In a way, artists are the most important men and women in the aerospace industry when it came to visualizing the visions of the near (or far) future from engineers, scientists and experts. The first piece of our new series showcasing the work of some of the most noted aerospace artists, is about to pay tribute to the exceptional talent of official NASA artist Attila Héjja (1955-2007).

Héjja was born in Budapest, Hungary, and moved to the United States with his family at the age of two, in 1956, the year of the Hungarian Uprising. He started studying art at the age of 16, and later founded his own art academy in his home town of Oyster Bay, New York. His professional artist career spanned more than 30 years, as a NASA artist, a stamp artist, an official U.S. Air Force artist, and an illustrator for several magazines, until his unexpected death seven years ago.

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His dynamic, dramatic, and breathtakingly beautiful paintings are displayed in both private and public collections worldwide, and have been exhibited permanently in US museums, and in traveling exhibits throughout Europe and Japan. The following selection–including four iconic space shuttle paintings and several photorealistic artworks of non-existing air- or spacecraft–are timeless depictions of his very American vision of air and space.

Tomorrow's Air Force - Systems Command, 1984

Image source: National Archives OPA


Riding the Laser, 1983

Image source: National Archives OPA


The New Bird, 1982

Image source: National Archives OPA


Cape Winds, 1984. The original painting is on display in the Visitor's Center, Cape Kennedy, Florida.

Image source: EAC Gallery


Lightship, 1984. The original painting is on display in the Visitor's Center, Cape Kennedy, Florida.

Image source: Iowa Digital Library


A Night Journey, 1984. The original painting is on display in the Visitor's Center, Cape Kennedy, Florida.

Image source: US Military Art


2001 and Beyond, 1982

Image source: National Archives OPA


Super Plane Jumbo Jet, Popular Mechanics cover, March 1989.

Image source: Heritage Auctions


Earth Light, 1992.

Image source: Ebay


1998: This five-stamp Se-Tenant shows the artist's conception of what it would be like to live on another planet.

Image source: Amazon


Hejja painted more than 25 awesome covers and tons illustrations for Popular Mechanics.

Image source: Popular Mechanics/Google Books

Image source: Popular Mechanics Dec 1987/Google Books

Image source: Popular Science Mar 1987/Google Books


...and created more than 75 science-fiction book covers, too:

Image source: pulpcrush