In 1950, the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium promoted its Conquest of Space exhibition with a peculiar stunt. They solicited letters from the general public, inviting them to reserve seats on the first flight into space. Letters poured in from around the country, reflecting the public's grand space age dreams.

The planetarium received letters and sketches from aspiring astronauts young and old, and today they serve as a time capsule for how people imagined space travel. It's a largely optimistic vision, where ordinary Americans believed they might someday work their fare aboard a spaceship bound for Mars or the moon.

There are a few more unusual entries, however. One letter indicates that the writer believed we might find dinosaurs on Venus. Matt Novak of Paleofuture suspects he might have gotten the idea from a story published in a 1950 issue of Coronet magazine, "Mr Smith Goes to Venus," which featured a Venus where dinosaur zoos and big game hunts were a reality.

I can't help but agree with the letter writer who hoped to book passage into space with her dog. I want to see my boxer's jowls flopping around in zero gravity.

The Hayden Letters [via Smithsonian - Paleofuture]