Advertisement for Rocket Engineer

Would the picture above make you want to sign up for the space race? It's taken from an advertisement intended to recruit engineers to work in the aerospace industry, and it can be found in the book Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race, 1957-1962 by historian Megan Prelinger. As Dan Vergano at USA Today explains, the book was inspired by two trade magazines and hundreds of ads that filled their pages in the late 50s and early 60s. Another historian, Margaret Weitekamp, observes: "The whole idea was to involve people in a vision of modern times being a living, breathing part of the future no matter the nuts-and-bolts of the actual work."

The sleek lines and pointy fins of the advertisements gave way to the reality of efficient boxes and no flourishes within just a few short years, and that's reflected in science fictions movies of the 1960s as well. Fantasies like Barbarella could still pop up, but the trend was toward harsher realities, like the stranded astronauts in Marooned or the metaphysical / spiritual contemplations of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gee-whiz rockets would have to lie in wait until Star Wars revived old-school styles in 1977. Still, it's fun to look at ads like this and daydream about blasting off to the stars. And to think that you could have shared in making that a reality -- if you happened to be trained and educated as an engineer!