Steam Noir

The Creations of William Wardrop

Rocketship Galileo

This elegant spacecraft was the dreamwork of Robert A. Heinlein. It was featured in his 1947 novel "Rocketship Galileo" which was a teenage adventure story about a trip to the moon and the battle for democracy against the Nazis. This short novel influenced at least ten pilots to join NASA to become astronauts.

Cargo Rocket

 

This model is based upon descriptions from Robert A. Heinlein's novel "The Rolling Stones" (1952). This storyline is based upon a future where a family living on a lunar colony decides to head to the asteroid belt and set up a store to sell goods to the astronauts mining the asteroids. Based upon the concept that during the California Gold Rush, the shopkeepers made more money than the prospectors, the ship served as a storehouse of supplies and luxury goods to be sold to the miners.

The Last Laugh

In the "Age of Technology" we are presently in, it is a little known fact that there are many thousands of mad scientists around the world building secret doomsday devices for personal use. An organization nicknamed the "Angry Villagers" has been monitoring the activities of the Dr. Frankensteins and Dr. Jeckles of the world for over two centuries in attempt to maintain a normal and stable environment for humanity.

The rocket shown here, "The Wormwood 1" is the most common type of threat to civilization. It was constructed in a garage/laboratory by a student of physics from a prominent Ivy League university. As is usual with these cases, this weapon of mass destruction was made in the interest of scientific curiosity. The "Can it be done?" syndrome is soon replaced with "Don't mess with me!" mania upon achieving the desired results of their studies. Strangely enough, most of these scientist have no intention of using these devices. In the case of the Wormwood 1, the student found himself thinking of using it every time someone upset him, which in turn would cause him to chuckle and put everything back in perspective. However, by the time finals came around, the chuckle had turned into a full-blown evil laugh. It was after he was in a car accident that damaged his father's new Porche that he was found sitting on a street corner, rocking back and forth, laughing and screaming "You're dead! You're all dead!"

But the fun doesn't stop there. After being committed to a mental institution for several months, these vulnerable scientists are often hired or kidnapped by meglomaniac dictators that want to rule the world." Through the threat of plagues, explosions, mutant armies of the living-dead and meteor-attracting radars; the Angry Villagers rally at the gates of the mad scientists stronghold. With pitchforks and torches in hand everthing is quickly set to right by the wrath of an angry mob.

U.S. Navy Rocket 1949

This "Lunar Lander" was an early navy concept of what space travel could be in the future and served as an archetype for many 1950's Sci-Fi movies.

The Luna

This rocket design was featured in the movie "Destination Moon" (1950). Produced by George Pal and written by Robert A. Heinlein, the story focused of the importance of space travel for the U.S. government to remain a dominant power in the world.

Another key element of the plot was the insufficient fuel supply the astronauts had for the return trip to Earth and how they would have to lighten the load to get home.

Die Fledermaus 1938

 

The Fledermaus is perhaps the most unusual rocket system ever created. Its inventor, Professor Yaroslav Alucard of the Bucharest Institute of Science, developed a metallic micro-cell that could safely contain enough hydrogen to cancel out the weight of its metallic content. The end result of his development was a vehicle that was as tall as a six story building and other than the weight of passengers, cargo, and fuel it was weightless in Earth's atmosphere.

 

In addition, the metallic micro-cell allowed for a malleable outer skin stretched over a rigid understructure. As a result the wings and tailfins were retractable. In flight, the wings were capable of some minor degree of flapping for making course changes.  The propulsion was an experimental liquid nitrous oxide driven system and due to lightweight structure, was capable of attaining speeds in excess of 120mph.

 

One of the unfortunate side effects of the hydrogen based micro-cell was that it would become unstable and rupture under the heat of sunlight, therefore night flights were the only option. It was on these nights that a large hissing beast was reported in the skies over Rumania and rumors of dragon attacks abounded wherever it was tested.

 

It was destroyed in 1942 when it was mistaken for a V-1 rocket while its creator tried to escape capture by the Third Reich. Many of the fragments of the ship floated to the outer atmosphere and created a minor debris field that has been gradually disintegrating over the past few decades.

 

Abbott & Costello Go to Mars Rocket

 

 To start with Bill's only response to this model was, "Why I did this one I will never figure out! It is one of the silliest movies I have ever seen."

And of course one must ask the question, “How much pseudo-science do I have to swallow to make this movie plot even remotely plausible." The most educated scientists in the movie built the rocket before knowing whether they were going to either Mars or Venus. If one can set aside the fact that this rocket was designed to fly to Mars, and /or Venus and back home to Earth again within a matter of a few hours without any plan for refueling on another planet.

However, when "Abbott & Costello Go to Mars" came out in 1953 space travel and aliens were hot-ticket items in most of the theaters and the design of a rocket serving as a launch/landing vehicle was common to most of the movies of this period. And even though a few movies from the '50s featured an immortal race of beautiful females living on Venus, no other movie of this period would have dared to show a rocket flying through the Lincoln Tunnel or under the Brooklyn Bridge.

With the encroachment of our current demands for reality being part of science fiction, we would be hard pressed to see a movie like this produced today. Silly as it may be, some of us still enjoy its campy innocence.

Celestial Dragon VIII

In response to the Russian Sputnik program in 1957, a secret space program was started in China by order of Chairman Mao in April of 1960. It was Mao Tse-tung's grand socialist vision expanding to new frontiers with the creation of the Celestial Dragon VIII for a manned flight to Venus.

According to the chairman, the Chinese star pilots would become emissaries to the beautiful blonde Amazon women that had already created an advanced socialist civilization and, by sharing knowledge and technology: they could join forces to conquer the Earth. Although his scientists tried to assure him that because Venus was surrounded by a heavy cloud cover, they had no idea what was on its surface and that if there were life on Venus; it was unlikely to be beautiful blonde Amazon women with an advanced socialist civilization, the chairman would hear nothing of such talk. The Chinese space program went forward with assurances that anyone not sharing Mao Tse-tung's vision would be considered a traitor. 

In little more than a year and three months, using technology they had pirated from the Russian and American space agencies, the Celestial Dragon VIII and crew were ready. Everything went flawlessly on launch and six weeks later, while the American Mercury program was still experimenting with putting a man in orbit, the Celestial Dragon VIII entered Venus' atmosphere... where it was crushed by extreme atmospheric pressures.

The Conquest of Space

This rocket is one of the most classic designs of the mid 20th century, based on the German V2 (or A4). It was the start of the space age for most of us. Who didn't want to be at the controls of this sleek streamlined baby! This was my idea of what a rocket should look like, not that finless NASA stuff!

 

First Painted by Chesley Bonestell in 1949 for LIFE Magazine, it was later reprinted in the book "The Conquest of Space" by Willy Ley. It was used to illustrate what a future moon landing could look like.

 

It was a beautiful rocket and fired up the imaginations of countless childhood dreamers who later became rocket scientists, engineers and astronauts. That the design of rockets didn’t go this way doesn’t matter at all, we were in LOVE! This space ship is still one of my favorites and nothing can detract from its classic lines.

 

TPR Defiant

This eccentric vehicle became known as the Time-Piece Rocket because it was built by a group of Armenian Freemason watchmakers in 1347 A.D. to escape the ravages of the Black Plague. Secretly constructed in a clock tower, this rocket sled was designed  to carry them over the mountains to the mythical land of Lemuria in the Indian Ocean. Utilizing a mixture of alkalines and vinegar contained by a series of reinforced steel barrels and then discharged in a sequences of forceful blasts that would eventually...

What's that? You don't believe me?

Okay, Bill made this rocket sled at a science fiction convention where he set up a diplay of his cardboard models. While giving a presentation on his model building techniques to a group of people, a rather cocky convention goer tossed a toilet paper tube at him and said, "Oh yeah? Make a model from this?"  The next day Bill returned with this model to silence his heckler. The heckler responded with, "Wow! That's really cool! Can I have it?" Bill replied, "No."

The Super Rocket

This winged missle design had its cameo appearance in the 1953 science fiction movie "Invaders from Mars".

Although its appearance was for a few seconds as an example of humanity's accomplishments toward space travel, the influence of the German V-2 rocket can be seen in its design. 

Soviet Moon Rocket

 

In 1954 Martin Caidin published a book called "Worlds In Space", Illustrated by Fred L. Wolff.  In it I found an anomaly, a picture of a Russan missile base on the moon with a V2 type Rocket being launched from a crater that had been converted into a launch facility.  I wondered , why do they need tail fins in a vacumn? It was such a good image I had to make a model of it.

Mr Wolff did some wonderful illustrations and most of them are bang on, just not this one.

The Ship with No Name

The actual use of this rocket was so distasteful and obscene that all information on it has been stricken from the records. The name has been removed to protect the innocent minds of our youth and restore a sense of security and dignity among the populace. Don't think about what kind of space program it might have been used for! Don't even look at it! Just move on to the next article and pretend none of this ever happened. Think good, clean, happy thoughts. Remember; you're being watched!

The Earth to Moon Spacetrain

As early as the end of the 19th century, the concept of spacetravel being accessable to the general public was being explored by conemporary writers and artists. This fanciful Spacetrain would have carried passengers on a round trip from Earth to the Moon with stops at Paris and New York. 

Flash Gordon Rocket

Although this specific rocket did not make an appearance on any the films, its swept back wing formation as well as its tailfins are common to the Streamline movement in design that was shown in the Flash Gordon comics of the 1930's. In addition to trains, trucks and automobiles, these styling elements were applied to radios, toasters, and other household appliances.

The Tiki X-1

This is one of the many rockets that were constructed by a cargo cult on Bo Bo Island in the South Pacific. The natives were so completely enamored with the American soldiers who gave them Spam and cigarettes during WWII that they reconstructed the entire base when the soldiers left at the end of the war. This fact was little known to the U.S. government until 1961 when satellite photos showed a fully operational base with dozens of rockets and personnel in a facility that was supposed to be abandoned. In an immediate response a fleet of war ships was sent out to take down this rogue base. However, on arrival all that was found was a base constructed of bamboo and balsa wood. The natives in turn gave the Americans a hero's welcome in hopes of receiving vast quantities of Spam and cigarettes.

The American navy was not amused with the incident and in the face of protest by the Bo Bo tribal elders the Americans began to dismantle the faux base. Much to everyone’s surprise an indigenous species of killer bee had taken up residence inside the rockets and once roused they began killing everyone on the base. The frenzied radio signal sent back to the ship gave the impression that the natives were attacking; causing the ship to shell the base in response.

No official death toll was ever given but it was estimated to be in the hundreds. The official American response was that the incident never happened, but to this day the citizens of Bo Bo get all the Spam and cigarettes they want as long as they maintain their silence. 

Transcontinental Transport (Luna version 1)

Originally created for the film "Destination Moon" (1950) as the "Luna", was rejected in favor of the second prototype. However, Hollywood still got a lot of milage out of this rocket. The basic design was too good to waste so it got recycled many times over. It was used in the film "Flight to Mars" (1951), then in "It! The Terror from Beyond Space" (1958), and the low low budget "Missile to the Moon" (1959). Also known as "Challenge 142", this is the classic work of Chesley Bonestell one of the best space artists of the 1940’s and 50’s.

Red Hot 1

During the energy crisis of 1977, this innocent looking vessel was used for an early attempt at an experimental bio-rocket fuel in southern New Mexico. The primary component of this new fuel was capsaisin: the crystaline chemical derived from the cayenne pepper. This chemical along with three other components was thought to create a volitile mixture capable of launching this rocket onto a low orbit around the earth with a single discharge. Unfortunately, the only result upon ignition was the creation of a cloud of capsaicin gas that covered a hundred mile radius.

The environmental impact on the local wildlife was devastating. Micro particles of capsaicin permeated every bit of organic matter within the blast zone. The life forms that did not immediately die from a toxic shock reaction lived in a burning agony for several days. Over time the survivors actually had an increased appetite for the potent chemical; inspiring multiple chili cook-offs and hot sauce competitions from the surrounding villages.

Babylon 5 Starglobe

The next time you're out in deep space you must stop by any Babylon 5 souvenir shop in the zocalo and pick up one of these delightful scale moldels of the famous space station. Not only will it brighten up your office or sleeping quarters but it also makes an excellent centerpiece for the dinner table.

In addition to being a wonderful conversation piece for attracting a potential mate, it also serves as a barometer for cabin pressure. Simply attach the starglobe to the bulkhead of your starship by its magnetic base and look at the size of the air bubble inside: If the bubble is small, your cabin is overpressurized and may cause you to get the bends. A large bubble indicates low cabin pressure and a potential air leak in your compartment. No one should travel in deep space without one of these life saving devices.

 For more information on Babylon 5 visit their official website at http://babylon5.warnerbros.com/