In an age where technology and art intertwine in dynamic ways, it’s becoming increasingly common for artists to seek new, unconventional mediums and platforms for their work. One example is ThankYouX, a renowned digital artist best known for his street art and innovative approach to digital creations.
Also known as Ryan Wilson, ThankYouX is no stranger to breaking boundaries. Having started his career on the streets of Los Angeles with spray paint, he swiftly moved on to embrace digital art, gaining international acclaim for his unique style that combines traditional elements with futuristic design.
On May 21, 2023, in a remarkable event that marked a historic intersection between art, technology, and space exploration, ThankYouX’s painting, Urge for Perfection, launched into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. He also released a commemorative Open Edition to celebrate this feat. This crewed mission — called AX-2 — is the second private launch chartered by Axiom Space, a private spaceflight company that has previously brought NFTs to orbit. His work spent about 15 hours on the craft before it docked at the International Space Station (ISS) on May 22.
“It was the most surreal experience watching a rocket take my art to space,” ThankYouX said in an interview with nft now. “I got to meet the head of NASA, Bill Nelson, which was pretty cool.”
Axiom reached out to ThankYouX about the opportunity when they found out how much he loves space, and he immediately said yes. The crew will stay aboard the ISS for eight days.
“They take my art out and let it float around,” ThankYouX continued. “When the painting gets back to Earth, we will be auctioning it off.” This bold venture prompts us to recall other instances where NFTs transcended the confines of our planet to touch the cosmos. Here are some of the unforgettable moments.
Micah Johnson’s Why Not Me
Former Major League Baseball player turned artist Micah Johnson sent Why Not Me to space on July 28, 2021, making it one of the first NFTs to fly to space and the first NFT painting to do so. The artwork features his character Aku, a young Black astronaut who represents possibilities and dreams, especially to underrepresented communities.
The digital artwork was sent to a server on the ISS by Nanoracks LLC and Artemis Music Entertainment, where it orbited the Earth. Johnson’s intention was not just to push the boundaries of art but also to inspire a generation of Black and Brown kids to dream without limitations.
Why Not Me was subsequently auctioned off, with proceeds going to Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
Clair de Lune music NFT
Aku wasn’t alone on his July 2021 journey to the ISS. Accompanying him was the first music NFT to travel to space: Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune. The digital file, performed by Hong Kong-based pianist Wing-Chong Kam, orbited Earth for about 90 minutes before it was transmitted back and minted as an NFT.
This technological milestone is only a first step for Artemis Music Entertainment, the company behind the mission. Beaming the Clair de Lune NFT to the ISS was done to test its Artemis Space Network, a space-based commercial platform for art, music, and entertainment. In the future, other digital artists could follow Aku and Debussy’s legacy — to the ISS, the moon, Mars, and beyond.
The first NFTs created in space
Atlas is an innovative NFT series by Xin Liu that merges the digital realm with the analog, using radio frequencies from retired weather satellites to create unique cartographic images. Launched by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1998, these decommissioned satellites provide data that Liu translated into images resembling Xerox copies of surveillance photos of Earth’s mountainous regions.
The project began during the early COVID-19 quarantine when Liu and her partner, Gershon Dublon, started tuning into open analog radio channels. This led them to open-source platforms allowing individuals to receive signals from retired NOAA satellites. Liu then transformed these signals into an NFT series, pairing each downloaded satellite image with the code of the original frequency as part of its blockchain. The series is lauded as the first NFTs created in space.
Honorable mention: retired astronaut creates NFTs
Although these NFT collections have never made it out of Earth’s atmosphere, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s digital art on this list. Kelly launched his first 3,333-piece NFT collection on April 12, 2022, titled, Dreams Out Of This World. The initiative was highly successful, with all pieces sold within six hours, generating around $435,000. Proceeds went to the non-profit organization Global Empowerment Mission.
Kelly has now initiated the second phase of Dreams Out Of This World, featuring a new NFT collection that includes 15 photographs he captured during his record-setting 340 days aboard the ISS, each accompanied by his personal audio narration.
Each of these instances has pushed the boundaries of art and technology, proving that creativity knows no limits.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that ThankYouX‘s painting was sent to space, but not an NFT. Additionally, this article was written by an nft now staff member in collaboration with OpenAI’s GPT-4.