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This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

By Attila Nagy on at

As eager plans for revisiting the Moon and colonising Mars fill the everyday news, Patrick Rawlings’ scientifically and technically accurate paintings are more appropriate than ever. The following images from our ongoing aerospace artist series showcase one of the most optimistic, colourful body of space art ever created.

As you may notice below, three things make Rawlings’ concepts of possible exploration programs outstanding: his smooth, dreamy landscapes, his attention to the smallest details, and his joyous astronauts doing good work in any circumstances.

Rawlings, who has produced artwork for NASA, The Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation, Lockheed, hundreds of books and magazines, television and movie productions, always consults with astronauts and experts in spacecraft design, mission design, mission operations, planetary geology, meteorology, and other related fields. From his official bio:

For 30 years space illustrator and designer Pat Rawlings has visually documented the future of space exploration. His realistic views of both human and robotic exploration provide a chronology of the plans, hopes and desires of the planet’s best space visionaries. [...] His artwork for all of the NASA Centres reflects more than a quarter century of space exploration plans, ranging from robotic planetary missions to the human exploration of Mars and beyond.

What I really love about the following images is that all the buildings and figures are like a cool set of Lego or Playmobil that I would play with all day long if I were a kid. Beside this I recommend looking for details such as a smartwatch, tablet, and vehicles that feel like they’re lifted from The Martian, which help you feel empathy towards the lonesome robotic rovers of Mars and share the joy of manned space exploration radiating from these paintings.

This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“In this artist’s concept of future lunar operations, a lunar ferry is about to burn out of lunar orbit for the trip back to facilities in low Earth orbit. The ferry vehicle carries tank modules filled with liquid oxygen, which has been produced from mining operations on the surface of the Moon.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Lunar mining operations, the production of liquid oxygen. Ilmenite, a fairly common oxygen rich component of lunar soil, is the material actually being mined here.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“21st century lunar base activity. A lunar surface crane removes a newly arrived habitation module from an expendable lunar lander. The crane operator would place the module on the flat trailer for hauling back to the main base. Other expendable landers (background) tell-tale earlier shipments as a buildup plan gradually progresses.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Though no concrete plans are underway for a manned Mars visit early in the next century, several studies have been launched to investigate possibilities for such visits following possible unmanned missions. This artist’s concept depicts hardware which might be involved in the event manned visits ever occur. The artist, Pat Rawlings, depicts Pavonis Mons, a large shield volcano on Mars’ equator overlooking the ancient water eroded canyon in which the base is located. Hardware seen here include the Mars explorer, a traverse vehicle, a habitation module, a power module, greenhouses, central base, lightweight crane and trailer, launch and landing facility, water well pumping station, a maintenance garage, tunnelling device, water well drilling rig, large dish antennae, mast antenna, even a Mars aeroplane.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“On Phobos, the innermost moon of Mars and likely location for extraterrestrial resources, a mobile propellant-production plant lumbers across the irregular surface. Using a nuclear reactor the large tower melts into the surface, generating steam which is converted into liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Lunar Base Systems Study. Shown is a large orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) and lander in low lunar orbit over the crater Copernicus. Both vehicles return to the Space Station in Earth orbit after every mission for maintenance, component changeout and to be reloaded with propellants and other consumables.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Lunar Base Systems Study. It was created to illustrate some of the landing facilities as they might appear near the end of a Phase II Lunar Base, the possibilities of which are being considered in the NASA-sponsored study.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Five hundred kilometres above the Chryse Planitia region of Mars, an orbital platform uses a laser sensor to autonomously rendezvous with an approaching sample-return ascent stage. The platform’s robotic arm will remove the sample canister and store it with samples from other locations for delivery to Earth.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“The first humans on Mars may revisit the landing site of the Viking 2 Lander in order to study the effects that the Martian surface and atmosphere have had on the spacecraft.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“This artist’s concept shows a nuclear electric-propelled vehicle, about the size of a football field, firing banks of ion thrusters in order to circularise its orbit around Mars. Assembled in Earth orbit, the transfer vehicle with its 10 megawatt power plant could transport 130 metric tonne payloads to Mars in 6 1/2 months, and could repeat its circuit every 52 months. NOTE: The hardware in this artist’s rendering is only for study purposes and does not represent budgeted concepts.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Minutes before landing, the first Mars expedition crew’s descent is abruptly slowed by the deployment of the spacecraft’s main chutes. Their destination, the floor of Ganges Chasma, could hold the answers to questions about Mars’ geological, hydrological, and even biological evolution. The crew descends to the planet’s surface in the habitat they lived in during their six-month journey to Mars and will rendezvous on the surface with assets delivered nearly two years earlier. These assets have been declared operational and have already converted part of the Mars atmosphere into propellant and life support consumables for use by the crew prior to the crew leaving Earth.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Space exploration stimulates the imagination of students of all ages. Starting in kindergarten, potential future space scientists and engineers dream of when they can actively participate in the adventure of space travel. One day, they might even have deep-space university campuses in significant astronomical locations.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“After driving a short distance from their Ganges Chasma landing site on Mars, two explorers stop to inspect a robotic lander and its small rover. This stop also allows the traverse crew to check out the life support systems of their rover and space suits within walking distance of the base.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“As commerce develops on the Moon, tracts of the lunar surface will be dedicated to various industries such as lunar oxygen production, communications and helium 3 production.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Earth’s Moon, just 3 days away, is a good place to test hardware and operations for a human mission to Mars. A simulated mission, including the landing of an adapted Mars excursion vehicle, could test many relevant Mars systems and technologies.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Routine 24-hour flights to the Moon could employ detachable crew modules atop nuclear thermal transfer vehicles. By transferring the module from one propulsion element to the next, the passengers could complete their trip to the lunar surface without ever leaving the module.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Sojourner, the Mars Pathfinder rover named after former slave and famous abolitionist Sojourner Truth, is visited many years after its mission by a descendant of its namesake, in this artist’s rendering. Like the human, Sojourner the rover paved the way for those that followed.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Just a few kilometres from the Apollo 17 Taurus Littrow landing site, a lunar mining facility harvests oxygen from the resource-rich volcanic soil of the eastern Mare Serenitatis. Here a marketing executive describes the high iron, aluminium, magnesium, and titanium content in the processed tailings, which could be used as raw material for a lunar metals production plant.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“The Carl Sagan Memorial Station, previously known as the Mars Pathfinder Lander, proved that a high degree of knowledge and innovation, coupled with a bit of luck, could put a very-low cost spacecraft on the surface of Mars. Depicted here by an aritist, the lander and rover surpassed their initial design life and went on to return many high resolution images of the ancient flood-washed plain of Ares Valles.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Lunar pioneers will encounter hazards and crises requiring new emergency procedures. Here, an antenna installer fell over a 90-foot escarpment and fractured his right femur. Responding to this situation on a “medivac” hopper, two other lunar base crew members employ a portable CAT-scan device, a holographic display, and helmet-mounted heads-up displays to determine the severity of the injury. After an inflatable Thompson splint is placed on his leg, the semiconscious technician is transported back to the base strapped onto the side of the hopper.” Source: NASA


This Artist's Cheerful Renderings of Space Exploration Look Like Stills From The Martian

“Planners feel the microscopic formations in Mars meteorite ALH84001, found in Antarctica, and the highly diverse samples of rocks believed to have been strewn about by ancient rivers seen at the Mars Pathfinder landing site, provide a strong motive for sending human exobiologists and geologists to the Red Planet. This artist’s rendering depicts two such scientists. Unlike the meteorite, the sedimentary deposits evident in recent Mars Global Surveyor images could contain fossils visible under ordinary magnification, according to many scientists.” Source: NASA


Aerospace artists previously in this series:

  1. Attila Héjja – The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America’s Space Program
  2. Paul Fjeld – 13 Amazing Paintings of Space Based On Actual Missions
  3. Robert T. McCall – 27 Paintings From the Most Famous Space Artist On Earth (And Off)
  4. Davis Paul Meltzer – The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race
  5. John Conrad Berkey – The Space Artist Who Perfectly Painted All Our Cosmic Dreams
  6. Chesley Bonestell – The Beautiful Art That Helped Inspire Space Travel
  7. Aleksey A. Leonov – The First Spacewalker Created The Best Soviet Cosmic Landscapes
  8. Alan Bean – The Fourth Man To Walk On the Moon Also Paints Beautiful Space Art