Long before orbiting the planet and space telescopes capturing high-resolution deep space images, NASA created concept art as a means of illustrating its missions. Compared to the early days, the understanding of the universe has advanced and the method of drawing has evolved, but the excitement of looking at concept art has not faded. A look back at the history of NASA’s space development through concept art.
NASA first released a cross section of the Mercury spacecraft in April 1959, shortly after its founding. Project Mercury took place between 1959 and 1963 to prove that humans could live and work in space, paving the way for future manned exploration.
In Project Gemini, which took place between 1962 and 1966 following Project Mercury, a large spacecraft was built for two astronauts. These spacecraft were used for rendezvous verification and docking among the technologies required for the Apollo program targeting the lunar surface.
In the mid-1960s, NASA was already considering space routes to repair satellites in low Earth orbit. At the time, you can see a picture of an astronaut repairing the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory at NASA.
It is a concept painting depicting the famous Apollo 13 mission in 1970, when the moon landing did not happen.
The 1975 Apollo Soyuz test project was the first joint space program between the United States and the Soviet Union. Millions of people around the world watched the two spacecraft dock and the smiling astronauts shook hands in low earth orbit.
Launched on October 16, 1975, the first GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) satellites tracked surface storms from geostationary orbit and predicted global weather patterns. This program continues to this day.
A work depicting one of the Voyager probes launched by NASA in 1977 also draws attention. Voyager 1 is currently the farthest human object from Earth and is expected to continue communicating until around 2025.
There is also a concept series depicting the sequence of a typical space shuttle mission. The Space Shuttle operated between 1981 and 2011 and made 135 flights.
Launched in 1983, IRAS, an infrared astronomy satellite, was the first space telescope to probe infrared wavelengths, but the mission lasted only 10 months.
There is also a CG image depicting the International Space Station (ISS). Launched in 1998, the ISS is expected to operate until 2030.
NASA’s Mars Odessey was launched in 2001 and has been scanning the surface composition of Mars. The probe’s data suggested that there is a lot of frozen water in the polar regions of Mars.
Spirit and two Opportunity rovers landed on Mars in 2004. The purpose of the mission is to find evidence of the presence of water in the rocks and soil of Mars, and NASA is ready for the Curiosity and Persistence rover.
In July 2005, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft launched a 360kg thruster at Comet Tempel 1 and hit it. The impact formed a crater and produced a large amount of debris. In this experiment, Comet Tempel 1 appeared to be dustier and less icy than expected.
NASA’s Phoenix probe was the first probe to land on the poles of Mars in 2008. It was designed to dig beneath the surface in anticipation of finding water and ice, but it was short-lived. Relevant information can be found here.