Michael Najjar has visualised humankind’s rapidly developing exploration of space (Pictures: Michael Najjar, editing by Metro.co.uk)
Giant leaps in the making are captured in a unique vision of space travel by an artist who has a place reserved on a Virgin Galactic flight.
Michael Najjar has been on the inside of humankind’s unfolding missions to explore the solar system and put crewed missions back on the Moon before a maiden voyage to Mars.
Travelling to space projects across the globe, he has channelled his experiences into photographic art showing the ‘essential’ projects to establish footholds in the final frontier.
The German photographer began his Outer Space collection in 2011 after taking pictures at the final American Space Shuttle launch in Florida, which turned out to be a life-changing experience inspiring him to capture what he views as humanity’s most important quest.
He plans to be the first professional artist in space onboard SpaceShipTwo, which is due to begin commercial flights in late June after a final test run today.
Michael Najjar’s work ‘Gravity Turn’ shows the milestone Ariane 5 launch from a spaceport in French Guiana on November 17, 2016 (Picture: Michael Najjar/www.michaelnajjar.com)
‘Gravitational rotator’ shows a giant centrifuge in Russia where cosmonauts sit for g-force exposure (Picture: Michael Najjar/www.michaelnajjar.com)
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‘Golden Eye II’ shows one of the mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope while it was being built in Boulder, USA (Picture: Michael Najjar/www.michaelnajjar.com)
‘Orbital Outpost’ fuses real and imagined shots of an astronaut in zero gravity outside a space station (Picture: Michael Najjar/www.michaelnajjar.com)
‘We are witnessing a massive and profound change in space access,’ Najjar said.
‘The return to the Moon and the installation of a permanent outpost there will happen in the next few years.
‘Bringing the first humans to Mars in the next decade will make us a bi-planetary species, which will have a huge cultural impact on our civilization. I am convinced we will only survive as a species if we start to colonize our solar system in the coming centuries.’
Najjar, from Berlin, is one of more than 700 Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts who have made reservations for the 90-minute flights. The final crewed ‘assessment’ is set to take place before the planned launch of Galactic 01, where passengers are due to be given views of the Earth from the 300,000ft apogee.
‘Orbital ascent’ shows the Ariane 5 rocket being launched into orbit from French Guiana (Picture: Michael Najjar/www.michaelnajjar.com)
Najjar has undergone cosmonaut training at Star City in Russia, the German Space Centre in Cologne and the National Aerospace Training and Research Centre in the USA to prepare for the trip and for lived experience to inform his art, which he describes as ‘hybrid photography’.
A HALO [high altitude] jump from 10,000m, a stratospheric flight from a MiG-29 jet and an underwater space walk in a heavy astronaut suit have all been part of the hands-on experience.
The pioneer has also worked with national and private space companies, engineers, scientists, astronomers and space entrepreneurs at locations across the globe.
‘Space exploration and a larger presence in space is essential for humankind,’ he said.
‘Not only is it important to aim for Mars, new Earth observation technologies will help us to better measure, visualise and understand the dramatic change of our planet´s climate system.
‘The civilizational leap in the past 200 years is directly related to the use of fossil energies and this is now threatening our planetary future.
‘Space exploration also can help us to develop new sustainable energy forms and provide new resources.’
Three of Najjar’s acclaimed images — gravitational rotator, f.a.s.t and orbital ascent — feature in an international summer exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery entitled Civilization: The Way We Live Now.
Michael Najjar’s artwork ‘f.a.s.t’ shows the 500-metre diameter astronomical radio telescope in remote southern China (Picture: Michael Najjar/www.michaelnajjar.com)
The collection of more than 350 original prints at the gallery in Chelsea, West London, focuses on humankind’s rapidly changing life through the eyes of some of the world’s finest contemporary photographers. Present day complexities and future advances are explored by the 150 contributors.
Curator William A. Ewing said: ‘Photographers are at work everywhere, photographing everything, using their eyes and their minds to seize telling moments in the rapid flux with sharp, vivid images.
‘Photographers are our civilization’s eyes… Ironically, it may be that many of these photographs will last longer than the monuments and artefacts that they depict.
The photographer has a ticket booked for what is expected to be a new era of space travel on Virgin Galactic flights (Picture: Michael Najjar/www.michaelnajjar.com)
‘London has always been a great centre for the celebration of photography from all corners of the globe, filled with collections, archives, museums and galleries deeply committed to the promotion of this vital art form. We curators have been privileged to benefit from many loans from these sources, and welcome Saatchi Gallery’s invitation to share the fruits of our research with a London audience.’
As the flight window opens for the Virgin Galactic team today, Earth-bound viewers at the gallery will be able to take a glimpse at humankind’s relentless quest for progress.
*The exhibition runs between June 2 and September 17, 2023. Further information and tickets here
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Michael Najjar plans to be the first artist in space onboard one of Virgin Galactic’s first 300,000ft flights.