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Lunar Colonies of the Future (1969)

The May, 1969 issue of Science Journal features an article by Dr. Rodney Wendell Johnson about lunar colonies of the future. Dr. Johnson was the Advanced Planner for NASA's Advanced Manned Mission Program Office. The illustrations by Roy G. Scarfo that accompany the article are pretty amazing.

(Please excuse the semi-blurred scans. The magazine is too big to fit comfortably on my scanner and frankly I'm too lazy to scan it in pieces for you. Listen, you complain any more and I'll turn this rocket ship right around! I swear!)

[The illustration above] shows a semi-permanent base, a six man shelter landed by a direct flight from Earth and coupled to an expandable laboratory in the foreground.

Early lunar bases would grow from Apollo hardware. The picture [above], depicts Apollo lunar modules; that in the background carries a shelter and the other has landed a one man roving vehicle with a range of 8 km. This system would permit 14 day scientific missions in 1971-72, including geological drilling to about 35 m.


[UPDATE: Thanks to Winchell Chung for tracking down the illustrator of these great pieces as Roy G. Scarfo, who also illustrated the book Beyond Tomorrow: The Next 50 Years in Space.]

Previously on Paleo-Future:


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Reader Comments (18)

I remember designing similar self-sufficient colonies in junior high (Grade 7, maybe). It's still a possibility; my expertise will be recognized then, I'm sure.

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrenton

Another sigh for what could have been.

Still, love the telescope in the 2nd image (center, rear) -- all that work to create a lunar base and they have a telescope *outside*? That you actually have to walk up to and look through (versus using a video camera or remote access)? Not to mention that any telescope in the middle of a lunar base would quickly be rendered useless by the huge amounts of dust kicked up by area activities.

March 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWutzke

Very cool! Love the cross-section view in these!

March 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I bit of the SPACE 1999 TV show from 1975 there.


March 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott

The US is too politically timid to go back to manned exploration. The latest excuse is to wait to allow "private" companies to build our spaceships, with the analogy that private companies build the vehicles for our armed forces. Right. This is right after the excuse that we need to send an army of tinkertoys (a good portion of which malfunction before or at the moment of arrival) up into space to "properly study" any future plans of manned exploration.

In other words, it's going to take the Chinese to plant their flag on Mars (or the Moon) before we get up off our butts again.

March 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

In only 30 years we went from everything being possible to nothing being likely.

March 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbazza

Yes, the US government is indeed too politically timid for manned space exploration. The government is also vastly overcomitted in just about everything they've ever tried to do, has no money, and mired in a safety-first attitude that would have left Wilbur and Orville grounded until they died of old age.

And that's exactly why NASA needs to get the heck out of the way and let private industry do it instead. No one insisted the government was the only entity competent to invent our cars, boats, airplanes, or computers. Why should we believe they have some special talent for putting people into space? Because I haven't seen any evidence of that. In fact, where a human presence in space is concerned, all NASA has done for the last four decades is suck up vast amounts of money and talent and given us very little of lasting value. We'd have been better off leaving space to the military, which at least has some incentive to get things accomplished.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan Costin

all NASA has done for the last four decades is suck up vast amounts of money and talent and given us very little of lasting value.

I know! Aside from the Hubble Space Telescope (often called the most important scientific instrument in history), a series of successful Mars landings that outperformed specification by years of duty, multiple manned moon landings, the creation of the International Space Station, the Very Large Array, creating the first reusable spacecraft, providing us with vast volumes of weather data, and lofting the first civilian to space, what have they been spending our money on?

There's a lot to be said for private spaceflight. But the government has never stood in anyone's way. Quite the contrary, in fact: it's provided the practical theory for all civilian space projects by applying the long-term thinking of which private enterprise seems incapable.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua A.C. Newman

I'll give you Hubble (though if NASA had had its way initially, it'd be slag by now), and the Pathfinder rovers (though again, getting their funding renewed each year has been dicey, even though they're continuing to outperform).

But Moon landings? Come on, that's now over 40 years ago. You cannot reasonably expect to point to something 40 years ago as indicia of success, of why NASA should be solely entrusted with the future of humanity's move into space.

ISS? Ha! What a boondoggle, if anything it's been an impediment to more useful and practical space activities.

Creating the first reusable spacecraft - yes, years late and over budget... and then proceeding to fund, but then scrap (i.e., waste effort, energy and enthusiasm) on multiple successor such as the Delta X.

In short, there's no denying NASA has its accomplishments. But most of them are long past, and while I'd love to see NASA rocketing humans to Mars -- I'd love to see humans rocketing to Mars, period, even more. If it takes private effort to get us there because of timid politicians and bureaucrats with no vision -- so be it.

March 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWutzke

Holy crap! Winchell Chung! *The* Winchell Chung -- his web page confirms it. Matt is probably too young to remember, but Chung was the illustrator for a famous game of the 1970s -- Ogre. Which is in itself a sort of paleo-future because it was about a 21st century war between PanEuropa (basically a Soviet Union that expanded west, although the 1990s revamp turned it into an evil European Union) and the Combine (basically everybody else, including the US).

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Badger

Hi, great post! I had 2 years on you though...
Thanks for a fascinating blog, all the best.

March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCylob

You know, when i was a kid one of my favorite books was You Will Go to the Moon. Ever done a post on that one?

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan Berger

I haven't, but it looks awesome! I'll have to pick up a copy!

March 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterMatt Novak

The initial success of the space program was built on the quality public school (and public university) educations of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as an American moral certitude that expansion into space was a central part of man's technological and political development. Although Dyna Soar was cancelled (really poor call), we eventually built a reuseable shuttle and stood poised to revamp our lunar successes with Constellation and Orion (fitting name choice ala "2001: A Space Odyssey).

Seemed like a plan, until Obama decided (long before his election) to refocus American vision to the mundane and morose- the "environment", Toyota mechanical engineering failures, etc.

This generation of kids will have no inspiration as those post-war and the shuttle era did, and yet we complain about kid's lack of interest in science and technology. I breathed this stuff as a kid, cheered every space shot and was proud to be able, 30 years later, to show my daughter multiple shuttle launches from our backyard in FL.

Now, until a political re-direction back out into tomorrow (hopefully after November 2010), we are faced with the prospect of the Space Center at Cape Canaveral becoming just another museum to the past and a seat along the parade route as others claim the moon and the stars.

May 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRon

Wait - Obama, elected in 2010, is the cause of the failures of the space program since 1969? He truly is remarkably powerful!

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterspinetingler

Great pictures. I just stumbled onto this website and I really enjoy looking at these past ideas of the future... if that makes sense. I can see myself wasting a lot of time on this website!

October 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmish Decor

I love how "libertarian" conservatives now hate Obama (that evil big gubmint socialist!) because he's letting private industry take over manned US spaceflight.

If Bush had been the one to cancel Orion, they'd praise him to the skies as a bold promoter of freedom and capitalism who vanquished NASA's bloated government bureaucracy.

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