Original material by Wernher von Braun that formed the basis for three classic 1950s coffee table books about the future of space is up for auction.
A collection of some of the most important seminal documents of the Space Age are open for bids as rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun’s “Man Will Conquer Space Soon” archive goes on the block. A collection of signed technical drawings, schematics, memos, orbital diagrams, and mathematical calculations related to von Braun’s efforts to sell an ambitious space program to both the American public and the US government, it’s the centerpiece of the Space and Aviation Auction at Boston-based RR Auction through April 19.
On March 22, 1952, the American weekly feature magazine Collier’s hit the newsstands. Among its usual mixture of advertisements and articles was the first of a series of features that would run for the next two years. These seemed like the wildest science fiction at the time, but would become established fact within a surprisingly few years. The series was called “Man Will Conquer Space Soon” and included painstakingly detailed color illustrations by magazine artists Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep. It outlined a complete program for building an unmanned satellite, a manned space shuttle, a space station, an expedition to set up an outpost on the Moon, and topped it off with the conquest of Mars.
Later compiled into and expanded by three coffee table books – Across the Space Frontier (1952), Conquest of the Moon (1953), and The Exploration of Mars (1956) – the series was the brainchild of Wernher von Braun, one of the great rocket pioneers of the 20th century. He was the man behind Germany’s V2 rocket, and architect of the Saturn V booster that would send the first men to the Moon on the Apollo missions.
Those coffee table books are three of my most prized books in my somewhat large library. Anyone who was involved in the 1960s space race read them. When I was old enough to read I found them in my local library. They formed the basis of Disney movies, television shows, and rides at Disneyland. Other Hollywood productions were influenced by them. And most important of all, young men like Jim Lovell were influenced by them, making them want to be astronauts.