Archive for the 'Space Travel/Exploration' Category

When the Future Was Full of Stars: An Interview with David Jefferis

Jefferis WoFuture a

Unpublished cover art by the late Brian Lewis for World of the Future: Future Cities, 1979. A similar but revised piece was used for final publication.

Serious study of and public interest in space colonization peaked in the 1970s, fueled by the successes of the Apollo program and a youth culture that embraced the speculative sci-fi of Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey. If the idea of hitching a ride on an asteroid outfitted with nuclear motors was utopian, it was also grounded in good sense: by the end of the turbulent 1960s, it was clear to many that the Earth was no longer a place that supported intelligent, compassionate life.

A number of books on the subject helped to launch “space activism” in the popular imagination, starting with Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill‘s The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (1976). Due largely to O’Neill’s efforts, Stanford University and NASA collaborated to produce a series of detailed studies on permanent space settlements that continue to inspire the present-day pioneers behind SpaceX and the National Space Society.

In 1979 Usborne’s landmark The World of the Future series, penned by David Jefferis and the late Kenneth Gatland, presented youngsters with a vivid, exciting, and ultimately uplifting vision of the future—many of the authors’ predictions came true, as well. Even today, the books hold up the notion that living a better life among the stars is not just a worthy aspiration, but a worthy aspiration within reach.

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Usborne Future-1Usborne Star Travel019Usborne Robots-2

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2W2N: How did you get involved with Usborne Publishing? I notice that you were responsible for art and editorial direction on the World of the Unknown series before you worked on the World of the Future series.

JEFFERIS: Some background, prior to my Usborne days:

My first job was in London, in the Art Department of The Observer Sunday newspaper, producing news graphics—maps, diagrams, drawings, charts—to highlight stories for printing in the newspaper’s weekly edition. I was soon involved in other aspects of the production, such as magazine covers, and started to create features of my own, including articles for the “Young Observer” page, DIY hi-fi systems, and so on.

One such “Young Observer” article was an interview I carried out with a Brixton man who was building a man-powered helicopter in his (small) front sitting room. He had to disassemble his machine to extract it from the front parlour, but did go on to screw it together again and test it on an airfield. Sad to say, he managed only a short hop off the ground. Enterprising though, and I hugely respected his tenacity and skill in creating something from nothing.

I worked part-time for The Observer after a while, during which time I did many illustration jobs, and this brought me into the world of book publishing, and children’s books, for which there was steady demand for the realistic art I produced. I worked with  Macdonald Publishing quite a lot, and specialized in creating pre-World of the Future “science faction” futurist spreads in their non-fiction titles.

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From a 1977 Observer magazine released to coincide with the London Auto Show. Jefferis: “The city car resulted from a concept-crunching session with journalist Peter Deeley, and included a joystick instead of a steering wheel, full-auto drivetrain, electric drive with slot in-out batteries (you weren’t first, Tesla!) and rear-facing back seats…”

I met Peter Usborne as one of a number of editors and publishers I had targeted as possible backers for a magazine concept I created called Science Fiction Illustrated. This starred the 1950s comic hero, Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, on the cover, and—as all such things were in those days—the sample dummy for Science Fiction Illustrated was crafted by hand (mine, in this case!) with rub-down Letraset headlines, and so on.

Peter and I got on well, though he was not interested in being a periodical publisher. Some time later, an editor who worked with him in his newly-formed Usborne Publishing company gave me a call, and I started working as a freelance designer for the company.

I had offices in Covent Garden at the time—and had published the weekly “Tuesday Paper” for children there, along with other projects, such as “Lightning” for the National Magazine Company—so working in league with Usborne was a fairly natural next step, especially as our respective offices were on the same side of the street, opposite the Garrick Club.

Freelance design turned into art direction, which turned into art and editorial direction for the first Usborne book series in my charge, a five-title set called Battlegame Books. Later multi-title series—by which time I was on the payroll in charge of science, technology, and gee-whiz titles—included Young Scientist, Young Engineer, and as you noted, World of the Unknown.

2W2N: On the World of the Unknown books, what exactly did “art and editorial direction” entail? Did you do some of the illustrations as well? I’m also curious how the project was conceived. On the one hand, the art draws out the shocking and graphic nature of the subject matter (especially in All About Monsters); but on the other hand, the narrative is even-handed, even skeptical, and the tone is almost droll at times. It reminds me of the brilliant Hammer horror films of the ’60s and ’70s. Was that the idea?

JEFFERIS: The A&ED title is one that I invented, as I covered both named roles, rather than being responsible for either art or editorial.

I did a few small illustrations for these Usborne books, just fillers really as there wasn’t time to do more. Also, I had made a decision to move away from full-time freelance illustration, as it was so labour intensive and demanded too much time spent with only a drawing board for company. As quite a physical person, I wasn’t keen on the endless hours hunched up indoors, particularly with the amount of intensive preparation and repetitive work that my style of airbrush art demanded.

I’ll tell you how the change of direction happened. I was working on a “future faction” spread for Macdonald Publishing, the subject an underwater fish farm, with aquanauts zipping along, dolphins equipped with sensor packs, work domes, mini-subs, and so on. The background to the work was, naturally enough, a luminous blue-green ocean, fading into the distance. I sprayed endless fine coats with the airbrush, each layer just molecules thin, as I slowly built up the colour depth. For some reason, I hadn’t worn my surgical mask this time—and so I spent much of the following week sneezing and coughing out blue-green ink. Ugh. Today, health and safety would have words to say, and even then I didn’t feel like repeating that mistake again! The artwork looked okay though.

So far as World of the Unknown is concerned, the tone of the books fitted in with the nature of a then-new educational publisher. The idea was to draw readers in with bold visuals, then be responsible with what we were saying. It wasn’t actually defined as such, but there was an echo of the old Eagle comic there, which had done a similar sort of thing. My own book series featured mostly realistic artwork, but other Usborne output used humorous illustrations, produced by artists such as the late Stephen Cartwright.

Usborne Ghosts-1

Two-page haunted house spread from The World of the Unknown: All About Ghosts, 1978

What was deliberately avoided was a true strip cartoon approach. The British educational establishment of the day was mostly dead-set against anything that looked too much like a comic, as were educational book publishers. That said, Stephen Cartwright’s gently amusing art became hugely successful in books aimed at younger readers, and rightly so.

Two tales of World of the Unknown spring to mind. In All About Ghosts, one spread featured the village of Pluckley in Kent, a place reputedly packed with supernatural phenomena. Writer Chris Maynard spent time there with a photographer, but they didn’t see or take any pictures of any spooks, and it took some head-scratching and burning of the midnight oil back in London for us to end up with a useable spread! It’s worth worth pointing out my methodology there, which was to work with contributors, aiming for a team effort.

On All About Monsters, I spent several days around Loch Ness looking for the mysterious beast, with no convincing results. The art I commissioned from Malcolm McGregor looked extremely good, but the printed results of my own researches came to no more than a couple of pics and a mini-map! I revisited the subject recently, and produced a prototype eBook, The REAL Loch Ness Monster, available here.

Usborne Monsters-1

Detail from The World of the Unknown: All About Monsters, 1978

This time Nessie was the solitary star and focus of the book, so it was good to do some in-depth research. Just as important, the research paid off with a scientifically elegant and believable theory—of which the Oxford University experts approved!

In the early days, I did visuals for every page, breaking down information into the box-by-box sequence approach being pioneered at Usborne. There were plenty of variations used at Usborne for other series and titles. For example, the illustrator Colin King did his own pencil roughs when working with in-house editor-writer Judy Hindley on How Your Body Works.

In summary, my titles may have been aimed at young readers, but they didn’t talk down to them, the text level being easy to understand, but not stupid. The information in a typical book could have been published in any intelligent, mid-market newspaper.

2W2N: You wrote the World of the Future series with the late Kenneth Gatland, who had by that time written a number of titles for Usborne relating to space travel and space exploration. How did you meet Ken, and can you tell me how World of the Future was developed? I imagine it was inspired by all the space colony concept work NASA did in the 1970s. Was it also banking on the massive success of Star Wars?

JEFFERIS: At that time, Kenneth Gatland was past-President of the British Interplanetary Society, a highly respected organisation, known for its pioneer work in outlining designs for Moon landers back in the 1950s, and for the Starship Daedalus concept in the 1970s. The BIS was a natch for technical support on the World of the Future, so I called Ken, a quietly spoken man, full of ideas and a pleasure to work with. I had worked with him on an earlier Usborne title, Young Scientist: Spaceflight, and we were both keen on this new project.

Regarding the genesis of World of the Future, I’m not sure who actually came up with the idea, Peter Usborne or myself. Either way, the series came out of a short meeting in Garrick Street, and I went away fired with enthusiasm. Was Star Wars an influence? To a degree, yes, but there were other big sci-fi movies at the time too, the most influential probably being Stanley Kubrick’s far more serious 2001: A Space Odyssey. Usborne was an educational publisher, so we had to be seen to be fact, not fiction. And of course, space was a popular subject with our principal markets: children and parents, educators and schools.

Usborne Robots

Robots and human living and exploring together, from The World of the Future: Robots, 1979

A big influence came from childhood, in the form of Frank Hampson’s Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future. The panel-by-panel presentation of the Eagle comic was similar to the Usborne educational style we had developed, and had Hampson been available for World of the Future, I would have been delighted.

Blue-sky thinking from NASA and other space organizations was huge, and Ken Gatland’s BIS connections made a huge difference to the ease of accessing photos and prints, as well as library material to which he had access. I too had a large and growing library, so between us we had call on impressive information resources. Today, my library has been mostly digitized or sold on to collectors via eBay.

Early on in the World of the Future project, Ken and I agreed on an outline flatplan—a small-scale, spread-by-spread book visualisation—which allowed each double-page spread to be effectively self-contained, though presented in a logical sequence. The three individual World of the Future titles were 32 pages each, allowing a dozen spreads to tell the story, the rest consisting of prelims and introduction, timeline and index.

I drew up detailed full-size page visuals in pen and marker, making adjustments and changes with Ken until we were both okay with the content. Once a spread was locked down, I then commissioned an illustrator to create finished art, based on my visuals. A reference pack of images, photos, books, magazines—whatever was needed—was posted off, with phone conversations on arrival, to ensure that the illustrator understood the brief properly. It’s a shame that those visuals of mine went in the bin, as they were a tremendously important part of the book creation process. But storage was a huge issue, and once finished art arrived, they were dead meat.

As a side-note, it’s worth knowing that back then, making illustrated books was a highly physical business. World of the Future was created before the Internet, or even faxes, and that meant continuous multi-way movements of hardcopy information. Reference books, clippings, sketches, notes—all had to be sent and returned by post, messenger, or rail. It was slow and expensive. In today’s money, delivery of some rigidly-packaged finished-art boards using rail and messenger bike might cost $200 USD or more, a sum that could be repeated multiple times during production. If changes were needed on a piece of art, the two-way delivery process had to be repeated. I am very pleased that no one has to waste time and money like that any more!

2W2N: Futurism these days seems much less exciting than it was when the World of the Future series debuted, revolving mostly around self-centered—and somewhat frightening, to my mind—internet and virtual reality technologies (i.e. Google Glass, Oculus Rift). What happened to exploring the universe outside of us and building bold new worlds?

JEFFERIS: I think the term ‘exciting’ depends on what you mean. The star-spanning world of the future envisaged by me and others was certainly exciting in a gee-whiz sort of way, but some of the more way-out space ideas were products of technical naivety as much as anything else. For example, the 1950s sci-fi hero Dan Dare flew spaceships like they were Spitfires, with navigation carried out with the flick of a slide-rule.

Jefferis Starcruiser c

Jefferis Starcruiser d

From 1977 to 1979, Jefferis wrote and illustrated the Starcruiser comic strip for ‘The World of Gerry Anderson’ feature in Look-In magazine.

And—bearing in mind our target audience—we deliberately left out political messages in World of the Future. But perhaps we shouldn’t have, for even then Apollo was teaching us that while political will can achieve many things, including going to the Moon, elected leaders don’t have sufficient time in power, and therefore the long-term vision needed to command vast budgets for decades at a time. Without the will, the time, the money, visionary ideas will fail. I got rather depressed about it all for a while, especially as I had drawn up in 1970 a nuclear-powered Mars ship concept, based on von Braun’s ideas. His timeline was, “…the early 1980s.”

But we are now in a better place, where I see entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Richard Branson achieving great things by virtue of their foresight, drive, and access to finance. It’s my belief that if future spaceflight is fueled by commercial profit more than pure politics, then out into space we’ll go.

Which is not to say that organizations like NASA or ESA (European Space Agency) are redundant, far from it. Plans and intentions are as dramatic as ever, and I would certainly like to see the ‘floating buoy’ Titan probe go ahead in the not too distant future. But space agency budgets will always be at the mercy of headline-grabbing budget-cutters, so let’s just say that I heartily approve of the commercial sector flying space missions too.

Whether such blue-sky dreams as warp drive or other faster-than-light technologies will ever appear is unknown at present, but people like Miguel Alcubierre and Harold White seem to have opened the conceptual door just a crack, and with it, perhaps a gateway to new worlds—the stars our destination, to paraphrase Alfred Bester. The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works may also play a role if compact fusion lives up to its promise, with Earth-to-Mars trip times of just one month a possibility a decade from now.

Jefferis WoFuture Risto

The satellite-enabled wrist-radio, or “risto,” from World of the Future: Future Cities, 1979

As for internet and virtual reality technologies, they are a growing part of our present future, one that was largely unforeseen, though Ken Gatland and I did our best. I’m guessing that they will blend seamlessly into our lives, in the same way that personal computers and mobile phones have done. However, I don’t see too much in internet technology that is going to change the actual nature of humanity. We are still much the same as, say, the citizens of ancient Rome, many of whom would probably fit into present-day Western culture without too many adjustments, though having machines to do their bidding instead of slaves might be hard to accept. In fact, give a time-slipped Roman some money, and a few servant-slaves would probably be installed in no time at all.

Access to the internet is on its way to becoming ubiquitous, though it’s not exactly an overnight process. I am still amazed and unamused that where I presently live, connections are frustratingly slow and patchy, and mobile phone communications even worse. Despite this, things will improve in years to come—so they tell me!

As for the future, I’m guessing that the internet is in the early stages of becoming the brainstem of a planetary AI of some sort, perhaps one in which humans function as semi-independent mobile elements. Note the ‘semi-independent’—I’m not alone in not wishing to be cut off for more than a few hours, and need my regular information fix. One thing is for sure—my various laptops have functioned as a second brain for many years.

And we previewed the Apple watch by a long way—though we called it the ‘Risto.’

2W2N: You are still active in writing, publishing, and futurism, and you’ve described yourself as a “solar evangelist.” Can you tell me more about your current projects?

Jefferis WoFuture c

Jefferis WoFuture b

Unpublished Jefferis sketches depicting (top) a high-end home equipped with gravity control, and (bottom) a concrete-and-glass Museum Building covered with bio-engineered climbing plants “designed to look good and provide a freshly-grown food supply.”

JEFFERIS: The solar evangelist tag is a direct descendent of ideas that Ken Gatland and I promoted in World of the Future, and you can see what I mean on the jacket for Future Cities. Look closely and you’ll find a solar-powered house, an idea that’s now hit the mainstream, with rooftop panels widely available to homeowners. I have been working with an excellent renewables company, and we feel we are  helping to save the planet in a commercial environment, much as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are aiming to profit from space, or Tesla with electric cars. Incidentally, automated battery-swapping at recharge stations is an idea Ken and I pioneered, and at last something of the sort is coming to fruition.

As for solar, according to some estimates, in the United States alone, a home or business goes solar every four minutes. To put the following numbers into perspective, one gigawatt of electricity is enough to power some 750,000 homes. China smashed the record for new solar installations in 2013 by adding 11.8 gigawatts, bringing its total solar capacity to more than 20 gigawatts.

China is now second to world solar leader Germany, which is nearing the 40 gigawatt mark. On June 9, 2014, German solar supplied 23.1 gigawatts, more than half of the country’s total energy demand. So it’s an exciting time for me—reaching into the past to power the future.

Despite all that, publishing remains my first love, and my stuff ranges from books to prints.

My website www.starcruzer.com will shortly become the launch pad for ebooks, such as Ness: Hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. This is a ‘Visual Companion Edition’ of The REAL Loch Ness Monster, with a double-page visual of the monster we think lies behind the legend.

2015 titles include Space Probes, Space Stations, Black Holes, The Aces, to be published on an ebook-a-month basis on Amazon for Kindle and other e-readers. In addition, I will be establishing a presence on the micro-funding site Patreon.

Prints: I haven’t produced illustrations for book publishers in a long time, but I still draw for myself. I also love photography, probably spending more time tweaking in Photoshop than I ever did in creating airbrush art. I plan to showcase art and images on Saatchi Art in 2015.
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As of now, you can read a compilation of all three books in The World of the Future series at the Internet Archive.

‘Visions of Lunar Life’: 2009 NASA Art Contest Winners

NASA 2009

Life and Work on the Moon
by Pratham Karnik
Walt Whitman High School, Rockville, MD

NASA 2009-2

The Worlds First Civilization on the Moon
by Josh Kim
Kent Mountain View Academy, Auburn, WA

NASA 2009-3

Coexisting in Harmony
by Sarah Han
Vision 21 Art and Design Portfolio School, Los Angeles, CA

NASA 2009-4

Moon Base
by Jan Fahlbusch
Arendell Parrott Academy, NC

NASA 2009-5

Amid the Stars
by Kristen Fahy
Hopatcong High School, NJ

Damn good stuff from the high school division—better than the university division, in my opinion. See all the winners here. The Nasa Art Contest was discontinued in 2012 due to—guess what?—lack of funding.

Odyssey #8 (August, 1981)

Odyssey #8 FC

Odyssey #8 IFC

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Odyssey #8 pg. 30

Odyssey, “The Young People’s Magazine of Astronomy and Outer Space,” ran from 1975 through 1991. Originally published by AstroMedia Corp., the magazine was sold to Kalmback publishing in 1985. I don’t have any issues from the later period, but I’ve seen some for sale, and it looks like the format changed slightly. I bought a good run from ’81 and ’82 and plan to post selections from each issue.

Kids used to be excited about space travel and the stars. Consequently, they were excited about science. Funny how that works. The magazine is excellent quality, even if some of the science is outdated. Above you’ll find an article on Voyager’s Golden Records, and instructions on how to build a Jupiter Theater (if anyone gets it done, send me some pics and I’ll show them off.)

A number of regular features are below. The first two feature Odyssey‘s robot mascot, Ulysses. The third is even better: kid art depicting space themes. The theme for this issue is “Future in Space.” Along with the letters printed at the beginning of the issue, the drawings were sent to President Reagan, who was threatening to cut NASA’s budget at the time.

The blurbs accompanying the art are brilliant. Talk to me, Christina Chin: “I would like to see the United States launch a shuttle to other worlds and galaxies and find beings that live there.”

Amen.

Or how about John-Charles Panosh’s “Norris 3,” an asteroid colony orbiting Jupiter? Pretty cool. Do you think it’s named after Chuck Norris?

The back cover is a surreal ad for TSR’s Escape from New York board game. In fact, every issue of my run has a TSR ad on the back cover.

Odyssey #8 pg. a

Odyssey #8 pg. 26

Odyssey #8 pg. 27

Odyssey #8 pg. 28

Odyssey #8 pg. 29

Odyssey #8 BC

Disneyland’s Mission to Mars, 1984/1985

MIssion to Mars 1984

MIssion to Mars 1984-2

I wish I could find more shots of the mural. There was a beauty in the Starcade as well.

Before it was Mission to Mars it was Flight to the Moon. Before that it was Rocket to the Moon. Now it’s Redd Rockett’s Pizza Court. Today’s Tomorrowland does not make me excited about the future, although it’s still lots of fun. I went a couple of weeks ago and got to ride the refurbished Star Tours. It makes good use of 3D, and there are a number of different flight scenarios you can end up with (I got Hoth!).

Can I do a whole week of outer space-themed posts? We’ll see.

(Images via ATIS547/Flickr)

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.

Music from Outer Space: NASA Voyager Recordings (1989, 1992)

voyager recordings

I’m still trying to figure out if these recordings are really what they say they are. Originally released in five volumes in 1989, they were collected in compilation form in 1992. From the back cover of volume one:

Share the journey of a 5 billion mile trek to the outer limits of our solar system. Hear the beautiful songs of the planets. The complex interactions of the cosmic plasma of the universe, charged electromagnetic particles from the solar wind, planetary magnetosphere, rings and moons create vibration “soundscapes” which are at once utterly alien and deeply familiar to the ear. Some of these sounds are hauntingly like human voices singing, giant Tibetan bowls, wind, waves, birds and dolphins. Many are familiar in a way unique for each listener.

Voyager has left our Solar System forever. The sounds on this recording will never be made again in our lifetime.

This sounds like New Age bullshit to me. In fact, the series is licensed by and appears to be copyright of the Center for Neuroacoustic Research (CNR), “dedicated to the healing of the Global Body of the Universe through the healing of individuals of which it is composed.” End of story, right? Well, the “Space Recording Series,” for sale individually (and not cheaply) at the CNR site,

is dedicated to the memory of Fred Scarf, PhD, who developed the acoustic recording project for Voyager and is directly responsible for the sounds you hear on these recordings from space.

Dr. Fred Scarf happens to be the real deal. According to a 1981 Christian Science Monitor article (“Voyager 2 sending back eerie ‘music of the spheres’“), Scarf developed the plasma wave detector on Voyager 2 and “rigged up a microcomputer and music synthesizer to turn the noise of space and planets into a `Star Wars’-style siren song.” His 1988 obituary in the Los Angeles Times confirms this. However, I can’t find any confirmation on NASA’s site or anywhere else that the sounds on Symphonies of the Planets were supplied and/or endorsed by NASA and/or Scarf.

I did find some raw Voyager and Cassini recordings at NASA, prefaced by the remark that “Some spacecraft have instruments capable of capturing radio emissions. When scientists convert these to sound waves, the results are eerie to hear.” So, in theory, the sounds synthesized on the Symphonies disc(s) really could be from Voyager. But are they? I’ve emailed NASA about it via its public inquiry address. We’ll see what happens.

You can listen to the recordings for free if you’re on Spotify. Here’s a taste of what Jupiter “sounds” like:

I do find a starkness and a uniqueness in all of the different “soundscapes,” but that could very well be my mind clinging to the notion that they were captured by 35-year-old probes that have sailed past our solar system and are currently on the verge of interstellar space.

Future Magazine #3 (July, 1978): New York Toy Fair, Filmation’s Flash Gordon

Future Life #3 FC

Future Life #3 IFC

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Future Life #3 BC

Future Life #3 pg. 14

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Future Life #3 pg. 22

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Future Life #3 pg. 24

Future Life #3 pg. 25

Future magazine, later called Future Life, was published from 1978 to 1981 for a total of 31 issues. It featured a combination of science fiction commentary and criticism, futurism/futurology, interviews with luminaries in relevant fields, and space exploration/travel activism. I’ve got about half of the run at this point, as well as a number of other cool sci-fi mags of the era. I’ll be scanning and posting them as time allows.

Above you’ll find the front cover of Future #3, as well as the inside front cover, table of contents, inside back cover, and back cover. (Click pages to enlarge.)

After that there’s a short piece on the Annual Toy Fair in New York (1978) discussing the post-Star Wars sci-fi trend, led by the “real stars of the show,” Mego and Kenner. I find it revealing that “three buildings with grown adults playing with toys for two weeks” is referred to as a “seeming impossibility.”

On the same page there’s a blurb on Gerard K. O’Neill and the formation of his Space Studies Institute (SSI), a non-profit organization “designed to help research the subject of space habitation.” I talked about O’Neill and his initiative here.

Following that is a feature on Filmation’s Flash Gordon, originally planned as a made-for-television animated movie. NBC later decided to turn the production into an animated TV series that ran for two seasons starting in 1979. Upon cancellation of the series in 1982, NBC went back to the original material and assembled it for a prime time movie, Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All. Neither the series nor the movie is currently available on DVD. You can see the series intro here. Watch the movie (pretty sophisticated for the time, and fun) on YouTube.

Interestingly, the producers at Filmation could not secure the necessary funding from NBC for the project, so they offered producer Dino De Laurentiis “exclusive distribution in Europe as a theatrical film” in exchange for additional backing. Laurentiis promptly agreed and “injected himself into the legal maneuver of obtaining the rights to the Alex Raymond [creator of Flash Gordon] comic strips.” Filmation ended up with animated and TV rights, while Laurentiis secured feature film rights. He immediately began working on the live-action Flash Gordon (1980).

You’ll find a nice homage and issue-by-issue synopsis of Future/Future Life at Weimar World Service, John Zipperer’s website.

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.


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