In anticipation of a 2003 mission to Mars, Damien Hirst placed one of his famous dot paintings aboard the Beagle 2 space probe. Following its December 19 ejection from the Mars Express ship, NASA lost communication with the spacecraft, leaving scientists to hypothesize that it had been destroyed upon arrival. Earlier this week, however, the keen eye of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of the missing robot, a tiny, sparkling dot resting on the dusty Red Planet’s surface. Inside, Hirst’s painting was intact, still waiting for Martians to discover it.
"This is fantastic news!” Hirst responded upon hearing the news. “I can't believe Beagle 2 has been out there all this time and I have a painting on Mars! It's amazing! It makes me think that Colin [Pillinger, the late scientist who headed the mission] must be looking down on us smiling and still have a hand in it."
The painting wasn't just there to be an aesthetic ambassador, either—it was also an instrument calibration chart that scientists on Earth could use to make sure the probe’s equipment was working. The pigments Hirst used were specially chosen to withstand the intense conditions in space. "Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought about making an artwork that would actually travel to the Red Planet," Hirst explained a 2002 press conference. “But the spot painting lends itself to this project and as an artist all the things you make you want to be useful on some level." Also on board was an otherworldly recording by Blur.
— ESA space history (@ESA_History) January 16, 2015