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c. 1960s

1960s space race toys could fly you to the moon

Hard to resist a wind-up Moon Astronaut with an ack-ack gun

Illustration from the box of a science fiction-related children's toy. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Outer space has always had a powerful influence on children’s imaginations. In particular, with the science-fueled post-war optimism of the 1950s, space toys became increasingly common. But it was with the ’60s-era race to the moon between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. that such toys really—sorry—took off.

The race began in 1955, with the two governments each announcing their intention to launch a satellite within days of each other. Toymakers wasted no time, their creations often fantastical. Witness the “moon car” and “lunar hovercraft.”

After U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s stated goal in 1961 that the U.S. become the first country to fly a man to the moon and bring him back safely, toymakers had a target, and, gradually, real information to work with from NASA. No toys were endorsed by NASA, and manufacturers could not use its name (though a few took the risk). 

The Apollo name, however, was up for grabs, and was used on toys inspired by, and eventually, replicating the Apollo lunar module.

Today, fifty years after the moon landing of July 1969, interest in lunar exploration is resurfacing, which means there may yet be a role for a Mechanical Moon Creature.

Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images

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