Long before we were building spacecraft, we were dreaming of them. And some of our earliest ideas about space vehicles were pretty fanciful, or even downright bizarre. Here are the most astonishing and baffling spaceship designs from before we had spaceships.

Plus, as a bonus, a few images from the very early days of the Space Age, right after Sputnik launched in 1957.


Above: A cover of a Science Wonder Stories magazine from August 1929, via Heritage Auctions.

Poster and stills from Himmelskibet, Excelsior, a danish space opera from 1918

This rarely known European science fiction classic that you probably haven't seen is about Professor Planetarios and his crew traveling to Mars.

(via Marsmovies and Thomas Gladysz/SFGate)

A Frank R. Paul illustration for Air Wonder Stories, August 1929

(via Heritage Auctions)

Poster and stills from the movie Frau Im Mond by Fritz Lang, 1929

(via Moviemail)

Astounding Stories of Super-Science, March 1930, by Hans W. Wessolowski

(via Space Rubbish)

Cover art by Frank R. Paul for Air Wonder Stories, April 1930

(via MoviePosterShop)

A Battle Cruiser from a Buck Rogers comic strip, June 1931

(via GoToMars)

A Galactic Circle, by Howard V. Brown, Astounding Stories, August 1935

(via Comic Book Stories)

The Adventures of Buck Rogers No. 6 from June 1938

(via The Collector)

Spaceship of 2038, from Amazing Stories, 1938

(via up-ship)

Ships from Flash Gordon comic strips, 1938-1939

(via Art Contrarian)

Julian S. Krupa's illustration on the cover of Amazing Stories, December 1939

(via Pulp Covers)

An illustration by Leo Morey on the cover of Amazing Stories, Feburary 1941

(via PulpCovers)

An illustration of Frank R. Paul for Comet, May 1941

(via Pulp Covers)

An illustration of Rudolph Belarski, Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1942

(via Pulp Covers)

A Yellow (Space) Submarine by Malcolm Smith, from Amazing Stories, May 1944

(via PulpCovers)

The Rocket Plane Is Here, from Science and Mechanics, June 1944

(via Pulp Covers)

An illustration by Douglas Rolfe for "How Will You Talk to the Martians?" in Mechanix Illustrated, December 1947

(via Modern Mechanix)

Amazing Stories, February 1948, cover art by Malcolm Smith

(via My Comic Shop)

A Space Station, by Klaus Bürgle, 1949-1950

A disk-like artificial moon 800 miles above the Earth.

(via Retro-Futurismus)

A Golden Starship on the cover of Other Worlds Science Stories, made by Malcolm Smith, July 1950

(via Vintage Pulps)

The cover of Cosmos, September 1953

(via Vintage Pulps)

Super Science Stories, November 1953, by H.R. Van Dongen

(via The Last Man on Earth)

Spaceships on the cover of the legendary sci-fi magazine If from 1955

(via ufunk)

Avro Project 1794, 1956

The whole declassified document about the concept is available here, but you can find more flying saucer-like plane concepts here.

(via National Declassification Center/PDF)

Jack Gaughan's illustration for Galaxy Magazine, December 1958, one year after Sputnik

(via Collector Showcase)

Ready to start, from the cover of the Czech Věda a technika mládeži, September 1959

(via planeta-eden)

The cover of Space Flight – The Coming Exploration of the Universe by Lester Del Rey, 1959

(via eBay)

Spaceships by Klaus Bürgle, 1961

(via Retro-Futurismus)

Bonus: The first Americans on Mars, from Rockets to Explore the Unknown, 1964, illustrated by George Bakacs

(via Paleofuture)