Monday, August 6, 2007

The Complete Book of Space Travel (1956)

The classic 1956 book The Complete Book of Space Travel contains some amazing imagery. The book was targeted at young boys and had that unique blend of sincerity, wonder and confidence we so often see in 1950s futurism. As early as 1956 the question was not if we'd explore the moon and other planets in our solar system, but when we would make this a reality. Chapter 22 is even titled, "If We Are Visited First."

Below is the introduction to the book as well as an illustration from the title page. Stay tuned as we look deeper into this paleo-futuristic classic in the coming weeks.

The first space pilot has already been born. He is probably between ten and sixteen years of age at this moment. Without doubt both he and his parents listen to radio and television programs dealing with much space adventure but with few accurate facts. This book is designed to outline the facts of space travel, and the conditions we expect to find in space and among the planets and stars. These facts alone are sufficiently exciting, since they are factors in man's greatest single adventure - the exploration of the universe.

This book has not been written for the space pilot alone. It is written for his engineer, his astrogator, the vast grounds crews who will design the ship, and the many people whose taxes and investments will make it vital to understand the problems and progress of space travel.

Space travel is already here. Flying saucers are probably indicative of space travel by a race other than ours. We are slowly solving the problems of man's own survival in space. It is only a matter of a few years, and many, many dollars, before our first space pilot will launch himself into the last frontier of exploration, adventure, and commerce.

We read much about space stations, the small man-made satellites which will be designed to circle the earth at an altitude of several thousand miles. Actually, these space stations will be very useful, even if space travel never develops any further, and we should know about them too.

Although much has been written about space travel, much of this material deals with the mechanics of ship construction to get us into space.

It is the purpose of this book, on the other hand, to show that space travel is also a biological problem, even perhaps to a greater extent than it is an engineering problem. Moreover it is the purpose of this book to describe, to the best of present knowledge, what we expect to encounter when we get to space. This is important, because the success of man's greatest adventure will depend upon being well prepared.

Today, space travel is one of the ultimate goals of scientific and military research. The familiar cry, "Who rules the moon controls the earth!" reflects our readiness to exploit space. Our military might is ready for space; our economic strength is ready for space; soon our ships will be ready for space.

Let's find out what space travel is all about.

See also:
Man and the Moon (1955)
Mars and Beyond (1957)
Challenge of Outer Space (circa 1950s)
Animal Life on Mars (1957)
Plant Life on Mars (1957)


Anonymous said...

The familiar cry, "Who rules the moon controls the earth!" reflects our readiness to exploit space.

Never heard that before. Must not be that familiar. Maybe they were thinking of "He who controls the Spice controls the Universe. The Spice must flow."

msw said...

The first space pilot has already been born. He is probably between ten and sixteen years of age at this moment.

Is it unusual for the paleofuture to be closer than predicted? (Yuri Gagarin was 22 in 1956.)

Anonymous said...

The illo looks like the work of Virgil Finlay.

Jack R said...

Yes, the entire book was illustrated by Finley and there are some classic examples in it. The text is bizarre and speaks of Martians (who look pretty sexy as depicted by Finley) as a fact.

jayessell said...

I read that one!

They had no way of knowing the first American Astronauts were jet pilots in Korea!

That "Who Rules the Moon..." was also a premise used in the George Pal "Destination Moon" movie.

The radio dramatization of that movie should be downloadable at News that the Korean war broke out was broadcast during the recording!

Anonymous said...

Reading the comments to this thread makes me realize how far the generation gap is these days between the Cold War era and now - what are you guys called, Gen X (sounds like a weight loss product).

Yes, kids, at one time the US and USSR believed they had to control the Moon to be able to keep an eye on all of Earth. They wanted military bases there with nuclear missiles which could be launched at our planet in case the other side started an attack.

Check out Project Horizon from 1959 if you want to see what the US Air Force actually had in mind back in the days when we were far bolder men.

Peaceniks can see whatever they want, but it was the military that has gotten us as far into space as we are now. It was military thinking and knowhow that got US men on the Moon just 12 years after Sputnik 1. It was when we went all civilian and "peaceful" that we are now entering the fourth decade of no humans returning to the Moon.

When we do go back, we will need the permission of the Chinese to do so.

You may laugh at some of the "old" ways of thinking, but people weren't stupid back then - if anything, they were much shrewder and clearly far more brave than the generation of metrosexual liberals we have now.

Keep the flame alive, Paleo Future, even as you mock the past achievements.

Anonymous said...

wow, anonymous. I have an idea, why don't YOU get off of MY lawn.

Way to transform a fascinating post into a crazed rant against those "metrosexual liberals" who have stolen your moondreams. Many of us on here do have great respect for many (not all) of the achievements of your generation, as well as for the audacity of dreaming such big dreams. You clearly haven't read enough of this site if you think all is mockery. And furthermore, many of us, and our friends and family, are at war as we speak, so don't pretend that us youngins' don't support the brave men and women in our military.

But you, sir: you treat peace as a sign of a lack of boldness, as a failure to be great. That's really something. If you think that it's the peaceniks which have held us back from further space exploration, you clearly need a lesson in the history of NASA. But thems' be small potatoes; the greater concern I have is with your evident thirst for blood. "YEAH LET'S POINT BOMBS AT OURSELVES FROM THE MOON YEAH AMERICAN IS GREAT W00T!!" Give me a freakin break.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron." --famous peacenik, metrosexual liberal and part-time weight-loss product, Dwight D. Eisenhower