When space and art combine, something magical happens

19 Dec 2018

Dr Norah Patten (centre) with staff and children taking part in the Spacesuit Art Project. Image: Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin

Dr Norah Patten writes about how the Space Art Project helped patients at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin to paint a very special spacesuit.

I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with the children and their families at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, the largest children’s hospital in Ireland. Thanks to retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, the children at the hospital were invited to decorate a canvas spacesuit called Exploration.

The Spacesuit Art Project is founded and led by Stott. It merges the themes of space, art and healing, and until now had only been done in the US. The Exploration spacesuit is our ambassador for ‘Spaceship Earth’ and connects sick children from around the world. The ‘Ireland’ piece of the spacesuit was painted by a number of children at the hospital and it will be quilted into the Exploration spacesuit by the manufacturer, ILC Dover.

The project aims to create a feeling of connection among all the children who paint on the suit, as it brings together their artwork and allows them to experience this interconnectivity through a beautiful piece of space art.

Strip of canvas on a table with a hand-painted Ireland flag and multi-coloured dots, with a spacesuit picture above.

A section of the Exploration spacesuit painted by children at the hospital. Image: Dr Norah Patten

Make the hospital a little brighter

Not only are the children participating in a space-themed art project that will benefit their individual healing journey, but it will also provide them the opportunity to work with the other children from around the world who are also on their own healing journey.

Stott herself has flown two space missions, including a three-month stay on board the International Space Station. Stott founded the Space For Art Foundation with a mission to “unite heroic children around the world to help them overcome the challenges they’re facing through the wonder and awe of space exploration, our Spaceship Earth, and the healing power of art”.

Exploration and its predecessors – Hope, Courage, Unity and Victory – represent the strength and vision of the children who helped create them, and the dreams that all of the children have for a happy and healthy future. Three of the four previous spacesuits have even travelled to and from the International Space Station.

“The children and families had a wonderful time crafting artwork for the spacesuit. It’s activities like this that help the day to be a little brighter in hospital. We thank Norah and the team for their time,” said Paula McGrath, nurse manager at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.

It was very special to visit the hospital and meet some of the children there. I am very thankful to Stott for including Ireland as part of this project, and I plan to visit the hospital in the new year and give them some updates about their spacesuit piece and the Exploration spacesuit project.

Dr Norah Patten is a faculty member at the International Space University as well as a scientist-astronaut with Project PoSSUM. You can follow her progress on Twitter and Facebook.