The Space Shuttle Endeavour completed its final journey last week, one that didn’t include breaking the bonds of Earth’s gravity and soaring through outer space. Not even a little. Piggybacking on a jumbo jet, the vessel landed in Los Angeles, where it will find a new home at the California Science Center. Many view this as a closing chapter in the saga of NASA’s shuttle program.
Where once shuttle launches were big events—my elementary school paused class so the entire student body could gather together to watch the Challenger launch in 1986)—recent years have seem them barely register as newsworthy events. That wasn’t always the case. Just the idea of space travel used to inspire wonder and awe in the general populace, and capture the attention of the nation. All you need to do to remember this is take a look at this collection of concept art from earlier days of space exploration.
Nearly every one of these stunning images could stand in for the cover of a pulpy sci-fi novel about the human race’s journey into the deep reaches of outer space. You can feel an earnest sense of excitement and enthusiasm in each of these pictures. There’s an undeniable energy, and it is easy to imagine the artists sitting down, attempting to transfer all of the possibilities they imagine onto the blank space before them.
Then again, some of them also look like conceptual designs of classic automobiles, complete with unnecessary fins, much like a massive old Cadillac.