The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalised the NASA Space Programme

By Attila Nagy on at

In a way, artists are the most important men and women in the aerospace industry when it came to visualising the visions of the near (or far) future from engineers, scientists and experts. Here we pay tribute to the exceptional talent of official NASA artist Attila Héjja (1955-2007).

Héjja was born in Budapest, Hungary, and moved to the United States with his family at the age of two, in 1956, the year of the Hungarian Uprising. He started studying art at the age of 16, and later founded his own art academy in his home town of Oyster Bay, New York. His professional artist career spanned more than 30 years, as a NASA artist, a stamp artist, an official US Air Force artist, and an illustrator for several magazines, until his unexpected death seven years ago.

His dynamic, dramatic, and breathtakingly beautiful paintings are displayed in both private and public collections worldwide, and have been exhibited permanently in US museums, and in travelling exhibits throughout Europe and Japan. The following selection (including four iconic space shuttle paintings and several photorealistic artworks of non-existing air- or spacecraft) shows timeless depictions of his very American vision of air and space.

Tomorrow's Air Force - Systems Command, 1984

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: National Archives OPA



Riding the Laser
, 1983

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: National Archives OPA



The New Bird
, 1982

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: National Archives OPA


Cape Winds, 1984.

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: EAC Gallery


Lightship, 1984

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: Iowa Digital Library


A Night Journey, 1984

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: US Military Art


2001 and Beyond, 1982

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: National Archives OPA



Super Plane Jumbo Jet
, Popular Mechanics cover, March 1989

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: Heritage Auctions


Earth Light, 1992

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: Ebay


1998: Five-stamp Se-Tenant series: artist's conception of living on another planet

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: Amazon


Hejja painted more than 25 awesome covers and loads of illustrations for Popular Mechanics.

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: Popular Mechanix/Google Books

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: Popular Mechanics Dec 1987/Google Books

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: Popular Science Mar 1987/Google Books


...and created more than 75 science-fiction book covers, too:

The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America's Space Program

Image source: pulpcrush