Reaching for the Stars

Nigel Watson celebrates 80 years of the British Interplanetary Society.

This illustration on the cover of the first Journal of the BIS was used throughout 1934. Lets face it, when the British Interplanetary Society was founded in 1933 it might just as well have called itself the Mad Hatter’s Society. This was the time when rockets were regarded as a novelty with only a limited potential.

Even as late as 1956, a year before Sputnik was launched into Earth orbit, Richard Woolley, the Astronomer Royal, had this view of space travel: ‘It’s utter bilge. I don’t think anybody will ever put up enough money to do such a thing . . . What good would it do us? If we spent the same amount of money on preparing first-class astronomical equipment we would learn much more about the universe . . . It is all rather rot.’

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