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

Advertisement

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

Advertisement

(via Marsmovies and Thomas Gladysz/SFGate)

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

Advertisement

(via Heritage Auctions)

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

Advertisement

(via Moviemail)

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

Advertisement

(via Space Rubbish)

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

Advertisement

(via MoviePosterShop)

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

Advertisement

(via GoToMars)

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

Advertisement

(via Comic Book Stories)

The Adventures of Buck Rogers No. 6 from June 1938

Advertisement

(via The Collector)

Spaceship of 2038, from Amazing Stories, 1938

Advertisement

(via up-ship)

Ships from Flash Gordon comic strips, 1938-1939

Advertisement

(via Art Contrarian)

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

Advertisement

(via Pulp Covers)

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

Advertisement

(via PulpCovers)

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

Advertisement

(via Pulp Covers)

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

Advertisement

(via Pulp Covers)

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

Advertisement

(via PulpCovers)

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

Advertisement

(via Pulp Covers)

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

Advertisement

(via Modern Mechanix)

Amazing Stories, February 1948, cover art by Malcolm Smith

Advertisement

(via My Comic Shop)

A Space Station, by Klaus Bürgle, 1949-1950

Advertisement

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

Advertisement

(via Vintage Pulps)

The cover of Cosmos, September 1953

Advertisement

(via Vintage Pulps)

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

Advertisement

(via The Last Man on Earth)

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

Advertisement

(via ufunk)

Avro Project 1794, 1956

Advertisement

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

Advertisement

(via National Declassification Center/PDF)

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

Advertisement

(via Collector Showcase)

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

Advertisement

(via planeta-eden)

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

Advertisement

(via eBay)

Spaceships by Klaus Bürgle, 1961

Advertisement

(via Retro-Futurismus)

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

Advertisement

(via Paleofuture)