NFT artwork flies to space for 1st time, will soon go on auction

In the space-flown NFT artwork "Why Not Me,” Micah Johnson's character Aku takes a trip to the moon.
In the space-flown NFT artwork "Why Not Me,” Micah Johnson's character Aku takes a trip to the moon. (Image credit: MIcah Johnson)

An NFT artwork made it to space for the first time ever last week, and the pioneering piece will soon go on sale.

Last Thursday (July 28), the companies Nanoracks LLC and Artemis Music Entertainment beamed a rendition of Claude Debussy's piano classic "Clair de Lune" to and from the International Space Station, minting the recording as an NFT (non-fungible token) in the process.

On Wednesday (Aug. 4), we learned that another digital passenger took that trip as well — artwork by Micah Johnson featuring his character Aku, a Black boy who dreams of becoming an astronaut when he grows up. That space-flown piece, called "Why Not Me," will be auctioned off via the NFT marketplace Notables next week.

Photos: Building the International Space Station

"'Why Not Me' was first dreamed up when Johnson acquired the real-life flag that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong brought to the moon in 1969" during NASA's Apollo 11 mission, Notables' description of the piece states. "Johnson worked with an art handler to digitize the flag and use it as a key part of Aku's story — travelling to space to get the flag from Buzz himself."

The auction begins on Aug. 10 and will last for 24 hours. All net proceeds will go to the nonprofit organization Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).

"SEDS is excited by the financial opportunity given to us by Andy Haas and this auction with Micah Johnson and Notables," SEDS chair Ian Burrell said in a statement released by the organization on Wednesday. (Haas is an angel investor who granted rights to the flag depicted in the Aku art.)

"With over 2,000 students between almost 100 chapters nationwide, SEDS members from all backgrounds will benefit with increased finances for competitions, projects and outreach initiatives targeting under-represented communities," Burrell added.

One randomly selected bidder in the Aku auction will get a free microgravity-inducing parabolic airplane flight courtesy of Zero Gravity Corp., SEDS representatives added.

Johnson, a former Major League Baseball player, introduced Aku in February of this year. The character's rise has been meteoric. In April, Aku became the first NFT to be optioned for film and TV. And in July, he went to space.

The Nanoracks Mission Operations team prepares to transmit the “Clair de Lune” music file to the International Space Station on July 28, 2021.

The Nanoracks Mission Operations team prepares to transmit the "Clair de Lune" music file and "Why Not Me" art file to the International Space Station on July 28, 2021. (Image credit: Nanoracks)

NFTs are pieces of digital data that represent unique assets. NFT art sales have boomed in recent months, with some pieces fetching tens of millions of dollars

Artemis Music Entertainment aims to offer musicians, artists and other creators the chance to send NFTs of their work to the final frontier via its new Artemis Space Network. The July 28 transmission — which was sent from Nanoracks' Houston facilities to the company's Bishop airlock on the space station and then back down to Earth again — was first and foremost a test of that network.

"We're trying to do something that's really genuine, authentic and provides real inspiration capability to musicians, artists, creators, and to people who don't feel connected to space," Artemis Music co-founder Bob Richards told 

"It's the accessibility to space that we're trying to bring to every creative globally that doesn't exist right now — the actual capability of interacting with space with their creative process and with their creative work," added Richards, who's also co-founder of SEDS and co-founder and CEO of the robotic exploration company Moon Express.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.