Growing up in the Sputnik era, I followed the fortunes of space exploration with huge enthusiasm. In those days, the model was primarily planetary in nature, the progression from the Moon to the nearest planets and then beyond seemingly inevitable. At the same time, a second model was developing around the idea of space stations and self-contained worlds built by man, one that would reach high visibility in the works of Gerard O’Neill, but one that ultimately reached back as far as the 1920’s (Oberth and Noordung) and further back to the science fiction of Jules Verne. In fact, E. E. Hale’s “The Brick Moon” explored a space station as early as 1869.
But even as our Mariners and Veneras explored other planets, an interstellar thread was also emerging. Robert Goddard wrote about interstellar journeys in 1918, science fiction was full of such travel as the field matured in the 1940s and ‘50s, and serious scientific study of interstellar flight became established by mid-century. Writing in 1979, Michael Michaud could point to Project Daedalus as the first serious starship design, and could note the continuing work of Robert Forward in presenting what he thought of as a roadmap for interstellar expansion.To read more, click here.