Ad Astra per Aspera © Teri Donovan

Ad Astra per Aspera

Teri Donovan

Richland, Michigan, USA

Artist Statement

My entire life I have been fascinated with the space program, starting with the Soviet launch of Yuri Gagarin. I dragged my mother out of bed on her birthday to watch John Glenn launch into space. We followed the space program closely and were excited when a “local boy” (Grand Rapids, MI) Roger B. Chaffee was chosen for Apollo I. I will never forget hearing the news the night of January 27th, 1967. To say we were in shock would be an understatement.

At first look, Ad Astra Per Aspera is a straight-forward image. However, there is deeper imagery. The enormous moon, the ultimate goal of every astronaut, glowers over the field, high in an equally ominous sky. A rocket stands in the launch tower, but there is no capsule. It has been removed following the tragic loss.

A simplified version of the plaque that now stands at launch complex 34 sits below the name badges of the crew. In the sky, 31 crystals representing 15 of the US men, 4 US women, one Israeli, and 8 Soviets/Russians who have lost their lives in two space programs. The 3 large stars are, of course, for Grissom, White and Chaffee.

The quilt is made of primarily hand-dyed or painted fabrics with the rocket and launch complex done as raw edge applique. The stitching on the rocket glows in the dark…an eerie reminder of the lost souls. Organic free-motion quilting completes the piece.


Raw edge appliqué; organic, free motion quilting.


Swarovski crystals affixed in 3 constellations. Hand-dyed/painted fabrics and commercial fabric. Multiple types of threads.

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