Terrestrially, the Golden Age of Travel may be long behind us (if it ever really existed to begin with). But when it comes to space, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab thinks the golden age of travel still lays before us. Which is why the lab has released three retro-tastic travel posters for outer space commissioned by Seattle graphic design firm Invisible Creature as an early view of the JPL’s 2016 Visions of the Future calendar.
Founded over 10 years ago by brothers Don and Ryan Clark, Invisible Creature has done branding and packaging work for the Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Kendrick Lamar, and more. Despite their music cred, space is in the Clark brothers’ blood: their grandfather was an illustrator at the Ames Research Center and, for over 30 years, helped NASA imagine what the future was going to look like. After being contacted by the Jet Propulsion Lab, the Clarks tried to channel their grandfather’s spirit into a series of posters about Mars, the Saturn moon Enceladus, and the Solar System’s gas giants. “We’ve come full circle, and that’s a really cool thing,” Don Clark says.
The first poster, inspired by ’60s sci-fi paperback covers, is called The Grand Voyage, and celebrates the alignment of the Solar System’s gas giants once every 175 years. This alignment was what NASA’s Voyager program used to send two robotic probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, on a path to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, all on the same trip. In Invisible Creature’s poster, the Grand Voyage is a bicentennial festival, an interplanetary pilgrimage of the Solar System’s gas giants that only comes around once every five generations.
The second poster celebrates Mars, and has something of the feel of a Woodstock-era Psych-Outposter, mixed with WPA-style elements that nod to farming and, perhaps, terraforming on the Red Planet. “For that one, we were trying to imagine what Mars would look like as a historic travel destination hundreds of years from now,” Clark said. In other words, what would a travel poster for Mars look like when it was the Solar System’s equivalent of Philadelphia: a history-steeped extraterrestrial locale where we sent our first rovers, first discovered water, first terraformed, and first settled.
The last poster is devoted to Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, which is known among astronomy dorks for its ammonia and methane-spewing cryovolcanoes. In Invisible Creature’s future, these ice volcanoes will be known as “Cold Faithful,” and be visited by tourists in much the same manner as National Parks like Yosemite are today. There’s a little story hinted at in this poster too. “My brother Ryan illustrated this one,” says Don, “and he imagined this old NASA engineer at the end of his career, actually visiting Enceladus in a spaceship he invented.” But it could just as well be the silhouette of their grandfather at the end of his NASA career as an illustrator.
If you would like to purchase a print of one of these futuristic space travel posters, they can be ordered online directly from Invisible Creature’s web shop.