The greatest adventure Awaiting humankind: Destination Moon and faith in the future

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In 1946, Hollywood director and producer George Pal read an article in Life magazine titled "Trip to the Moon by Rocket," and decided his next film would be what he called a science fact (as opposed to fiction) "documentary of the near future." The result was Destination Moon (1950), a science fiction classic, credited with introducing the concept of space travel to post-war America. The film makes reaching space an exercise in overcoming the unheimlich and unfamiliar, and negotiates the boundary between the known and the other. Pal hired Robert A. Heinlein to adapt his novel, Rocket Ship Galileo, for the film; the original story played into contemporary fears about Communism and a resurgence of Nazi power. But rather than make a film that resonated with social and political concerns, Pal - a Hungarian-born Jew, who fled Germany in 1934 - chose to make a film that was about faith in technology, faith in the future, and used science fiction to illustrate his belief that the space age was going to be "The Beginning" of a new future for humanity. Part of the success of Destination Moon is that it tapped into a larger religious feeling in America at the time of its premier: one divorced from institutional religions, and which sociologist Will Herberg called America's "faith in faith." The film's themes of discovery, sacrifice, triumph over circumstance, and the necessity of technology, are representative of Americans' belief in a collective ability to overcome evil, and of a newfound faith in their destiny to conquer the "final frontier."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-479
Number of pages21
JournalImplicit Religion
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Conquest
  • Faith
  • Final frontier
  • Future
  • Science fiction
  • Space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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