The Art of NASA:
The Illustrations that Sold the Missions
Motorbooks, 2020, 192 pp., Hardcover. $50.00. www.quartoknows.com
Formed in 1958, NASA has long maintained a department of visual artists to depict the concepts and technologies created in humankind’s quest to explore the final frontier. Culled from a carefully chosen reserve of approximately 3000 files deep in the NASA archives, the 200 artistic works presented in this large-format edition provide a glimpse of NASA history like no other. From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the space shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, The Art of NASA presents 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations. The insightful text relates the wonderful stories associated with the art. For instance, the incredibly rare early Apollo illustrations show how Apollo might have looked if the landing module had never been developed. Black-and-white Gemini drawings illustrate how the massive NASA art department did its stuff with ink pen and rubdown Letraset textures. Cross-sections of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project docking adapter reveal Russian sensitivity about U.S. “male” probes “penetrating” their spacecraft, thus the androgynous “adapter” now used universally in space. International Space Station cutaways show how huge the original plan was, but also what was retained. Every picture in The Art of NASA tells a special story. This collection of the rarest of the rare is not only a unique view of NASA history — it’s a fascinating look at the art of illustration, the development of now-familiar technologies, and a glimpse of what the space program might have looked like.