60 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 http://www.aiaahouston.org/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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_Will_Conquer_Space_Soon!) 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.