Saturday, March 16, 2019

Book cover: "Space Flight" (1959)

  • Title: Space Flight
  • Subtitle: "The Coming Exploration of the Universe"
  • Author: Lester del Rey (1915-1993)
  • Illustrator: John Polgreen (1910-1970)
  • Publisher: Golden Press (The Golden Library of Knowledge)
  • Publication year: 1959 (material originally copyright 1957 and 1958 by General Mills)
  • Original price: 50 cents in the United States; 65 cents in Canada
  • Pages: 56
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Provenance: Written on the title page: R.J. Fasnacht, 29 Lincoln Drive, Hanover, Pennsylvania. (I found a Richard J. Fasnacht of Hanover who lived from 1932 to 2009. That's possibly a match.)
  • First sentence: The Space Age began on October 4, 1958, when the first artificial satellite — Sputnik I — was successfully launched.
  • Last sentences: Perhaps there is really no end to space flight. But there is a beginning, and that has already been made.
  • Random sentence from middle: Being a spaceman will require the highest possible combination of physical and mental abilities, as well as courage.
  • Prescient section from the middle: Men may even build small stations further out to televise a full color picture of the whole hemisphere of Earth to the surface, where it could be studied in detail. Hurricanes beginning out in the Atlantic could be spotted in time to warn all ships. Such storms could be followed from hour to hour and warnings issued to cities in their path. Perhaps in time, as more is learned about weather, some way could be found to break up such storms before they could move inland or reach their full fury.
  • Gender equity analysis: For that era, Lester del Rey is about as progressive as one might have hoped, perhaps in a backhanded way, though. Here's an interesting excerpt:
    "In the future, most boys will dream about going into space. The idea of being a spaceman will attract young people just as many now want to become airplane pilots. Girls will also want to go out into the Space Service. They will probably do at least as well as men; for long and difficult trips, women may be preferred, since it has been proved that they are able to stand monotony better than men. Some girls may become pilots. The word spacemen must be used to mean either boys or girls, with no difference in the type of job they will do."
  • What others are saying: In an excellent 2011 post on Riding with Robots, Bill Dunford states:
    "The book itself is beautiful, and its content is an intriguing mix. Naive and wildly speculative on the one hand, hopeful and prescient on the other. It’s easy to smile at the blank spaces on the pictures of the planets and at the predictions the author got wrong. But my eyes widened at some of the things he nailed — a lot of it is spot on. Likewise, the book stirred a mixture of feelings about the state of space exploration today. We have accomplished so much of what the author hoped, and so much is still in progress ... or remains a dream even all these decades later."
    Indeed, is space colonization, funded by the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, our only or best hope against the coming catastrophe of global climate change?

Bonus interior illustration

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