Space: 1959 "Space Age" concept poster on cardboard


Donald McKelvy
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Aug 14, 2009
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Poster printed on cardboard featuring many space concepts by Dr. Werner von Braun and Krafft Ehricke circa 1959 found on eBay.

Seller's description:

Poster is thick cardboard. Original from 1959. It is ragged around the edges and there are a few pin holes where it was mounted in a classroom up until the early 1970's.

It says at the bottom of the poster:
Copyright 1959 Educational Posters #117 "Space Age"

Please feel free to contact me with questions.

Here is some information from around the Internet I found about this amazing poster:

When I was a little boy, my parents gave me a poster called "Space Age." I cherished it, studying all the many spaceships pictured on it. The poster came out in 1959. There are some notes on the poster here. Note that the labels next to the spaceships are white letters on a blue background. The only identifying information on it is: Copyright 1959 Educational Posters #117 "Space Age". The poster is signed, but nobody seems to be able to make out the scribble. For many people the poster sticks in their mind.

In the New York Mirror Magazine April 28 1963, the poster art was re-used in an article entitled "U.S. Space Hardware —Today and Tomorrow" by Fred Dickenson. There is a lo-res version of the article artwork here. You will note that in this version the labels next to the spaceships are white letters in a black box.

No, I do not know where to get a copy, I'm trying to find one myself. The poster is difficult to do a web search for, since search terms like "space age" and "educational posters" are so generic.

However, now that have learned much in the decades since I had that poster, I can recognize all the spaceships that "inspired" the artist.

Personnel Rocket

Above we have the Personnel Rocket from the poster. Below we have the Moon rocket designed by Wernher von Braun for the Collier's Man will Conquer Space Soon series. The poster artist put a cowl over the lower two spheres but that's about it. This is one of those quaint designs that use a mercury boiler for solar power, before they started using photovolatic cells or small nuclear reactors.

Diagram from Across the Space Frontier (1952), which is basically a compendium of all the Collier's articles.

Three-Stage Personnel Rocket

Another von Braun design for the Collier's series, this is the Ferry rocket. It is basically the Space Shuttle, mark negative-one. The poster version seems to have added wing extensions connecting the top canard wings with the midsection wings.

Relief Ship

The RM-1 rocket below is from Walt Disney's 1955 documentary Man in Space. I guess the poster painter thought the rocket needed to be spiced up so he added wings. The ship's nuclear reactor is mounted on a boom in the front, and a cone-shaped shadow shield protects the crew from radiation. There is also a docking port for a bottle suitunderneath. The ship is 53 feet long and carries a crew of four. In the documentary the rocket does an orbital pass around the Moon.

Instrument Carrying Satellite

The Baby Space Station is another von Braun design for the Collier's series. It would allow testing of the space enviroments effects on structures and test animals. The animals would be studied for 60 days until they suffer the fate of Laika. Note the mercury boiler solar power unit at the top.

Three-Stage Rocket

This is the Vanguard rocket. It was scheduled to boost the first ever satellite into orbit, before it got upstaged by the surprise launch of Sputnik 1. Six failures and one successful launch later it sent the Vanguard 2 satellite into orbit (see Weather Eye Satellite below).

The Vanguard had no fins since it was steered by gimbaled engines. I guess the poster artist thought that looked too undramatic and so added fins to the poster version.

Colony Sphere

This image on the poster seems to be the only one that was not directly inspired by another existing painting. At least nobody can find anything that looks like that green sphere. Noting that it is labeled a "Colony" sphere, my guess is that it was inspired by the verbal description of the "Mayflower" in Robert Heinlein's story "Satellite Scouts" (1950). That short story was later expanded into the novel FARMER IN THE SKY (1950). It was described as being "almost spherical except that one side came out to a conical point", and was used to transport colonists to the Jovian moon Ganymede. The "Lewis and Clark" from Heinlein's TIME FOR THE STARS is supposed to have the same shape.

Third Stage Unit

The CR-1 rocket below is from Walt Disney's 1955 documentary Man in Space. It is the third stage of a three-step rocket, carrying cargo into low orbit. Note that both the poster and the Disney image has "shock diamonds" in the exhausts (the series of white puffs).

Flying Saucer

The Flying Saucers are Real by Donald Keyhoe (1950) was a hugely popular book in its time. Artwork by Frank Tinsley.

Space Station


Research Ship

Space Reconnaissance Ship

The "Space Scout" is a vehicle designed by G. Harry Stine in the early 1950's and appears in a book entitled The Answer to the Space Flight Challenge by Frank Tinsley (1958). It is meant to defend the United States against hostile space stations, which means nuking them with atomic missiles. You can find more details about it here. Note that the wings are supposed to make a "W" shape and have the control surfaces on the leading edge, not the trailing edge. The pods that the landing feet stick out of are also jet engines, and are suppose to have exhausts at the top of the wings, not closed off like the poster.

Space Recon Three Stage

This is the three stage booster rocket that lofts Stine's space scout into orbit. More details here.

Exploration Ship

This is a photon-drive rocket designed by Frank Tinsley. It appears in an article entitled "Light-Propelled Space Ship" by Frank Tinsley in the February 1954 issue of Mechanix illustrated. You can find more details here.

Weather Eye Satellite

This is the Vanguard 2 satellite, which is launched into orbit by the Vanguard Rocket, on the poster as Three Stage Rocket. The Vanguard 1 satellite just sent tracking data, the Vanguard 2 had two optical scanners designed to measure cloud cover between the equator and 45° N latitude (hence "Weather Eye"). Unfortunately the scanners were not pointed in optimal directions so the data was disappointing. Vanguard 2 is still up there, it is not due to re-enter the atmosphere for another 300 years.

Space Suit

Passenger Unit

The XR-1 rocket below is from Walt Disney's 1955 documentary Man in Space. It is the third stage of a three-step rocket, carrying passengers into low orbit.

Observatory Satellite

The Convair Observational Satellite was a space station designed by Krafft Ehricke, which was to be constructed from spent fuel tanks and other components cannibalized from used rockets. A nuclear reactor was located in the center, while the six-man crew was located far far away from the deadly radiation in the crew quarters on either end. The station was about 400 feet long, had an orbital height of 600 miles from the surface, and was intended to be used as a spy-in-the-sky platform to keep an watchful eye on those sneaky Soviets. Mr. Ehricke was trying to demonstrate the wide variety of stations and whatnot one could create out of spent fuel tanks.

In the poster the center section has been replaced by a simple sphere, presumably because the poster artist was not being paid enough to paint the actual complicated tangle of tanks in the center.

Krafft Ehricke with his designs, observational satellite is at upper right. From LIFE magazine, January 6, 1958.

Exploration Ship 2


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ACCESS: Top Secret
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Apr 16, 2008
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Tracked down a better version of this here:

Still can't quite read the name of the person who assembled the poster, and they don't seem to have credited the original artists at all (I see some Chesley Bonesteel, Rolf Klep, and probably others.)


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