When Engineers Had the Stars in Their Sights

This 1964 ad attests to the enduring lure of the final frontier

1 min read
Photo of vintage ad by Hughes Aircraft Co.
Photo: Randi Klett

At the height of the space race in the 1960s, Hughes Aircraft Co. was one of many companies that recruited engineers by boasting of its involvement with space projects—even when that involvement was peripheral or the company was looking to fill unrelated positions. But Hughes was the real deal: This ad, from IEEE Spectrum’s January 1964 issue, features Hughes’s Syncom, the world’s first geosynchronous communications satellite. Even after the space race wound down and the industry endured downturns and consolidation, Hughes continued to put hardware into orbit. Now part of Boeing, the descendant of Hughes’s aerospace divisions still builds satellites for a variety of commercial and government customers. Going forward, though, it will likely face growing competition from the likes of OneWeb, SpaceX, and O3b Networks, which all aim to send aloft entire constellations of communications satellites. As these startups reinvigorate the industry, landing a job in aerospace may once again be perceived as “cool.”

Part of a continuing series looking at the story of technology as told through advertisements.

About the Author

Nathan Brewer is the digital content administrator for the IEEE History Center, based at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., where he oversees the Engineering and Technology History Wiki.

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