The Planetary Society today announced the winning design for PlanetTrek, a scale model of the Solar System in memory of Carl Sagan that will be built in Pasadena, California. The winning design was submitted by a team including lead artists Barbara McCarren and Jud Fine, with team members Ken Price and Ned Kahn, all based in California. MIT Astrophysics Professor Emeritus Dr. Philip Morrison is scientific advisor to the chosen design team.
"The winning design proposal edged out a talented field of internationally acclaimed artists that included finalists Carl Cheng of Santa Monica and mathematical sculptor Helaman Ferguson of Laurel, Maryland," said PlanetTrek director Charles Kohlhase.
PlanetTrek will engage the public in a unique experience through a blend of art, science, and education. Ten prominent sculptures displaying the Sun and its nine planets are proposed for seven public locations in Pasadena. Visitors to the sites can appreciate the artistic beauty of the sculptures while learning about the solar system shown to scale. PlanetTrek will be a permanent monument fostering the spirit of "The Universe" celebration scheduled to begin in Pasadena later this year.
The Sun is five feet in diameter, with planet diameters ranging from 1/10 inch for Pluto to 6 inches for Jupiter. At this scale Earth measures a mere 1/2 inch across. The distance from the Sun to the outermost planet Pluto is about five miles. Proposed locations include the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars in Central Park near the planned Blue Line hub; Jupiter near City Hall; Saturn in Brookside Park near the planned Kidspace Museum; Uranus at PCC; Neptune in Victory Park; and Pluto just south of JPL.
PlanetTrek will incorporate into its design 100 great questions of our time inscribed on bronze plaques, a unique feature not previously done for other solar system models around the world. The questions are meant to engage the human imagination and intellect. Ten plaques, each containing one question, will surround each sculpture.
Sample questions include: "Will computers ever evolve into separate life forms or develop consciousness?"; "What conditions are necessary for human happiness?"; "Was the beginning of the universe a chance event?"; "How are art and science alike, and how are they different?"; and "What are the greatest threats to our environment?". If a great question is ultimately answered, its plaque will be ceremoniously retired and a new question installed. The public can still submit great questions to the PlanetTrek web site at
The winning design incorporates a large imaginative sculpture at each site, linked by a curved walkway to the scale model of the planet mounted on a pedestal containing information about that world. The artists’ proposal describes the sculptures as "gorgeously tough jewels — visually and physically elegant imaginative representations of the ten celestial bodies."
The five-foot Sun model will be made of stainless steel, covered by several layers of powder-coat enamel polished back to reveal brilliant coloration suggestive of the shining Sun. It will be mounted on a 15-foot round rough-hewn granite pedestal with surfaces containing information about the solar system, planets, and the PlanetTrek project. Visitors will be able to turn sculptures of the Earth, Venus, Neptune and Uranus around their axes, but only in the correct direction. Mercury, Mars and Pluto will be set on boulders formed at the beginning of geologic time.
Materials used for the sculptures will evoke characteristics of each celestial body. Saturn will shine in laminated, milled limestone and marble in buff, gold and beige, with stainless steel rings. The sculpture of Jupiter will be uniquely stained and polished concrete with a surface texture based on current images. The artists plan to cast the Red Planet Mars in brightly rusted iron. Venus will be red glass and green verdigris copper depicting the planet’s volcanic activity and hellish surface. Our own Earth is conceptualized as a rotating blue glass sphere with an overlaid bronze map of Pangaea, reflective of Earth’s plate tectonics and liquid water.
Several community leaders have endorsed PlanetTrek, including: Dr. David Baltimore, President of Caltech; Dr. Edward Stone, Director of JPL; Mr. Bill Bogaard, Mayor of Pasadena; Dr. James Kossler, President of PCC; science fiction author Ray Bradbury; Mr. Jay Belloli, Director of Gallery Programs, Armory Center for the Arts; Dr. Bill Nye, the "Science Guy"; Ms. Ann Druyan, writer and collaborator with the late Dr. Sagan, and many others from the art, science and education fields.
The PlanetTrek planning committee is currently raising funds from individuals, corporations and foundations to complete the project. Tax-deductible contributions earmarked for PlanetTrek can be made to The Planetary Society, either for general use or to sponsor a planetary sculpture site. For further information including the artist renderings and Great Question submittals, visit the PlanetTrek web site:, or phone The Planetary Society at (626)793-5100.
THE PLANETARY SOCIETY: Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the search for extraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the world.
Susan Lendroth
Manager of Events and Communications
The Planetary Society
Telephone:(626)793-5100 ext. 214