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Review: The Apollo Prophecies

The Apollo Prophecies
By Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick
Aperture Foundation, 2006
hardcover with slipcase, 60-page book and 16-page pamphlet, both illus.
ISBN 1-59711-020-5
US $36

Rumor has it that the surviving members of the only twelve humans to have walked on the moon call themselves the Order of Ancient Astronauts. Much has been written of these voyagers of yore, but if the Order of Ancient Astronauts should ever gather together like knights of the Round Table for a reverie, it is fairly certain that they would favor a new publication about their exploits titled The Apollo Prophecies.

Published by a non-profit organization called the Aperture Foundation located in New York that is dedicated to the advancement of photography in all its manifestations, The Apollo Prophecies is one of the most creative works produced to date about the moon exploration program. It consists of a slipcased package containing a dual sided, 19-foot long duotone photographic panorama that unfolds into a richly visual fantasy of a time-bending Moon expedition, together with a 16-page booklet telling a saga-like tale of Moon-dwelling civilizations predating and predicting the arrival of Apollo.

Children will love the whimsy of these images and anyone with an appreciation of space as a frontier will admire the extravagance of the publication’s production.

The photographic panorama is segmented into 60 panels and it can be paged through like a book or unfolded accordion style for a flowing mural effect. Free of text, we see a rocket launch a stylized space capsule to the moon. The pair of Apollo-era astronauts aboard land on the lunar surface, unpack the lunar rover, and embark upon the tasks of observation and rock collecting. They soon encounter a friendly civilization of Edwardian-era explorers, in addition to helpful space-suited monkeys and elephants, living on the moon. The truly ancient astronauts help the Apollo spacemen prepare their craft for the return voyage to Earth. Children will love the whimsy of these images and anyone with an appreciation of space as a frontier will admire the extravagance of the publication’s production.

The separate text is a hilarious spoof of overwrought Norse sagas and rambling biblical tales. All the touchstones are acknowledged, from Sputnik and Gagarin to Kennedy and Aldrin. A wonderful example is this “ancient hymn of weeping and resurrection:” “Oh Laika! Sad and noble Laika. Laika of milk and Laika of wool. What a fine Laika! Such a Laika as has not been seen; or rarely, rarely, indeed. Dear, old, dying Laika, do not leave us sad and Laikaless!”

Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick are the two visionaries behind this conceptual tribute to the manned space program. They have collaborated on prior art books and their photography has been exhibited internationally. Harvard research scientist Erez Lieberman collaborated on the text of The Apollo Prophecies, giving it the ring of reality.

Perpetuating the myth is an editors’ note that reads, “It is a little-known fact that when the Apollo astronauts returned from the moon, they brought back evidence of a previously unknown lunar expedition. This evidence comprised several cardboard canisters containing lunar breccia and, more significantly, a document written by the early explorers that prophesied the future arrival of the NASA astronauts themselves. Most saw the document as a forgery, not least because the early explorers viewed the coming astronauts as cosmic deities. Whether the prophecy is authentic or not, its vision is hard to deny--if any man is to be transformed into a god, what better candidate is there than one who has ascended into the celestial sphere and stood alone on a distant world?” What better candidate, indeed.

The Aperture Foundation is located at 547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10001 and can be contacted at (212) 505-5555 or