To The Moon (Time-Life Records)

Aug 4th, 2011 | Categories: Military / War | Photography | Retro | Sci-Fi | Scientific

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Something of a special feature here, original photography scanned from the breathtakingly beautiful ‘To The Moon’ (Time-Life 1969) an audio and visual chronology that documents NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and (of course) Apollo projects. ‘To The Moon’ includes 6 doubled sided 12″ Vinyl’s full of famous radio transmissions and interviews, plus an accompanying 190 page slip case book, and that’s the focus of this post. Many thanks to Craig for the temporary loan!

The first thing that strikes when flicking through ‘To The Moon’ is the muted palette and hues of the colour photography. Bathed in a loving technicolor warmth, the imagery empowers the feeling of not just peering into the past, but through into another world, like suddenly everything could spring to life. What’s also unusual is the obscure nature or relative rarity of content, as you might expect in running and researching this blog I’ve mined many resources from this period, but scanning here presented gem after perfectly preserved gem.

A quick disclaimer on the scans, I’ve tried my best to match the tones of the book, but of course some scans work better than others.

Top Image: I often tend to start a post with the image I deem strongest, most outlandish or simply just the personal fave. The above is no exception, akin to a Renaissance masterpiece, with perfect pose and expression. What’s it all about? it’s part of development testing for the Mercury program, a researcher carefully measures how far a test subject, restricted by a pressure suit, can push ’spokes’ basically to gauge how away far the capsule controls should be.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Gemini 6 splashes down 26 hours after launch. Once again a stripped back, gorgeous array of vivid colours, the fact that it’s slightly out of focus just adds to the painterly feel.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Three early twin rotor helicopters (a type I’m unfamiliar with) sit against a cold and barren volcanic backdrop. No prizes for guessing this hostile landscape is Iceland, here the astronauts explore the lunar like terrain to help familiarise with the adventures that lay ahead.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: This abstract image is actually a long exposure of Astronaut Gus Grissom sitting within the fearsome ‘MASTIF’ (an acronym for Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility). The g-force throttling, spinning MASTIF is designed to help teach an astronaut how bring a tumbling capsule under control.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Engineers test a fragile-looking Mariner 4, this early interplanetary probe will embark on an 8 month fly-by mission to Mars.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: The Seven Astronauts of the Mercury Program try on their distinctive silver space suits. Composed of a rubber inner layer, and an outer aluminised shell these outfits are tailored to fit each astronaut precisely, to the point that even a few extra pounds would feel akin to being squeezed in a vise.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: An Atlas booster surges skyward from the launch pad carrying astronaut Wally Schirra. He rides atop inside Sigma 7, the tiny black and white capsule surmounted by the red escape tower.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: This ominous vast metallic structure is the inners of the gigantic liquid oxygen tank that forms part of stage 1 of a Saturn V Rocket, as used in NASA’s Apollo and Skylab projects.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Friendship 7 (Mercury) soars skyward carrying John Glen. To myself as a child of the late 70′s/80′s Nasa missions predominantly mean the Space Shuttle and Cape Canaveral. This retro panorama of concrete towers, bunkers, pads and gantries (also at Cape Canaveral) seems somehow much more futuristic, a spaceport from which rockets hurtle to the furthest flung reaches of the solar system. Or alternatively on a somewhat darker note, this fearsome array of rapidly developed rocketry technology, birthed out of the Cold War’s arms and space race, also serves to remind how close our world came to nuclear annihilation.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Prior to the liftoff of Gemini 5, Conrad and Cooper lie expectantly on their couches (combined photograph). This image is presented vertically from within the book, but it’s spun horizontally here, Cooper (right) looks almost waxen inside the helmet.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: 5 Days after the Soviet Spacewalk, several astronaut’s wives watch in tremendous anticipation as the first Gemini lifts off with its two man crew. Love this, a broad brushstroke of expression and emotion, much more than just one moment captured here, these faces beam back all the pride, thrill, terror and raw astonishment the Space Program can present. Or maybe it’s a just a summer snapshot with the greatest collection of 60′s sunglasses ever captured by camera.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Astronaut John Glenn peers through a simulated capsule window, he observes star groupings at the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina. Sighting on the vertical blue line which represents his flightpath, he learns to recognise the stars he will need as navigation guides when he gets into space. What to say about this one, definitely one of the most powerful in the book with a real Dave Bowman / 2001: A Space Odyssey feel, though of course Kubrick’s masterpiece arrived several years later.

Too The Moon - Time Life Records

Too The Moon - Time Life Records

It’s only fitting that we sign off with more details on the source, so last but not least here’s a few shots of the box, book and inlay, nicely showing off the colour coded vinyl, If your interested in picking this up then ebay of course is the best place to start, seems to crop up fairly regularly. Here’s a breakdown on the publication.

TO THE MOON – Book Plus Musical Recordings. Time Life Productions 1969. THE BOOK (Section II) captures the story in pictures and text for generations to come. 190 pages. – Slip Case Book: 12-1/2″ x 12-1/2″ (Includes records).

Dedication: To the yet unborn generations of the world who, in centuries to come, will be able to listen and understand that this extraordinary achievement was accomplished by “average men” like their fathers . . . Michael Kapp.

Side 1 – Prologue: The First message from man on the moon… The beginning of rocketry . . . Tsiolkovsky.

Side 2 – Prologue: World WAR II ends… US seizes remaining V-2’s and the German rocket team surrenders to the Americans.

Side 3 – Mercury: National Space and Aeronautics Administration is set up under the Eisenhower Administration.

Side 4 – Mercury: U.S. Space Probes… Russia photographs the moon with Lunik III… President Kennedy.

Side 5 – Mercury: Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 makes a successful flight and sinks.

Side 6 – Mercury: Slayton is grounded . . . Ranger 4 to the dark side of the Moon.

Side 7 – Gemini: Russia, three-man capsule . . . Vietnam war escalates . . . Russian spacewalk.

Side 8 – Gemini: Armstrong and Scott dock with an Agenda but tumble end over end and must make an emergency landing.

Side 9 – Apollo: Grissom, White and Chaffee die in a ground test for the first manned Apollo.

Side 10 – Apollo: Schirra, Eiselle and Cunningham… the first manned flight with a Saturn IB.

Side 11 – Apollo: McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart prepare first manned test in space for LM… In Earth orbit, perform crucial docking.

Side 12 – Apollo: At Cape Kennedy during the long countdown Liftoff for Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins . . . Trans-lunar injection . . . Separation of Columbia and Eagle.

** Audio notes

If your even mildly into electronic/dance music, you’ll know that these hallow vinyls have been heavily sampled through the years. For further reading on that check this excellent post created by Craig (lender of book) over at DJ History

Here’s a taster, Lemon Jelly ‘Space Walk’, this track samples Ed White’s spacewalk during the Gemini program. Made more poignant as he tragically died in the Apollo 1 fire.

Finally I’d just like to point out how uplifting writing and researching this article in particular has been, To The Moon radiates a real sense of wonder and I hope that’s reflected. NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs were truly awe inspiring, this post is dedicated to all those involved.

John Mollo – Military Fashion / Starwars / Alien

May 15th, 2011 | Categories: Fashion | Graphics | Illustration | Military / War | Sci-Fi

John Mollo - Military Fashion


John Mollo - Military Fashion - Russian Officers Tunic

John Mollo - Military Fashion - Cuirass and Helmet

John Mollo - Grand Moff Tarkin

John Mollo - The Empire

John Mollo - AT AT Drivers

John Mollo - Red Six






Another slight delay on Sci-Fi-O-Rama updates, I was going to run this post to coincide with aprils royal wedding, no real reason other than the pomp and circumstance of that day was nicely mirrored by the splender of the four examples of pre-Bolshevik uniforms featured above. Didn’t quite happen in time, so here it is 2 and a bit weeks late…

So then, what connects this selection of Imperialist Russian Military dress to George Lucas’s original Star Wars and Ridley Scott’s Alien? Well thats actually a slight trick question as the answer is not what but who, Oscar winning British costume designer and author John Mollo.

I first became aware of and interested in John Mollo’s work several years back when, in order to satisfy nerd curiosity I purchased several ‘official’ embodied patches from that were worn by the various Nostromo crew members in Alien. Ordered via ebay they arrived with an unexpected bonus, an 8 sided, folding A4 pamphlet detailing (amongst other production notes) Mollo’s original sketches and design thoughts, such as where inspiration was drawn from. The pamphlet also makes reference to ‘Military Fashion’ a book written by Mollo described as a “definitive work”, I added this too my Amazon wish list and finally made the effort to pick up a copy earlier this year. It’s with that book that I start this post, but before diving into the detail here’s a little more information on Mollo himself.

John Mollo’s path to becoming a double academy award winning costume designer (Starwars 1978, Ghandi 1983) was born out of a devoted love of European and American military uniforms, something he’d developed from a young age and a passion that lead him to become and avid collector, author and subsequent authority on the subject. His first work within the movie industry occurred 1966 when he was recruited to act as a military advisor on the Crimean war epic ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. Later he would work with Stanley Kubrick on his cult 1975 period drama “Barry Lyndon’ before linking up with George Lucas, Ralph Mcquarrie and crew as the costume designer for Starwars IV “A New Hope” creating probably the the most iconic and recognisable Sci-Fi garb ever…

Here’s a breakdown on the selected imagery, I realise the post jumps about a tad as first we have actual historical dress and then it’s re-imagining. The key thing in trying to compare the two is too really study the detail, every tiny nuance means something.

Top Image: (Military Fashion) Russia, Officer’s ‘Attila’, Life Guard Hussar Regiment, His Majesty’s 1881-94. Mollo Collection.

2nd Top: (Military Fashion) Russia, Officer’s khaki service dress jacket and ‘Sam Browne’ belt. Guard and line infantry regiments, 1908-17. Mollo Collection.

3rd Top: (Military Fashion) Russia, Officers tunic or ‘mundir’, Artillery of the Guard, 1908-14. Mollo Collection.

4th Top: (Military Fashion) Russia, Officers cuirass and helmet, Life Guard Horse Guard Regiment, c. 1860. A similar pattern was in use from 1846-1914. Mollo Collection.

5th Top: (Starwars) Character ‘Grand Moff Tarkin’ played by Peter Cushing. I know this image is a little small but pose really sets up a specific comparison to the Officer’s khaki service jacket (2nd top). Very similar in terms of cut, though the green is a lot more washed out and drab.

6th Top: (Starwars) Characters ‘Grand Moff Tarkin’ and ‘Commander #1′ more Peter Cushing this time with another Brit baddie, Leslie Schofield, image via

7th Top: (Empire Strikes Back) View from the bridge of the AT-AT, note the detailing on the drivers helmets, essentially these were just modified Tie Fighter pilot helmets from the original film sprayed snow grey. Image via the amazing more on that site in a moment…

8th Top: (Starwars) A great movie still of everyones favourite slightly overweight and doomed X-Wing pilot ‘Red Six’, played by the late William Hootkins, image once again via John Mollo used a US APH-6B Helmet as the base on which to create the rebel helmets, love the graphical language of the helmets symbols, which leads me on to…

9th Top (Alien) Pin lapel details from a set available to buy on ebay, I should actually point out that I think these might of been created by another Alien production designer – Ron Cobb. These pins were are seen in the movie either worn on the collar or jacket breast, and in the case of Dallas even glued onto a belt buckle. From clockwise and top left we have “Navigation Officer” as worn by Lambert, top left “Science Officer” as warn by Ash, Bottom Right is “Engineering” as is warn by Parker and Brett and finally bottom left indicates “Executive Officer” and is warn by Ripley, Dallas and Kane.

10th/11th Top (Alien) The Nostromo main patch is warn by all the crew members at all times, visible on jackets and t-shirts on the shoulder and on Brett’s cap. The design (definitely by Mollo) is based upon military uniform buttons from the French Restoration Period, see the sketch below. The patch carries the ships name and serial number

12th Top(Alien) A sketch for the Weyland Yutani logo, the infamous Anglo-Japanese corporation who crop up again in the subsequent sequels and (awful) spin offs. Note that the Weyland Yutani logo in Alien (a simple egyptian wing) is completely different to the one that features prominently in 1986 sequal Aliens.

Bottom (Alien) Sketches produced by Mollo or Cobb on a draft of the original script.

That pretty much wraps it all up, but before I finish I’ll point one amazingly useful resource for further reading. Starwars fans you definitely need to check out this site, it’s just superb and there’s actually an interview with Mollo on there too

I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World (2)

Sep 26th, 2010 | Categories: Fashion | Graphics | Illustration | Military / War | Sci-Fi | Weird





Once again, sorry for the brief pause in posting, I don’t know whether anyone’s noticed (I hadn’t till recently!) but Sci-Fi-O-Rama is about to reach 300th posts – thanks for all the support so far! Too mark this cyber milestone I have something pretty special planned – more on this very soon…

In the meantime lets shift the focus of this 299th post back to the comically surreal world of US Black Ops patch art, all images are scanned from Trevor Paglen’s excellent book “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World” which turned up in the post the other day.

Here then are my notes:

Top: First up is the wonderfully sinister “Global Engagement – Military Spaceplane Technology Program”.

The source of this patch is the Philips Laboratory Military Spaceplane Technology Program (MiST) at Kirtland airbase New Mexico. Interesting too note here that the swooping X-Wing derived craft was in fact deemed too derivative and in stepped George Lucas’s army of lawyers with a cease and desist order! The patch you see here is an updated version featuring a modified craft, these modifications presumably include shoving the the cockpit down the nose cone and fitting a cosmic cow catcher to the front.

2nd Top: “Pete’s Dragon II”

This evil looking little creature sits on a commemorative patch apparently worn by Stealth Fighter Test Pilot Pete Barnes during secret flight tests in the mid eighties. The design is based on the 1977 Disney film Pete’s Dragon which follows the story of a green dragon named Elliot who was invisible to every one except a boy named Pete…

3rd Top: “Procul Este Profani – Special Projects”

More dragon action here with this snarling variant gleefully ripping through a thundercloud. This macho patch is from the 416th Flight Test Specials Projects flight working on advanced technologies for the F16 combined Test Force situated at Edwards Air Force Base. Members of the unit translate the latin phrase as “Keep your distance, you who are uninitiated”

Bottom: “National Reconnaissance Office – Snakes”

3 Cobras writhe and encircle our planet, more super menacing stuff from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Trevor Paglen notes that this patch’s origin is entirely obscure, perhaps the Latin phrase might give a clue which translates as “Never Before, Never Again” – maybe something to do with an missile early warning system? Incidentally is there sexual dimorphism in Cobras? I couldn’t work out why only the centre snake has the famous flared hood.


As with the last post for further reading and imagery check this New York Times article and interview with Trevor Paglin or visit Trevor’s home site:

Also as I now have a copy of “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World”  I highly recommend purchasing a copy yourself via Amazon, here’s a link:

And here’s a link to the prior post…

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