Cosmic Capital

In an Easter 1998 sermon at the National Cathedral, Reverend Canon Frank M. Harron II posed a question: Are churchgoers intrigued to find a “tangible bit of the rest of creation,” even “something extraterrestrial,” in a cathedral dedicated to glorifying God? He was referring to the piece of “moon rock” embedded in a dark crimson sphere at the center of the sanctuary’s Space Window. Its swirling planets hint at the fragility of Earth amid the grandeur of the universe.

Neil Armstrong and other Apollo 11 crew members retrieved the lunar artifact, two and three-eighths inches in diameter, and presented it to the cathedral on the fifth anniversary of the 1969 moonwalk. Based on mission photos, artist Rodney Winfield designed the window, deviating from the norm by spanning all three lancets to imply the “vastness of the cosmos.”

Beyond Manipulation
Neither bird nor plane (nor astronaut!) could capture the intergalactic tour of “Beyond: Visions of Our Solar System” at the National Air and Space Museum. Artist Michael Benson scoured decades of satellite images archived by NASA and other planetary databases. Then he digitally processed and enhanced the raw data, often collaging photos to create multiple-frame “mosaics.” Jim Zimbelman, a Smithsonian planetary geologist, calls the prints “reality as viewed by an artist.” The New York Times dubs the 148 prints of planets, moons, asteroids and the sun “inspirational space cards for this century.”

Big Ideas
The self-professed “deeply religious nonbeliever” Albert Einstein described “cosmic religion” as a link between spirituality and scientific discovery. A 12-foot, four-ton bronze figure of the brainiac sits on steps amid an elm and holly grove on the campus of the National Academy of Sciences just north of the Mall at 22nd Street NW. At Einstein’s feet is a 28-foot field of Norwegian granite embedded with 2,700-plus metal studs, one for each celestial object known at the 1979 dedication.