Record-setting former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is putting more of his digital space art up for auction, and the proceeds will again go to a very worthy cause.
On April 12, Kelly dropped his first-ever NFT, a 3,333-piece art project called "Dreams Out Of This World" that aimed to inspire folks, introduce them to the burgeoning virtual realm known as the metaverse and raise money to help the people of Ukraine deal with the ongoing Russian invasion.
The project was a big success, selling out in just six hours and contributing about $435,000 to the Ukraine efforts of the nonprofit Global Empowerment Mission (opens in new tab). Now Kelly is back with round two of "Dreams Out Of This World," a second NFT drop that features 15 photos he took in space, along with the astronaut's voiceover description of each one.
Part two of "Dreams Out Of This World" goes on auction today (May 5) for 48 hours, and all net proceeds from the initial sale will again go to Ukraine aid and relief work, Kelly told Space.com. You can learn more about the artwork and the sale here (opens in new tab).
NFTs (short for "non-fungible tokens") are pieces of data, stored in a digital ledger called a blockchain, that represent unique assets. NFT artwork is becoming more prevalent these days as more and more people dip their toes into the metaverse, and the trend is likely to continue, Kelly said.
"In your virtual house, you'll want virtual stuff" to hang on the walls, he said.
The second "Dreams Out Of This World" NFT drop offers a variety of eye-catching orbital views, all of which would liven up a virtual home. For example, one piece, called "Baby Blue," shows our ocean planet in a softer and lighter hue than we're used to seeing.
"Sometimes the Earth is a brilliant blue color, like the most brilliant blue you've ever seen — almost like someone put the most brilliant blue paint on a mirror right in front of your eyes," Kelly says in the voiceover accompanying the photo. "And other times it's a little bit more subtle, like in this picture I describe as 'Baby Blue.' Sometimes the Earth just looks baby blue — a very pleasant thing to look at."
Another piece in the new NFT drop, called "Compass Cay, aka Compass Waters," shows more brilliant blue — the different and dazzling shades found at a spot in The Bahamas, a function of the varying water depths there. This island chain is "one of the most beautiful places to look at from space on Earth," Kelly says in the voiceover, adding that he always wanted to go over to the International Space Station's windows "and look out while we were flying over The Bahamas."
Kelly spent 340 consecutive days aboard the International Space Station in 2015 and 2016 — an American record that stood until this spring, when NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei wrapped up a 355-day stay on the orbiting lab.
Vande Hei came back to Earth March 30 on a Russian Soyuz capsule alongside two cosmonauts, showing that not all of Russia's space partnerships have splintered yet in the wake of its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Kelly is a vocal and prominent critic of the invasion and the devastation it has wrought throughout Ukraine. On Twitter, he regularly condemns Russia's actions and describes Russian President Vladimir Putin as a murderous dictator (opens in new tab) and a war criminal (opens in new tab).
So it's no surprise that the net proceeds from the NFT auctions are earmarked for Ukraine aid. Indeed, the pinned tweet on Kelly's Twitter page features a new "Captain Ukraine" T-shirt (opens in new tab), which shows the nation's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in superhero mode. That shirt is for sale, and all proceeds go to UNICEF Ukraine relief.
"A 19-year-old kid from Kharkiv made this picture," Kelly said, referring to the city in northeastern Ukraine. "And he's looking really hard for ways he can help — especially help children in Kharkiv."
Both "Dreams Out Of This World" NFT projects dropped on important dates in spaceflight history. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made the first-ever human spaceflight on April 12, 1961, launching to Earth orbit aboard a spacecraft called Vostok 1. Less than four weeks later, on May 5, NASA's Alan Shepard flew a suborbital mission, becoming the first American to reach the final frontier.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).