There was a time when travel was sleek and sophisticated (and inaccessible). Frank Sinatra sang about flying. I remember finding an old PanAm in-flight service menu my grandfather ha kept in his attic. There was real food that you might actually want to eat. The newest installments in the NASA/JPL Visions of the Future poster series invite us to imagine travel across our solar system and the galaxy with nostalgia for the optimism of mid-20th Century travel and hope that the future of space exploration is sexier than The Martian.
A few weeks ago, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released a series of three retro-travel posters promoting the exoplanet discoveries of the Kepler Space Telescope. The focus on travel to other planets and the style of the posters reminded me immediately of the artwork used by the Intergalactic Travel Bureau (art created by Steve Thomas) in their outreach. The Intergalactic Travel Bureau uses Thomas’ art in combination with in-person interactions with performers playing the part of a space travel agent to engage and excite audiences.
While the retro-poster concept is far from unique, the use of the phrase “Exoplanet Travel Bureau” made me wonder if the folks at JPL were inspired by the Intergalactic Travel Bureau project or if they had stumbled onto a similar idea independently. So I asked them; and they actually answered.
The concept for JPL’s posters was developed by David Delgado. Delgado collaborated with Joby Harris and Dan Goods to create the posters, according to Elizabeth Landau (JPL Media Relations Specialist). Joby Harris* said:
The existing posters by other artists out there were not inspiration for ours, but rather confirmation that our posters in progress would be well received.
While I’m a bit disappointed that the JPL team was unaware of Steve Thomas’ posters (the Intergalactic Travel Bureau has also received NASA funding), it is admittedly difficult to be aware of everything on the Internet these days. I do hope that the creative convergence of JPL and the Intergalactic Travel Bureau might lead to creative cooperation on science outreach efforts in the future.