Arts and space exploration took center stage when a life-sized painting of 10 Apollo astronauts was revealed Wednesday night in Dallas.
Three of the astronauts attended the unveiling — Buzz Aldrin, R. Walter Cunningham and Al Worden — and stood next to the likenesses of themselves.
"I'm kind of impressed that somebody went to the trouble of painting me," Cunningham said at the private event in Old Parkland Hospital. "It's kind of a shock and a surprise, too."
The painting's artist is Polish-born Maciej Maga, who has lived in Dallas nearly 20 years. The commission was like a dream for him because he admired the U.S. space program growing up, he said.
"This is the most exclusive club of men in the world," Maga said. "I see 10 of them in the same group — it's almost surreal. They are just joking here and laughing and smiling."
Three of those men attended the unveiling:
R. Walter Cunningham was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 7 in 1968. It was the Apollo program's first mission to carry a crew into space.
Buzz Aldrin was the lunar module pilot on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. He and Neil Armstrong, the mission's commander, were the first two humans on the moon.
Alfred Worden took off in Apollo 15 as the command module pilot in 1971. He performed the first spacewalk in deep space.
"We were here some time ago, where he did charcoal sketches of all of us, and we each had a copy of that," Worden said. "I thought it was kind of neat, that [Maga] has now done this large painting. He's a really, really fantastic artist."
Official say that, for now, the painting will remain at Old Parkland Hospital, two miles north of downtown Dallas, before going on a tour of American cities.
The painting is part of a larger project called Back to Space that seeks to spark kids' interest in space, science and technology. Its co-founder is Daniella Roosa, grand-daughter of Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa.
This story was originally published Thursday, April 4, 2019.