On my first visit to the NASA Ames Research Center, I was taken to see a decommissioned rocket sitting on proverbial cinderblocks like an off-season motor home outside of a former McDonald’s that now houses the McMoon’s Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. My dear friend Matt Reyes, who was giving me the tour, implored me to guess at what the dongle hanging in the open nosecone might be for. I was no way close to guessing its actual purpose: to plug in a nuclear warhead.
This was a nuclear missile.
It was 2014 — just a few years ago — yet the idea of nuclear conflict was so far from my mind it seemed relegated to history, compounded by the nostalgic and sometimes-kitschy backdrop of NASA Ames, the heyday of which culminated around the 1969 moon landing. As an artist touring a NASA site as part of the LACMA Art + Tech Lab, I was so starry-eyed at the notion of exploring and understanding more about the cosmos and feeling around for creative inspiration, I had ostensibly blocked out the driving forces that got us up into space in the first place: the military. …