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Space That Never Was is one artist’s vision of a never-ending space race

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Where else might we have gone?

Art: Maciej Rebisz

There’s something appealing about space artwork, whether it’s the cover of a zany science fiction novel, or promotional art cooked up by NASA. Recently an art blog from Polish concept artist and illustrator Maciej Rebisz caught my eye. Titled Space that Never Was, it’s an engrossing collection of illustrations that look at what humanity’s future could have been in the solar system.

Based in Warsaw, Rebisz works for a CG animation studio called Platige Image, and he’s worked on projects ranging from Cyberpunk 2077, the European Space Agency’s short film The Ambition, to various card and board games such as Android Netrunner, Star Wars LCG, Core Worlds, and others. In an email to The Verge, he explained that he’s been drawing seriously since he was 15 years old, when he discovered the larger world of digital artwork. He noted that he was particularly inspired by science fiction artists such as Chris Foss, John Harris, and John Berkey, but also the “many nameless NASA illustrators that did all these beautiful technical and concept artworks from the mid 20th century space race.”

On his site, he explains that Space That Never Was is based on a theme that has enraptured him since he was a child: “The idea of going out there, visiting other worlds, seeing places that no living thing has seen before, exploring the unknown - for me, all of that was always truly magical.” More than just doodle space ships and cool technology, he invested some time and energy into researching what that presence in space might actually look like, trying to portray realistic science and engineering at work. Along the way, he imagined what human exploration might have looked like if the Apollo program was used to visit Venus, or if the Soviet Union landed on the moon, turning the entire project into a sort of alternate history, of what could have been:

“Imagine a world where Space Race has not ended. Where space agencies were funded a lot better than military. Where private space companies emerged and accelerated development of space industry. Where people never stopped dreaming big and aiming high.”

Rebisz explains that “many people get inspired seeing art, such as engineers, politicians and even normal people. I think it's important to inspire people and show that space exploration is something that we should pursue and that we can still do great things in that field.”

Engine maintenance
Art: Maciej Rebisz
Two Saturn V rockets on launchpads 39A and 39B, being prepared to launch Morning Star, spacecraft that will take astronauts to Venus.
Art: Maciej Rebisz
Morning Star spacecraft, derived from Apollo and Skylab program, is approaching Venus on a manned flyby mission.
Art: Maciej Rebisz
Apollo 19 astronauts investigating soviet Luna probe, which lost contact with mission control seconds after landing.
Art: Maciej Rebisz
Soviet lander “Ambition 1” landed on Mars.
Art: Maciej Rebisz
Sunrise
Art: Maciej Rebisz
Shuttle 204 maintenance on the landing pad on Mars.
Art: Maciej Rebisz
SpaceX’s ITS landers at Alpha Site, first large scale human colony on Mars.
Art: Maciej Rebisz

You can check out more of Rebisz’s art on Space that Never Was, and on his ArtStation page.