Conquistadors (1986)

I have painted Apollo 15 astronaut Jim Irwin leading Dave Scott as they move about their work on the Moon. Dave observed: "As we advance, we are surrounded by stillness. No wind blows, no sound echoes. Only shadows move." Dave continued: "I hear the reassuring purr of the miniaturized machines that supply vital oxygen and shield me from the blistering 250 degree Fahrenheit surface heat of lunar morning." The spacesuit appears bizarre and unworldly; but it contains a life sustaining environment.

Explorers throughout history have probably looked strange and unreal to the natives of the new lands they visited. But we were different. There were no natives and, enclosed in our spacesuits, we looked like creatures from other planets to our own friends and families.

As I worked on this painting I was continually reminded how much astronauts on the Moon looked like 16th century conquistadors depicted in earlier painting. Like them, we came in ships. Theirs were of wood, powered by wind and sail; ours were of advanced metals and plastics, moved by rocket engines. We both used the best technology of our age.

But here the similarity ended. Conquistadors came to claim lands and gold and precious gems for their king or queen; we came for knowledge and understanding. A few rocks and a little dust were all we took. We carried no weapons, just tools for digging and measuring. We were space age conquistadors and we truly came in peace for all mankind.

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