Celestial Visions: Imagining and Engineering Spaceflight in the United States, 1899-1969

  • Author / Creator
    Hajramezan, Solomon
  • Human space travel in the United States was the culmination of years of research, immense technological progress, and enormous collaborative projects, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. It was also, as this thesis argues, a product of imagination—that is to say, a consequence of space travel’s fictional and imaginative conceptions. Science fiction stories advanced precise articulations of what spaceflight might be like and what its achievement would entail. Such tales inspired the pioneers of astronautics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to translate these interplanetary fantasies into practical realities. In turn, these pioneers helped forge the nascent field of astronautics, and inspired generations of enthusiasts and engineers whose later efforts constituted a foundation upon which future developments were realized. In the American context, this process of imagination, inspiration, and innovation culminated most visibly with the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. The origins of many of the ideational and technological antecedents to human space travel were located in a dream of spaceflight, and conveyed through various, imaginative means, whether fictional or extrapolative in nature. This dream, as I argue, led to meaningful technological developments and progress, and produced a cultural environment in the United States that was receptive to the advent of space travel. This thesis explores the rise and imaginative origins of American rocketry in the early 20th century, the development of large space boosters in the mid-20thcentury, the flourishing of space media in popular culture during the 1950s, and the influence of imaginative visual media, with a focus on the American science fiction space travel films of the 1950s and 1960s. By tracing the linkages binding sources of inspiration to their ultimate results, whether they are technological innovations or cultural phenomena, this thesis maps out “threads of imagination” that reveal the influence and effect of the cosmic imagination in the United States, and how it helped bring about spaceflight.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.