How creativity could take us into space

Advances in science and technology mean space travel and tourism could become as normal as hopping on a flight. But what role does design and creativity play in transforming humans into a space-faring, multi-planetary civilisation?

Five years ago, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) got together a team of designers and illustrators to imagine the bleeding edge of tourism, with a series of vintage-style travel posters dedicated to the moons and planets of our solar system. ‘Experience the charm of gravity assists’ reads one peppy design for the Grand Tour of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – journeys depart every 175 years – while another invites space travellers to the Cloud 9 Observatory of Venus.

“The point was to share a sense of things on the edge of possibility that are closely tied to the work our people are doing today,” said visual strategist David Delgado, who headed up the project. “The JPL director has called our people ‘architects of the future’.”

Fast forward to 2021 and space tourism is a little bit closer. Those with exceptionally deep pockets can apply for a ticket on a suborbital Virgin Galactic flight, with the company aiming to operate hundreds of trips every year from Spaceport locations. There’s SpaceX, which hopes to take passengers into low Earth orbit on its Crew Dragon capsule; Blue Origin, which is auctioning off a single spot on the first flight of its New Shepard rocket and capsule; and Space Adventures, which offers private spaceflight experiences, including trips to the International Space Station, and to the moon and back. 

Top: Axiom Station, which will orbit 250 miles above the Earth’s surface and be home to both private and professional astronauts; Above: From Piers Bizony’s The Art of NASA: The Illustrations that Sold the Missions, courtesy Motorbooks, part of the Quarto Group

Space hotels are also coming. Voyager Station plans to open in six years’ time in low Earth orbit with enough room for 440 guests, as well as a three-tier bar with a gravity-defying water feature; and a cluster of Philippe Starck-designed space modules are arriving at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024. The designer describes the zero-gravity padded rooms as “a comfortable and friendly egg”.

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes