The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

By Attila Nagy on at

In the fourth piece of our series on legendary aerospace artists, we pay tribute to an illustrator who's responsible for creating some of the most inspiring cutaway illustrations of all time—yet we hardly know anything about him, and his name is in danger of being forgotten. We're about to change that.

Davis Paul Meltzer was born in 1930, in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, and attended school in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Both his parents, the late Arthur Meltzer and Paulette Van Roekens, were highly respected fine art painters—and he inherited their great talent. During his career as a freelance artist he created stamps for the U.S. Postal Service, painted dozens of sci-fi book covers, worked for NASA, and worked as a scientific illustrator for 30 years at National Geographic. You can still browse and license some of his work at NatGeo or other image agencies.

"Computers have rendered my services as an illustrator null and void. I'm essentially a dinosaur in this age of blogs and Googles," he told The Georgian, a publication of George School, in Newtown, PA, in 2005.

Well, maybe Mr. Meltzer is a dinosaur who lives out of the spotlight in his hometown Huntingdon Valley. But I know one thing for sure: I've never seen a more amazing cutaway artwork than his 1975 painting above—in which he envisioned the most important handshake in history between American and Soviet crews of the Apollo-Soyuz test Project on July 17, 1975. You can find this awesome moment among the following collection showcasing Meltzer's remarkable work of art.

Gemini rendezvous and docking with pre-launched Agena target, 1960s.

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: NASA/Wired


Space Futures (National Geographic, March 1964)

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: Christie's


Lunar excursion module prepares to dock with its mother ship, 1960s.

Apollo / Lunar Module (LEM) prototype art picture, David Meltzer (1960's)

Source: Dan Beaumont Space Museum


Conshelf III Submersible (National Geographic, April 1966)

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: Christie's


Gliders flying on the upwind side of a ridge, 1960s

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: National Geographic


Glider (National Geographic, January 1967)

Davis Meltzer

Source: impactdixon


Future Moon Colony (National Geographic, Febraury 1969)

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: Christie's


21st Century Farm (National Geographic, February 1970)

21st Century Farm

Source: impactdixon


The Falling Astronauts, paperback cover, Ace Books, 1971.

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: Heritage Auctions


The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon, paperback cover, Ace Books, 1972.

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: Heritage Auctions/Ragged Claws Network


From nebula to red giant to white dwarf to cinder: the 10-billion-year life cycle of our sun (National Geographic, May 1974)

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: Émigré Jukebox


Soyuz rocket launching from the Baikonur cosmodrome, 1975.

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: National Geographic


April 1975: Concept depicting the American Apollo spacecraft and the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft in a near-docked position in Earth orbit.

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: NASA


April 1975: Cutaway view of the docked Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft, depicting the moment the two international crews meet in space for the first time. The two crew commanders are shaking hands through the hatchway.

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: NASA


April 1975: the mission profile of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The phases of the mission depicted include launch, rendezvous, docking, separation and splashdown.

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: NASA


Engineers use sophisticated equipment, including satellites, to find potential oil reserves beneath the earth or the ocean

The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race

Source: connectenergyed.org