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1939 National Geographic Space CoverOne of the joys of caring for aging parents (or in-laws) is that often as the inevitable downsizing begins, you get their stuff. This might be cool if 99% of it weren’t junk. Ancient tools, stacks of picture frames, geological surveys from 1950–you get the picture.

But then, every so often something interesting pops up.

This is the case with the hundreds of boxed National Geographic Magazines Margaret and Conrad gave us a couple of years ago. Despite their the cool pictures and somewhat historical nature, they’re not worth anything–believe me, I checked. But you can’t help but keep them. They’re just so darned neat. Many of the pictures are stunning, and the stories are still fascinating–especially if you look at them like an artifact.

After awhile though, the novelty runs out and you realize you can’t keep hundreds of old magazines in your garage forever.

And then you find a 1939 issue that includes a 32 page story entitled “NEWS OF THE UNIVERSE”. So what did we know about space in 1939?

Well, for one thing–using water melting from its polar ice caps, green green vegetation flourished seasonally on Mars.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share some of the photos and illustrations from that article. I kept the pictures in order as they appeared in the story.

So without further ado:

1939 National Geographic Space Cover

1939 National Geographic Space Article

Navigating with the stars and a sextant

Big old telescope

Homemade telescopes for amature astronomers

An early Robert H. Goddard rocket

How they figured Pluto was a planet

Early picture of Mars ice caps

Early picture of sunspots

Early planetarium projector

Meteor Crater in Arizona near

Early photo of gaseous solar flare

1930’s painting of earth from the moon

Painting of Saturn from asteroid

The caption was too far in the binding for me to get a good scan of it, but it read, “Saturn, with its strange revolving rings, as seen from an asteroid 500,000 miles away.”

Roaring asteroid

I think this one’s my favorite:

Mars with its mysterious green vegetation

The sun breaks up creating planets

Total eclipse of the sun–by the earth

Sunlight through a prism

A comet behind the Washington Monument

About the artist:

About Charles Bittinger, the Artist for National Geographic

Young boy with Meteor

Astronomer with early telescope

Moon face a nuisance to astronomers

This meteor crashed through a garage roof and into a car