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Giant Portrait of NASA Pioneer Stephanie Wilson Takes Root in Atlanta

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A 6,300-square-foot natural earthwork of pioneering NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson hopes to inspire women and girls, and especially people of color, to "aim higher" in downtown Atlanta's Woodruff Park.

The eco-friendly grass mural of Wilson, whose 42 days in space are the most of any female African American astronaut, is the work of renowned crop artist Stan Herd. Wilson is currently a candidate to be the first woman on the Moon.

The brainchild of Christina Korp, the former manager of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the sprawling piece commemorates World Space Week and International Day of the Girl. It's also intended to raise awareness about NASA's Artemis Program, which aims to put a woman and the first person of color on the Moon.

Former NASA astronauts Nicole Stott and Susan Kilrain along with Inspiration 4 Mission Pilot astronaut Dr. Sian Proctor, will be on site to speak about the importance of inspiring more women, girls, and people of color to pursue careers in space and tech fields.

AimHigher Earthwork with tile frame Oct 11
AimHigher Earthwork with tile frame Oct 11

John Zarr

Herd's team, which consists of his son and a group of volunteers, spend weeks and even months bringing his creations to life. He told Smithsonian Magazine that he uses a grid technique "similar to the way Michelangelo created the [frescoes] on the Sistine Chapel ceiling."

Framed by approximately 1,500 tiles of space art created by students from 14 Atlanta Public Schools and kids from three Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals, the entire display occupies more than 7,000 square feet.

The Stephanie Wilson earthwork will be displayed through October 22, though its longevity is at the mercy of the weather.

"An important element to my artworks is that they're temporary and designed to fade back into their surrounding environment," Herd told Smithsonian. "There's something special about people having a shared experience on a field of grass before it goes back to its natural state."