The Apollo 5 space suit back from the moon and delivered to Jud Nelson’s studio to be worn by Astronaut Allan Bean as the model for Nelson’s sculpture, Man In Space.

It was during the final inspection of Hefty 2-Ply, Jud Nelson’s monumental, hyper-realist sculpture commissioned by the Walker Art Center, that the idea first came up. Nelson told Martin Friedman, the Director of the Walker, that he wanted to carve a weightless man. Two months later, Friedman called Nelson and said, “I’ve got the weightless commission for you. Give President Ford a call, he wants a Man In Space sculpture for his Presidential Library/Museum”. Ten minutes later, Nelson’s sculpture commission for Man In Space was being negotiated with President Ford.

Man In Space, completed in 1984, took two years to create, was 1.5 times life-size and weighed 3,000 pounds.

A studio visit by President Gerald Ford to see the progress of the sculpture, Man In Space, for his presidential library and museum.

Nelson set out to make the sculpture in clay and hard plaster. From the hard plaster, Nelson carved the sculpture with the final details. A mold was made of the finished hard plaster and cast in bronze. The bronze was heated to brush on an acid that gave it a natural white patina.

Jud Nelson in his studio working on the finishing of his sculpture, Man In Space.

The sculpture depicts an astronaut in a state of weightlessness emerging in space from the Extra Vehicular Activity hatch behind the spacecraft cockpit.

Jud Nelson with the sculpture, Man In Space, newly installed at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum, Grand Rapids, MI; 1984.

It represented an inspiring time for our country – the belief in science and the possibilities of the space program, with strong support from the government and a marriage of the arts to create a sculpture that is a tribute to our highest ideals, because we believed in a brighter future.
President Ford at the podium, Jud Nelson seated at left, at the the dedication for Man In Space at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Grand Rapids, MI, 1984.

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