Space art on Mercer Island once destined for moon

Island resident Dale Cox is donating a lunar module half fuel tank to the city, to be installed at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center this summer. - Rebecca Mar/Staff Photo
Island resident Dale Cox is donating a lunar module half fuel tank to the city, to be installed at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center this summer.
— image credit: Rebecca Mar/Staff Photo

The garden in front of the Mercer Island Community and Event Center will soon exhibit pieces of a lunar module once intended for an Apollo mission.

The Mercer Island Arts Council is purchasing three fuel lines for $6,500 from Island resident Dale Cox, who is donating two additional pieces: a fuel tank and a half fuel tank. Cox offered to sell the pieces to the city.

In December 2011 the City Council approved the Arts Council’s acquisition of the art with money from the 1% For Public Art Fund.

Cox’s father, a 91-year-old California resident, bought the pieces in 1969 by weight at 10 cents per pound. He was driving down a freeway in Los Angeles when he noticed the titanium pieces sitting in a salvage yard.

The pieces became surplus after NASA cancelled the last three missions set to go to the moon: Apollo 18, 19 and 20. America’s space race had already been won with Apollo 11’s historic moon landing in July 1969.

“He’s really the one donating the pieces,” said Cox, of his father. Cox’s brother also has some pieces in the San Francisco Bay area.

Cox’s father was one of 32 original candidates for the Mercury space program at the beginning of the space exploration era, along with renowned astronauts John Glenn and Alan Shepard — before the first man stepped on the moon.

Cox’s mother, Patricia, artistically embellished the pieces with another artist, Jae Carmichael, and hired a welder to help.

“They’re made out of titanium; when it is heated, it changes color permanently,” said Jane Ditzler, Mercer Island Arts Council chair of public art. “They are really very, very beautiful … and of course, they’re historic and interesting.”

Titanium is impervious to weather and changes color permanently when heated, and it does not corrode. Its color is determined by temperature when it is manufactured, Cox said.

Cox has other space pieces that he is keeping on display in his yard — including a 15-foot Saturn V rocket fuel tank.

The plan is to place the fuel lines and tanks at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center sometime this summer, said Amber Britton of the city.

“It is pretty abstract,” she said. “It should fit in nicely with the modern look of the community center.”


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