Thursday, March 22, 2012

Collier's March 22, 1952 "Man Will Conquer Space Soon"

A 5 year old post and one of my most popular so I chose to bring it forward.

65 years ago today appeared an issue of Collier's that changed (at least partially) America's minds about whether space flight was science fiction or part of America's future.  You have to imagine the reaction to cover of this magazine when it arrived in the mail or on the newsstand. This was not science fiction. No matter how extreme the image seemed, this was the world's greatest rocket scientist predicting the future. More importantly over the 8 issues in the series, convincing the audience that this was possible if they just wanted it enough. If they asked their leaders to make this happen.

UPDATE 8-30-12 See a high-res copy of this issue in the July/Aug 2012 AIAA Houston Newsletter
 This could be the future and Collier's chose to make it their lead story and editorial. Their managing editor, Gordon Manning was convinced this future was worth promoting and put together a team of experts. He included some of the best  illustrators of the time since he felt these ideas had to be seen to be appreciated.  Chesley Bonestell, Rolf Klep, and Fred Freeman made these ideas real through some wonderful realistic paintings.

"What are we waiting for?"
The cover grabbed the reader and this introduction got them ready to see a new world. But it was the next double page spread that changed their view of the future.  When we look back at this page we see a future that happened. We have a space shuttle and a space station. We have satellites and are familiar with how the earth looks from low orbit. This painting is a crystal ball, blurry but accurate in the way of fortune tellers.

"Crossing the last frontier"

This March 22, 1952 issue went on to show us glimpses of what it might be, if we were hungry enough. It showed us a Saturn 5 sitting on the launch pad. It showed the shuttle heating up on re-entry.  As you stand in 1952 can you even imagine what 15 years will bring to your eyes?

And what about a space station?  Is that realistic?  Fred Freeman created a painting so detailed that you had trouble doubting it. You could see how it would work and how a group of brave men would go up into space and keep us safe from harm.  Science meets science fiction in a station that circles endlessly over our heads.

And these foggy glimpses showed us landing on the Moon. Could that even happen? These detailed pictures and text make the Moon a real place to go to and to look back on our place in the universe. Are we smart enough to transcend our cradle and go out exploring? Can we really dream this big?
 "The Heavens Open..."

The future is both something that happens to us and something we make happen.  This magazine is that razor's edge between "what everyone knows" and "who knows what might happen."  My dreams keep me alive and I feel the dreams being expressed here.  Can we survive?

"A multitude of problems will beset us, says this authority, but nothing we can't lick"

If you want to know more about the Collier's series of articles see the Wikipedia article I wrote (!)  Honestly I did write this article a number of years ago. I loved this series and knew that accurate information about it was hard to find.  It has been changed and edited over the years but the basic information about the articles and authors is mine.


  1. Great item. I know this issue of colliers even though I was barely 7 when it was published. It haunted my childhood with its cutaways and space taxis.

    Thanks for bringing this back so well.

    1. I was not quite 7, but it had the same effect on me ... to this very day! This vision is amazing given that it was more than 60 years ago.

  2. Thanks John for putting together a great blog on one of the milestones that helped launch us into the era of space exploration. Now if we only had people who could do that on a national scale again.


  3. I was in fifth grade when this was published and more than anything it started my lifelong interest in space (google "microlaunchers").

    60 years ago--over half way to the time of the first flight. How far we've come...

  4. ... thank you so much for posting this historic document. This is the first time I have ever seen it in anything like it's complete form. This issue of 'Colliers' is often referred to as the beginning of the 'space-age' and credited as a galvanizing point in popular support for America's Space Program. Your blog is an excellent and high-quality contribution to the preservation and dissemination of this important historical period! Thanks again!

  5. We are tempted to reproduce the entire series for our newsletter at I am the editor ( This is The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), AIAA Houston Section. Your scans (JPEGS, I guess) are of the quality we would like to put in our PDF newsletter. We conclude copyrights for such scans have expired, but we will touch base with the new Collier's, who bought the brand, but probably did not buy the copyright, the Bonestell estate, etc. We can obtain the scans elsewhere, but it might not be easy. Maybe we can work with your scans? Thanks in advance for contacting me at that email address. We just want to make that entire series available to the public while respecting copyrights if they exist.

  6. Fond memory! I remember that issue well - first encountered when I was twelve.

  7. Ogled, then built kits of spacecraft from this article. Wrote my own science fiction, raced Pyro plastic spacecars, sat astounded as "The Conquest of Space" flashed by on the Big Screen - all between Colliers and Kennedy. Von Braun Coggins and Ley, et al remain close to my 62-year old heart. Started a YAHOO! GROUP similar to your wondrous blog:9 "Spacejunk". Mind if I post a link from there to here?

  8. Great Blog - Big fan now! I'm an artist-a dreamer that believes we have allowed the ball to drop for 40 years now on Space Exploration as we seem to have lost our nerve, our drive, not for conquest, but for sheer Human determination, curiosity and dreams. We've allowed our elected "officials" to shut down the space program because I hear all sorts of ideals about how we don't need to go, what good came of landing on the moon. How about Solar, Medical, Technical breakthroughs every day that have affected out lives for the better, pyrex, teflon, new plastics for instance or new imaging systems thanks to NASA research for our human bodies so we can fight and fight diseases faster and with greater success. That all comes from space travel that can lead to a new, clean, world where everyone finally is equal and given the rights and life they deserve. Our new "eyes in the sky" don't just spy on us but others find new resources, measure rates of pollution and various aspects of how our world is changing rapidly and gives us insight into what will be coming in the future. NASA in cooperation with other agencies are mapping Earth, the weather patterns, the shifts in our environments over time and are giving new data everyday ever since we went to the moon, and the most important moment is when, while we were heading there, we inadvertently, turned the hand-held camera back at a now small blue planet showing where we really are in the universe and how important and rare this beautiful planet is. I talk with people at NASA, we need more budget money again for them. We need to get back out there. Yes, there have been awful events but space, like life is always dangerous, but we need a future we can believe in. I think that we have lost that belief in our future but we can dream again and this blog reminds us of this - thank you! Let us dream and turn those dreams into reality. Best, James Christopher Hill, Visual Artist and Visionary of a brighter future. Thank you!

  9. WOW how this looks rocket resembles SpaceX newest version of the Big Falcon Rocket... just unveiled Sept 28 2019.

  10. Thanks for making this classic material available! I've been a fan of Chesley Bonestell's space illustrations since I was perhaps eight years old, and my late Dad worked on bothe Apollo moon rockets and on the Space shuttle orbiter. The COLLIER'S Magazine articles brilliantly depict what is still largely unfinished business fror our species---and that future still awaits us. Whether or not we fulfill our promise by taking up the challenges, and taking the risks involved, lies with us.