PBS' HISTORY DETECTIVES Asks 'Is Warhol's Art On The Moon?'
Today, PBS enlists HISTORY DETECTIVES fans across the nation to solve a 40-year-old mystery: "Who is John F.?" - and did he really help send Andy Warhol's art to the moon? HISTORY DETECTIVES has posted "Moon Museum" online today, two weeks before the segment airs in the June 21 broadcast premiere. The producers of the PBS series, a summertime favorite, are releasing the story prior to the season launch in the hopes that online viewers will produce evidence to answer this question.
In "Moon Museum," HISTORY DETECTIVES reveals the story of how six major artists - Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain and Forrest Myers - all contributed drawings that were then reduced onto a tiny ceramic "mini-canvas," which NASA may have unwittingly smuggled to the moon aboard the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission in November 1969.
HISTORY DETECTIVES delves into the story and narrows the focus to "John F.," allegedly an elusive Grumman engineer believed to be responsible for sneaking the artwork aboard the Apollo 12 mission by clandestinely affixing it to one of the legs on the lunar module.
For this intriguing investigation, series host and historian Gwendolyn Wright interviews several of the individuals close to these historic events, including retired Apollo 12 astronaut Captain Alan Bean. The story begins with Jade Dellinger, the Florida art curator who purchased a cryptic piece of art in an online auction and contacted HISTORY DETECTIVES to trace the story behind it. Most revealing is the story of Richard Kupczyk, the Grumman launch pad foreman for the Apollo 12 mission, who speaks out for the first time in 40 years and candidly reveals how, at no risk to the mission, some employees stowed various personal items and objects not approved by NASA onto the lunar module before launch.
Key to the story is an interview with renowned artist Forrest "Frosty" Myers, who created the "Moon Museum" and contributed a drawing. Myers relates to HISTORY DETECTIVES how Bell Laboratories scientist Fred Waldhauer reduced the artists' sketches and imprinted them onto the ceramic wafer using the state-of-the-art technology of the time. Now deceased, Waldhauer is the man who knew a Grumman Aircraft engineer willing and able to place the artwork onto the lunar module.
While a select group of elite artists and some of their fans knew of the plan to send art to the moon, only John F. can confirm whether the mission was accomplished. At the time, he promised to send a telegram to signal his success, and HISTORY DETECTIVES uncovers that compelling piece of evidence in the segment: the original, cryptic telegram sent to Myers from Cape Canaveral on the date of the 1969 launch, which simply reads, "You're on. A-OK. All systems are go," and signed "John F."
The real identity of John F. remains a mystery, however. Kupczyk suggests it may be a pseudonym to protect the engineer's real identity; he imagines the name was chosen as a nod to John F. Kennedy, the man who championed the space program.
Demonstrating once again that history is a living process, HISTORY DETECTIVES is giving people a chance to share clues and insights on the name and whereabouts of the mysterious "John F." Beginning today, self-starting sleuths can watch the full story online and post all findings at the series' website: pbs.org/historydetectives.
"I will never think of the moon in the same way again," said Gwendolyn Wright. "This case truly surprised me. What I thought seemed impossible, at first, became an amazing story of art winning its place alongside science, and some playful innovation that is sure to intrigue history buffs, space lovers and art aficionados alike."
"Moon Museum" is part of the HISTORY DETECTIVES season premiere on Monday, June 21, 2010, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS. It is one of three segments in an episode that explores the ingenuity that fueled America's foray into space. In "Satelloon," Tukufu Zuberi tracks a scrap of metallic Mylar that could be part of an early U.S. satellite balloon. In "Space Boot," Elyse Luray tries on a jury-rigged ski boot with a magnetic metal brick bolted to the bottom that may have been a NASA prototype.
HISTORY DETECTIVES crisscrosses the country, delving into legends, folklore and personal histories to discover potentially extraordinary objects in everyday American homes, cities and small towns. Lion Television and Oregon Public Broadcasting co-produce the series.
PBS, with its nearly 360 member stations, offers all Americans - from every walk of life - the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches more than 110 million people through television and nearly 21 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet.