Catherine Newell

Jan 31, 2020

Destined for the Stars

Faith, the Future, and America’s Final Frontier

University of Pittsburgh Press 2019

purchase at bookshop.org Catherine Newell talks about the religious roots of the final frontier, focusing on the collaboration of artist Chesley Bonestell, science writer Willy Ley, and the NASA rocket engineer Wernher von Braun. Newell is an assistant professor of religion and science at the University of Miami. She’s the author of Destined for the Stars: Faith, the Future, and America’s Final Frontier (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017). Where did humanity get the idea that outer space is a frontier waiting to be explored? Destined for the Stars unravels the popularization of the science of space exploration in America between 1944 and 1955, arguing that the success of the US space program was due not to technological or economic superiority, but was sustained by a culture that had long believed it was called by God to settle new frontiers and prepare for the inevitable end of time and God’s final judgment. Religious forces, Newell finds, were in no small way responsible for the crescendo of support for and interest in space exploration in the early 1950s, well before Project Mercury—the United States’ first human spaceflight program—began in 1959.
Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He's the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He's also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Michael F. Robinson