The Space Age Turns 50 - Ideas of Space Flight from the Early 20th Century
Ideas of Space Travel in Antiquity
For tens of thousands of years, humanity did not have a clear idea of the structure of planet Earth and its surrounding environment.
A Gustav Dore illustration of Paradise Lost
The region above the Earth was not thought of as outer space, but rather as the heavens and the abode of the gods.
Daedalus and Icarus, by Charles Paul Landon, 1799 (Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle, Alençon)
Ideas about space travel were rather quaint!
The Chinese of the 16th century were familiar with the use of gunpowder. In particular, it was used in fireworks and rockets. Legend has it that in the early 1500s, Chinese official Wan Hu attempted to use rockets to fly. He mounted 47 rockets to the bottom of a chair and ignited them. When the smoke cleared, there was no sign of Wan Hu or the chair. In 2004, the show Mythbusters attempted to recreate Wan Hu's experiment and had similar results. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that manned rocket flight is risky and potentially deadly!
Go to Early Science Fiction section.