Archive for the 'Space Race' Category

Christmas Morning, 1962: Marx’s Operation Moon Base

Christmas Moon Base 1962

Christmas Moon Base 1962-3

Christmas Moon Base 1962-2

Found photos of a very influential Marx set I talked about in a different Christmas morning shot. There were space exploration-themed playsets before Operation Moon Base, but this is the one that stuck. Molds from Moon Base would be re-used in different Marx sets (including 1979’s Galaxy Command) for nearly 20 years.

The playset format perfected by Marx dominated until Kenner met Star Wars.

Reedley High School Yearbook, 1955

Reedley 1955

Reedley 1955-2

Reedley 1955-3

Reedley 1955-4

Reedley 1955-5

Reedley 1955-6

Reedley 1955-7

Reedley High School (public) is in Fresno County, California. The illustrations are gorgeous, and telling. Historians generally cite 1955 as the year the Space Race began, and the phrase “flying saucer” dates to 1947 (“UFO” was officially adopted by the U.S. Air Force in 1952). The futuristic Reedley is a great example of the Mid-Century modern aesthetic.

Take some time to read some of the notes when you can. Here’s one from the first page:

I hope you get cheer leader, at least I voted for you. You’re a real cute kid with a personality to match keep it up – don’t get to conceited – have much fun

lots of luck

“Real cute kid” and “real swell girl” come up often, and both sexes use it.

(Photos via eileensbooks/eBay)

Photos of Apollo 16 on TV, 1972

Apollo 16

Apollo 16-2

Apollo 16-3

Apollo 16-4

Apollo 16-5

Apollo 16-7

Apollo 16-6

Not very long ago, we took pictures of our TV screens to preserve images we deemed historical or noteworthy. Film was the only way to do it, and our parents didn’t waste it, because it cost money to buy and develop. All of the photos above look to be of the same TV (Sharp is the model), and they mark the mission from liftoff to post-splashdown.

I wonder how many pictures are taken by Americans today compared to 1972. I saw some kids taking “selfies” yesterday—non-stop, for about 30 minutes.  Half a million times as many? A million? More?

(Photos via eBay)

Major Matt Mason, Mattel’s Man in Space: Space Station Playset (1966)

Matt Mason Space Station 1966

Matt Mason Space Station 1966-2

Matt Mason Space Station 1966-3

Kenner’s Death Star didn’t come from nowhere. Any “greatest playsets of all time” list must include Mattel’s Space Station.

The Adventures of G.I. Joe: Spacewalk Mystery (Hasbro, 1969)

G.I. Joe Spacewalk 1969

G.I. Joe Spacewalk 1969-2

G.I. Joe Spacewalk 1969-3

Ed White performed the first American space walk (EVA) on June 3, 1965 during the Gemini 4 mission. When it was time, he pulled the handle to open the capsule hatch. Nothing happened. Command Pilot Jim McDivitt got it open, and “thought” he could get it closed again. White squeezed the trigger on his oxygen gun and headed out.

He’s maneuvering around, having a blast, taking lots of pictures. Flight control is telling him to get back in, but there are radio problems, and White doesn’t bother turning on his mic until he’s damn well ready. Finally, just before the capsule enters darkness, McDivitt gets him back inside. White says, “It’s the saddest moment of my life.”

The capsule hatch won’t close. If the hatch doesn’t close, both men are dead. Houston is buzzing: they want to know what the hell is going on. McDivitt fiddles with the mechanism for a while, gets it to latch. They’re supposed to open the hatch one more time to toss White’s EVA gear into space. That idea is scrapped.

The two men spend the next two days of the four-day mission drifting, conserving all of the remaining fuel for reentry. That’s four days in a capsule cockpit about the size of the front seat section of a Toyota Camry.

Our action figures were once based on real heroes, not pretend ones.

Cold War Russian Space Art

fight for speed 1952

Fight for Speed (1952)

to other planets 1962

To Other Planets (1962)

to other planets 1962-2

To Other Planets (1962)

to other planets 1962-3

To Other Planets (1962)

home on orbit 1975

Home in Orbit (1975)

home on orbit 1975-2

Home in Orbit (1975)

home on orbit 1975-3

Home in Orbit (1975)

home on orbit 1975-4

Home in Orbit (1975)

Just a few unmissable selections from various Russian children’s books from one of my favorite websites, Dreams of Space.

Christmas Morning, Circa 1962: Marx Operation Moon Base Play Set

I think he’s holding a coonskin hat! And you know he’s just dying to get the pictures over with so he can try out that sweet sled.

Marx Toys’ Operation Moon Base was released in 1962, the year John F. Kennedy gave his now legendary moon speech:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? […]

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency […]

Marx Operation Moon Base

Marx Operation Moon Base-2

(Image sources: Darrin’s Photoclique and Time Warp Toys)

The Space Art of Robert McCall

Robert McCall, who passed away at age 90 in 2010, was NASA’s “visual historian” for almost 40 years. He was also a prolific painter of exquisite, utopian visions like those seen above.

McCall did the artwork featured on the unforgettable theatrical poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He also did production and conceptual art for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Black Hole. Below (via subnutty/Flickr) is a rendition of the control tower of the Centaurus. The name of the great ship was changed to the U.S.S. Cygnus for the film.

Here are two more beauties. The first one is a six-story-tall mural that appears at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. The second is a mural called The Prologue and the Promise that was featured at the end of an Epcot ride called Horizons.

Horizons, similar to Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress, was closed and dismantled in 1999 to make way for Mission: SPACE, “a motion simulator thrill ride that opened on October 9, 2003.” It is unclear what happened to McCall’s mural in the process.

Read more about the man and his work here. Do not miss the interactive gallery.


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