Let's imagine for a moment that we're in the far, far future. It's the year 2000. Can you even conceive what life will be like? Space travel. Colonies on other planets. Discovery of alien life forms. Oh, the possibilities!
Okay, so the millennium is already old news, we still live on Earth, and the closest we've gotten to alien life forms is the freak show that is reality television. It's still fun to speculate what COULD have been, especially when peering through a telescope firmly planted in the year 1978.
Which brings us to Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD, a fictionalized retrospective of the first 100 years of interplanetary space travel, all told from an "in universe" perspective, in which we're to believe that space freighters first launched in 2004, a lunar station was established on Mars in 2011, and aliens from Alpha Centauri were contacted by a survey ship in 2036.
Author Stewart Cowley, incidentally, is purported to be a veteran officer of the Terran Defence Authority, who served a tour of duty defending Mars. Here's a photo of him holding his trusty space helmet.
The conceit that this is all based on historic fact, and the book itself an artifact from the future, made Spacecraft... all the more captivating to me when I first discovered it in the school library. (And for a very different example of another "in universe" book that I also loved as a kid, check out The Witch's Catalog.)
Spacecraft... is just one title in a series of similar guidebooks covering military and civilian craft (Starliners: Commercial Space Travel in 2200 AD), intergalactic wars (Great Space Battles) and wreckage (Spacewreck: Ghost Ships and Derelicts From Space), all strikingly illustrated by various sci-fi artists, among them Angus McKie, Bob Layzell, Colin Hay, and Tony Roberts. Below are some of my favorites.
5 months ago