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New Sign Showing SpaceX “Gateway to Mars”

Ion Art produced the new sign for Elon Musk’s rocket company.

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Ion Art’s sign for the SpaceX Starbase on Boca Chica Beach, TX

Though maybe not as much as decades before, lasers still evoke wonder among the general public, calling to mind seriously advanced technology. And a laser was how Ion Art (Austin, TX) cut the aluminum used for one of their most recent signs for the high-tech and high-profile rocket company owned by Elon Musk, SpaceX. Ion Art produced a sign reading “GATEWAY TO MARS” for the front of SpaceX’s Starbase on Boca Chica Beach, TX. Ion Art has completed multiple projects for SpaceX over the previous three years, and they’re currently working on a few more new, challenging and exciting projects for them, according to Mónica Boulton, Ion Art’s project manager for this project, and Mark Ermis, their install manager. 

The shop created the 13 letters for the sign one at a time out of ⅛-in. aluminum using their 5 x 10-ft. laser cutter and lots of 220-grit sandpaper over a period of 5-6 weeks. According to Boulton and Ermis, it was challenging to move 10-ft.-tall letters around the shop during assembly and testing. 

“Picking the letters up was an adventure,” Boulton and Ermis say of the start of the install. The site at Boca Chica Beach was muddy from the week before. Ion Art’s boom lift got stuck in the mud multiple times and had to be extracted by a crane. Conditions were also very windy since the location is on the beach. “Other trades were working around us, and it took a lot of coordination for all the crews to work together,” they say.

During installation, Ion Art’s team noticed people outside SpaceX looking on. With the letters still strapped on the trailer, people were taking pictures, posting them online and trying to guess what they spelled. On the fourth day of work, every letter except the “E” was in position, but during the process of installing this last letter, the lift got stuck in the mud again and took three hours to be freed and a total of five days for the installation. Everyone had to wait three hours to see what the completed sign would read and to take more pictures. 

“Working with very big letters can be challenging, especially when the whole world is watching,” Boulton and Ermis say. “Transporting them is tricky and a little scary on the highway because they are tall and have a huge wind load.” Happily, the letters survived the earthly trek to identify for all on the globe to see the “Gateway to Mars.” For more information, visit ionart.com.

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