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With NASA's space shuttle program at an end, photographer Neil DaCosta and art director Sarah Phillips have produced a dark, slightly comical tribute to the loss of an American icon called Astronaut Suicides.

The symbol of American technological prowess and futuristic ideals, the artists examine the fate of the symbolic hero in the face of the mundane trivialities of life on earth.

While the fictitious astronaut bears no NASA logos or indicators of any kind, his role can be assumed.

In a way, the astronaut comes to symbolize the greater public who, like many members of NASA's team, has been laid off in recent times.

The artists, piggy-backing on the mixed emotions of the country as a whole, stage the astronaut figure in fictitious last moments. He (or she) is distraught, bored, anxious, lonely, and contemplative - when not suffocating in a car, dying in a bathtub, or splattered on the pavement.

The dark comedy - be it funny or of questionable taste - in nonetheless provocative.

The concept came about after chatting about childhood aspirations, Phillips told Wired. As a kid, I remembered wanting to be an astronaut. It seems like that's less likely to be on someone's lips today.

Philips hoped to visualize and satirize the nagging questions that followed the end of the space shuttle program.

We wanted to acknowledge the end of an era in a visual way that would bring the conversation to the creative community, Phillips added. The incongruity of the astronaut in these situations is, we hope, compelling and humorous, and we hope that we're encouraging a younger audience to pay attention to what's going on.

On www.astronautsuicides.com, where you can see all of the images, the artists make a concise comment about their work. In the About tab of the Web site, they simply state President Barack Obama's notorious April 15th 2010 quote:

I understand that some believe that we should return to the surface of the moon but I have to say this bluntly, we have been there before.

According to Wired, DaCosta and Phillips shot the project in Portland, Oregon, over a two day period using a suit borrowed from a Hollywood prop house.

Have a look at some of the images below or go to www.astronautsuicides.com to see the full series.

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All photos: Neil DaCosta