artist Tavares Strachan and Los Angeles County Museum of Art
A Falcon 9 rocket due to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California next week will launch a unique cargo into orbit alongside the usual communications and observation satellitesthe soul of Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African-American astronaut.
The launch manifest for the SSO-A SmallSat Express mission, organized by Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, lists a spacecraft called Enoch, owned by LACMAthe Los Angeles County Museum of Art. And for months, that was all that was publicly known about the satellite.
Now, IEEE Spectrum has learned that Enoch contains a 24-karat gold canopic jar with a bust of Lawrence. Canopic jars were used by ancient Egyptians to house the organs of the deceased for use in the afterlife. This jar was blessed at a Shinto shrine in Japan and recognized as a container for Lawrences soul, according to the Museum.
[Lawrence is] someone who has a mostly untold story, who I look at as a hero, but who wasnt necessarily considered one when I was a child in school, says Tavares Strachan, the artist behind Enoch, in an interview with IEEE Spectrum.
Although Guion Bluford Jr. was the first African-American to reach space, on a Space Shuttle in 1983, Lawrence was the first black astronaut, selected for training in 1967. Just six months later, Lawrence died in the crash of an F-104 Starfighter jet while teaching a junior pilot Shuttle landing techniques.
A black guy doing space exploration with the U.S. government wasnt a normal situation in 1960s America. He was traversing a very difficult time, says Strachan. Strachan first learned about Lawrence while researching an earlier project on cultural invisibilitythe tendency for minority figures to get written out of history.Photo: Tavares Strachan/LACMA Enoch holds this canopic jar sculpture with a bust of astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.
The Enoch project began back in 2014, when Strachan was selected as o...