(Above: Astronauts John Young and Gus Grissom are suited for the first flight of the Gemini program in March 1965. NASA loaned Norman Rockwell a Gemini spacesuit in order to make this painting as accurate as possible.)

NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. through October 9. Independence Ave. at 6th St. SW; 202-633-2214.

For almost half a century, artists participating in the NASA art program have been documenting the extraordinary adventure of spaceflight in ways that no camera could match. They have enjoyed special access to some epic moments and offered their unique perspectives on what they have witnessed. At NASA’s invitation, artists have captured the faces and personalities of the men and women who have flown in space, and introduced us to the other members of the team as well — the anonymous scientists, engineers, technicians, managers, secretaries, and thousands of others who performed the myriad tasks required to operate a space program. Other artists were attracted by the bunkers, gantries, radio dishes, and the towering Vehicle Assembly Building of the Kennedy Space Center, or were struck by the co-existence of the space-age architecture of the Cape with the beaches, swamps, birds, and animals that surround the space-age facility.

The NASA art collection includes some 70 paintings, drawings, photographs, and pieces of sculpture by such artists as Annie Leibovitz, Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Jamie Wyeth.

nasm.si.edu