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This is the amazing story of how a century old Constructivist sculpture became a NASA landing vehicle. This summer, NASA will unveil the latest prototype of a moon landing craft designed on tensegrity principles.The structure of the craft is formed with six separate compressive struts held in space with tensile cables and it appears uncannily similar to a 1920 sculpture by Latvian constructivist, Karlis Johansons.
karlis-johansons
The similarity is not coincidental: a direct line of intellectual heritage can be traced back almost a century to the Obmokhu exhibition, Moscow, where Johansons and 4 other young constructivists exhibited in 1921.
Presently, NASA researchers Vytas SunSpiral and Adrian Agogino are developing the lander as a deformable volume, capable of being dropped without air-bags onto low-gravity moons. Inspiration came to Sunspiral when he observed the compression of his child’s tensegrity toy as it fell to the ground.
Skwish_full
The original “Skwish” tensegrity toy has acheived…

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2 thoughts on “It’s not Rocket Science, it’s Constructivism!

  1. The picture of a bamboo and wire structure is not a 1920 construction by Karlis Johansons. It is true, that the first classic “struts and wires” tensegrity construction is by Karlis Johansons, but this is by Vjacheslav Koljeichuk. His innovation to the well known 6 strut tensegrity (with three sets of parallel struts) was to allow tension wires to be attached to tension wires and this uses a smaller length of total wire. Most of the web sites with info about Koljeichuk’s work are in Russian. Could Google translation have led to the mistake ? In any case it appears, that Koljeichuk’s structure is uncannily similar to a NASA landing craft. Koljeichuk built the structure, the “Bambukophone”, in the early 1980’s from bamboo, and it was meant to be plucked or played with a bow to produce sounds. Bamboo was used as a sound resonator.
    juris sils
    juris.sils@apollo.lv

    • Hi Juris,
      I thank you for your informative response to my blog post. I was concerned that the image of the parallel strut construction required citation and your confident clarity seems more persuasive than the image title in my Google search. Therefore , I will remove that image from the blog. However, I don’t think my over-enthusiastic error undermines the interesting essence of the blog: that the tensegrity construction principles employed in the moon landing craft were directly descended from the constructivist art of Johansons.
      Ken

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