Destined for the Stars: Faith, the Future, and America’s Final Frontier
In her convincing debut, Newell, assistant professor of religion and science at the University of Miami, argues that it was not only science that made the U.S. space program possible but also “a culture that believed it was called by God to settle new frontiers.” To make this case, she examines the intertwined influence of the space art of Chesley Bonestell, the technology-infused science writing of Willy Ley, and the role of V-2 and Saturn V rocket progenitor Wernher von Braun in selling humankind’s call into the cosmos to the American public: After explaining the interactions between these three men—who worked together on popular space exploration science fiction and coauthored The Exploration of Mars
in 1956—she then turns to America’s intense faith in the race for space. Newell uses the narrative of the “new frontier”—which formed through the combined artistic and scientific imaginations of Bonestell, Ley, and von Braun—to make a broader point about the overlaps between religion and science, both of which require faith in things outside of one’s normal perception. Recasting the space race as an inherently spiritual endeavor, Newell exposes and explains the origins of the language of “divine destiny”—which imbues much of the modern talk of visiting other planets today. Newell has produced a forceful, original view of the American quest for the “final frontier.” (June)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the year The Exploration of Mars was published. It also incorrectly identified Willy Ley as William Ley.