Chesley Bonestell was born long before the flight of the first airplane, and yet he’s well-known as the most influential people in aerospace art. The painter, designer and illustrator died the year of the Challenger disaster—1986—but not before witnessing humankind embrace space in much the way he’d dreamed.

You see, Bonestell not only helped to popularize manned space travel and inspire sci-fi art and illustration, his ideas directly influenced the way US space scientists imagined the future of space exploration from Earth’s orbit to the Moon and other planets.

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Wernher von Braun, the father of the US space program once wrote that “In my many years of association with Chesley I have learned to respect, nay fear, this wonderful artist’s obsession with perfection. My file cabinet is filled with sketches of rocket ships I had prepared to help him in his art work—only to have them returned to me with pene­trating detailed questions or blistering criticism of some in­consistency or oversight.”

The following set of images shows a fraction of Bonestell’s very best works of art. They prove that he earned the title of “Father of Modern Space Art”.

Separation Over the Pacific

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Source: Heritage Auctions


Saturn Viewed from Titan, c. 1952

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Source: Heritage Auctions


Crashing the Unknown, AirResearch Mfg. ad, Aviation Week, August 21, 1950

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Source: Heritage Auctions


Solar System

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Source: Heritage Auctions


Rocket Ferry Leaving Mars, c. 1964

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Source: Heritage Auctions


The Exploration of Mars, c. 1955

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Source: Heritage Auctions


Orbital Rocket Airplane... Nova Zembla, c. 1976

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Source: Forbes


Saturn-sized booster pushes interstellar expedition toward Earth orbit, c. 1964

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Source: Forbes


Destination Moon (Pathé, 1950)

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Source: Heritage Auctions


Chesley Bonestell designed the spaceship in the scifi movie When Worlds Collide (Paramount, 1951).

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Source: Heritage Auctions

Source: Heritage Auctions


The Conquest of Space, book cover painting (New York, Viking, 1949)

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Source: Heritage Auctions


Spaceships over Mars, Collier’s, April 30, 1954

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Source: National Geographic


Collier’s March 22, 1952 “Man Will Conquer Space Soon”

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Source: Horizons


Rocket to the Moon, Mechanix Illustrated, 1945

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Source: Modern Mechanix


The Moon Lander, Collier’s, October 18, 1952

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Source: Leo Boudreau


Orbital assembly, 1964

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Source: X-Ray Delta One


Construction of a manned space station, 1949

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Source: Leo Boudreau


Exploring Copernicus, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction illustration, October, 1969

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Source: Tom Simpson


Rocket ship tow test, Collier’s, March 14, 1953

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Source: Horizons


Preparing for launch, 1956

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Source: X-Ray Delta One


Man on the Moon, Collier’s, October 18, 1952

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Source: Horizons


Mars expedition prepares for return flight to Earth, Collier’s, April 30, 1954

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Source: Horizons


Aerospace artists previously in this series:

  1. Attila Héjja – The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America’s Space Program
  2. Paul Fjeld – 13 Amazing Paintings of Space Based On Actual Missions
  3. Robert T. McCall – 27 Paintings From the Most Famous Space Artist On Earth (And Off)
  4. Davis Paul Meltzer – The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race
  5. John Conrad Berkey – The Space Artist Who Perfectly Painted All Our Cosmic Dreams

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