Between 1952 and 1954, the Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun ran a popular series in Collier’s Weekly called “Man Will Conquer Space Soon!”, outlining a manifest-destiny approach to space, the moon, and Mars. The articles were prescient in their analysis of how we might colonize the stars, but what really brought the possibility of human spaceflight to life in the public consciousness were the illustrations: planets, rockets, human settlements. These were rendered by a trio of artists that included Chesley Bonestell, widely considered the father of what we’ve come to call space art. The genre soon bubbled over with breathless visual predictions of our ascent into outer space, wrought with glamor and a childlike wonder, like pulp-fiction covers for what the future was going to be.
People have been painting celestial bodies for thousands of years, but only after World War II, as space programs flourished, did the field evolve into a thriving subgenre, and an occupation in its own right; with new technology came a new lust for imagery. NASA, founded in 1958, has commissioned space art since its inception, and along with the European Space Agency it’s sponsored artists’ residencies over the years. “It could be argued that NASA owes its very existence to space artists,” Jon Ramer, president of the International Association of Astronomical Artists, told me in an email. The IAAA currently stands at 120 members worldwide, and serves as a sort of hub connecting the community. Read More