TIME has been putting man’s quest for the final frontier on its cover since 1952 — five years before Sputnik was launched and six years before NASA came into existence. Back then, launching an object into orbit was still largely hypothetical, and discussions focused on the complicated math of such a process. Scientists were optimistic about the possibilities, primarily for research purposes. But they also wondered about the prospect of life in space. The cover story’s tagline queried: “Will man outgrow the Earth?” which pondered the immense possibilities of intergalactic expansion.
The practical rocket men fear that their gradual march toward space may disappoint the oversold public. All the necessary, cautious first steps (a small missile shot into an orbit, a hit on the moon with a small payload, etc.) are a long way from manned space ships. But Dr. [Werner] von Braun (of the V-2s), who would hurry the cautious missile men along, says that manned space flight “is as sure as the rising of the sun.” He tells just how the U.S. military can establish a “satellite space station” in an orbit around the earth, and he insists that such a station could dominate mankind.