Rethinking Space Travel from a Future that Never Was

By milo on Oct 14, 2010 | 8 Comments

Long has mankind gazed into the starry night sky and dreamed of the day he could explore the vast frontier above him. Time and time again, futurists predict that intergalactic consumer travel will soon become available to everyone, yet the year is 2010 and Priceline.com still doesn’t have service to “The Moon.” Still, while mankind might be trapped here on earth, his imagination has soared to Pluto and back. Below are some of the lost predictions that his creativity and excess energy has produced.

The Space Station of 1956

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All the way from 1956 comes this conceptualization of the space station of the future. Quite different than the design of the current ISS, PaleoFuture.com reports that this donut shape was made popular by acclaimed rocket designer Wernher von Braun. Soon these images were everywhere—from TV cartoons to children’s lunch boxes. Basically any place or thing in the 1950s that could tack on a space station did—and you can bet it looked something like this.

The Martian Colony

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According to a 1951 book entitled The Exploration of Space, the eventual martian base will look something like the city of Boston encased in glass. PaleoFuture.com reports that this painting surfaced 18 years before the first man would ever set foot on the moon. Since then, we’ve had only minimal success sending robots to the martian surface—some of them colliding with the red planet and destroying themselves upon impact—let alone setting up a full service terrestrial city on the planet. Notice also how the lush green earth plants are somehow able to survive in the native martian atmosphere outside of the dome. Magic?

The Lunar Colony

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In a 1969 edition of Science Journal, NASA’s own Dr. Rodney Wendell Johnson talked about the organization’s plans for the Advanced Manned Mission Program. The accompanying drawings mapped the government’s hope of erecting a lunar colony on the dusty moon surface. Encased in atmospheric and pressurized bubbles, NASA had hopes of keeping astronauts on the moon for up to half a month at a time by the mid 1970s. “This system would permit 14 day scientific missions in 1971-72,” Johnson explained. “[This includes] geological drilling to about 35 meters.”

The Future Space Suit

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The most interesting thing about the space suit of the future is the robotic claw which the explorer somehow manages to control. According to a 1956 book entitled The Complete Book of Space Travel, (clearly an authority on the subject,) this is what astronauts should be wearing by now. Unfortunately for those NASA astronauts who have an affinity for super-villain costumes, the current space suits look nothing like this, and astronauts are still forced to use those big bulky gloves to grip their tools.

The Lunar Resort

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This year, forget about Cancun—check out the five star resort on a terraformed moon. Hang gliding in low gravity, swimming in crater pools and extreme diving can be on your next vacation “to-do” list, that is if this thing ever gets built. In a 1988 book entitled The Earth’s Moon, Issac Asimov proposed that this great getaway could be possible in the future. “By creating an atmosphere on the Moon, we could capture sunlight and turn the Moon into a celestial tourist trap,” he explains. “This would be fun, but many scientists feel it is more important to keep the Moon pretty much as it is.”

Boytopia

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Welcome to Boytopia, the Boy’s Club Of America for outer space. In a 1960 edition of the popular futurist column Closer Than We Think, Boytopia was described as the first step in preparing adolescent boys for a life of traveling through space. “Such centers would teach youngsters the mechanics of space travel, solar energy and other new phases of science,” the column reported. With so many new space colonies supposedly right around the corner, it was becoming clear that the Boy Scouts and their “campfire building techniques” were beginning to look outdated. Who needs knots in space?

Space Garbagemen

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If people vacationing in orbit treat space the way they treat planet Earth, it won’t be long before McDonald’s bags, empty Dunkin’ Donuts cups and old packs of cigarettes begin forming trash clouds around the space colonies. The last thing we needed is to hear about the dangers of “galactic warming,” so, in 1989, author Isaac Asimov wrote a book about the future problem of space garbage in which he proposed the idea of space garbagemen. It is unclear from the illustration whether or not these vessels would be manned or robotic, but Asimov indicates that l0w orbit altitudes will be most affected by the problem of space trash, and that is where these machines belong. Keep space green… or blue?

Spaceship of the 2000s

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Look out New York City—a giant green space-whale is descending upon you! Actually, this was a 1978 artist’s conception of what a spaceship might look like in 2004. In typical futurist fashion, the ship was envisioned as containing hundreds of esoteric LEDs and technology capsules for experiments of untold importance. To top it all off, we were expected to believe that this big barge somehow manages to float majestically through the sky despite having the aerodynamics of a construction site dumpster. Maybe it’s a future Geico blimp?

Space Tourism

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Space tourism was a popular prediction several decades ago. Unfortunately, modern adventure seekers are still confined to the boundaries of our terrestrial planet, but that didn’t stop them from dreaming. This image hails from the 1958 book Exploring Space, and depicts a space tourist gearing up for his journey into orbit. The book explains that the tanks supply oxygen and the straps are to hold him down in a zero gravity atmosphere. “Will the first space traveler like the ride?” the author wonders aloud. “When he lands, he will tell us.” We won’t hold our breath.

Comments

5 Comments on “Rethinking Space Travel from a Future that Never Was”
  1. pace tourism was a popular prediction several decades ago. Unfortunately, modern adventure seekers are still confined to the boundaries of our terrestrial planet, but that didn’t stop them from dreaming. This image hails from the 1958 book Exploring Space, and depicts a space tourist gearing up for his journey into orbit. The book explains that the tanks supply oxygen and the straps are to hold him down in a zero gravity atmosphere. “Will the first space traveler like the ride?” the author wonders aloud. “When he lands, he will tell us.” We won’t hold our breath.

  2. Jelmer says:

    If you flip the Space Garbagemen image, you can see a guy inside the red area wearing a baseball cap or something, so I’d say they are manned.

  3. Hilary Kuree says:

    It is rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanks the author for it. I like such themes and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

    Hilary Kuree
    escort privat schweiz

  4. rich says:

    I always wonder about the glass dome. Maybe we should check with existing glass manufacturers to shake out the logistics. Is this do-able? How exactly do you make a dome larger than the building that you currently manufacture in? Any input here?

  5. Jimbo says:

    That green dumpster looking thing is a Vogon spaceship! obviously…

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