Tom Corbett, Space Cadet

Tom Corbett is the main character in a series of Tom Corbett—Space Cadet stories that were depicted in television, radio, books, comic books, comic strips, and other media in the 1950s.

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
Frankie Thomas as Tom Corbett
AuthorCarey Rockwell
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction novel
PublisherGrosset & Dunlap
Publication date

The stories followed the adventures of Corbett, Astro, and Roger Manning (originally; later, T.J. Thistle), cadets at the Space Academy as they train to become members of the Solar Guard. The action takes place at the Academy in classrooms and bunkrooms, aboard their training ship the rocket cruiser Polaris, and on alien worlds, both within the solar system and in orbit around nearby stars.


Joseph Greene of Grosset & Dunlap developed Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, inspired by the Robert A. Heinlein novel Space Cadet (1948)[1] but based on his own prior work. Greene had submitted a radio script for "Tom Ranger" and the "Space Cadets" on January 16, 1946, but it remained unperformed when Heinlein's novel was published. Greene then reworked his radio script into a script for a daily newspaper adventure strip, which was never produced.


Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
Created byJoseph Greene
StarringFrankie Thomas, Al Markim, Jan Merlin, Edward Bryce
Original networkCBS (October 2 to December 29 1950); ABC (January 1 1951 to September 26 1952); NBC (July to September 1951, December 1954 to June 25, 1955); DuMont (August 1953 to May 1954)
Original releaseOctober 2, 1950 (1950-10-02) 
June 25, 1955 (1955-06-25)

Tom Corbett first appeared on television. The stories initially closely followed the scripts written for the unpublished newspaper comic strip Tom Ranger, Space Cadet, by Joseph Greene from 1949.

Tom Corbett is one of only six TV series to appear on all four networks of the time, along with The Arthur Murray Party, Down You Go, The Ernie Kovacs Show, Pantomime Quiz, and The Original Amateur Hour:

  • CBS from October 2 to December 1950
  • ABC from January 1951 to September 1952
  • NBC from July to September 1951
  • DuMont from August 1953 to May 1954
  • NBC again from December 1954 to June 1955, with the final broadcast on June 25, 1955.[2]


  • Tom CorbettFrankie Thomas, Jr.
  • AstroAl Markim: A Venusian cadet
  • Roger ManningJan Merlin: A smug, egotistical cadet with an inordinately high opinion of his own abilities, although he occasionally proved himself to be nearly as skilled as he imagined himself to be. Roger occasionally made condescending, racist remarks about Astro but gradually came to like and respect the Venusian, although he sometimes maintained his bigoted attitude as a distancing mechanism. (October 1950-May 1954)
  • Captain Steve Strong – Edward Bryce
  • Dr. Joan Dale – Margaret Garland
  • Commander Arkwright – Carter Blake
  • Cadet Alfie HigginsJohn Fiedler
  • Cadet Eric RattisonFrank Sutton
  • Cadet T. J. ThistleJack Grimes (December 1954-June 1955)

Michael Harvey played Captain Strong for the first six episodes of the CBS series; Pat Ferris played Dr. Dale for two episodes of the DuMont series.


  • Technical AdvisorWilly Ley
  • Writers: Albert Aley, Stu Byrnes, Frankie Thomas, Jr., Ray Morse, Jack Weinstock, Willy Gilbert, Alfred Bester & others.
  • Space Cadet Hats: Major Sportswear supplied tinsulated, aluminized hats with logos.

In other media


1952–1956 published by Grosset & Dunlap. Written by unknown authors under the pseudonym Carey Rockwell, with Willy Ley as technical advisor.

  1. Stand By For Mars (1952)
  2. Danger in Deep Space (1953)
  3. On the Trail of the Space Pirates (1953)
  4. The Space Pioneers (1953)
  5. The Revolt on Venus (1954)
  6. Treachery in Outer Space (1954)
  7. Sabotage in Space (1955)
  8. The Robot Rocket (1956)

In 1953 a slim children's book titled Tom Corbett's Wonder Book of Space (or Tom Corbett: A Trip to the Moon) was written by Marcia Martin and published by Wonder Books.

Comic strip

The Tom Corbett — Space Cadet comic strip, drawn in Milton Caniff style by Ray Bailey, ran Sunday and daily in American newspapers, from September 9, 1951 to September 6, 1953. Paul S. Newman scripted through February 8, 1953.

Comic books

The original Tom Corbett series was published by Dell Comics beginning in their 4-Color series. The 4-Color series was used to try out new story lines on the public to obtain feedback. If successful the series would be spun off to form its own title. Tom Corbett won his own title after three tryout issues. As the popularity of the television series waned, Dell stopped producing the comic book and the series was then taken up and produced by Prize Comics.

There were a small number of Tom Corbett comic books in Manga style published in the 1990s by Eternity Comics, but these are regarded as non-canonical by Corbett fans.

Bluewater Productions

A new series has been launched by Bluewater Productions and the first issue was released at the end of September 2009.[3]

Bluewater Productions has partnered with the radio drama company The Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air to produce a dramatic audio version of their Tom Corbett titles.


The cast for the radio program was the same as for the television series. It ran from January 1, 1952, to June 26, 1952, as a half-hour show twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday. Each story line would start on Tuesday and end on Thursday.[4] Many of the radio episodes were based on television episodes. A radio version produced in Australia used local actors.


There was also a musical recording in 1951 called "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, Song and March" and other songs ("Tom Corbett Space Cadet At Space Academy", "Rescue In Space" and Tom Corbett Space Cadet Song and March”). These were performed by the Space Cadet Marching Band and released on Golden Sound Records.[5][6]

Toys and tie ins

There was a Tom Corbett—Space Cadet View-Master packet containing three reels. Its three-dimensional photographs were brilliantly colored but were taken of sculptures of the characters and models of the spacecraft and props. The story was of finding on the moon a miniature pyramid made by unknown aliens, which led to a clue on Mars, and finally to fighting interplanetary crooks in the asteroid belt.

There were also several coloring books; a punch-out book; a costume for children; a lunch box; a pocket watch; a Space Academy playset with plastic figures; a set of rubber molds for making plaster-of-Paris figures, furniture and vehicles, made by Marx toys; a Little Golden Book; and a Little Golden Record of the Space Academy song ("From the rocket fields of the academy/ to the far flung stars of outer space,/ we are space cadets training to be/ ready for dangers we may face"). Two other records presented Space Cadet adventures, starring the original TV/radio cast: "Tom Corbett Space Cadet at Space Academy" and "Rescue in Space: Tom Corbett, Space Cadet".

The back of boxes of Kellogg's Pep Cereal featured cardboard cutouts of a space cadet cap, gauntlets, and a ray gun, and the cereal company made a direct tie-in with the product Kellogg's Pep: The Solar Cereal. Kellogg also published a "Tom Corbett Space Cadet News", Vol.1 No.1, a 23x15 inch newspaper, folded in half, 4 pages.

The show was the subject of a parody, "Lawrence Fechtenberger, Interstellar Officer Candidate", a serial that made several appearances on programs of Bob and Ray.


  1. "The roots of Tom Corbett in SPACE CADET was confirmed by the Heinleins in 1977 and by other written sources since that time. When a comparison of the Tom Corbett series published by Grosset & Dunlap (now out of print) and Heinlein's Space Cadet, the similarities become apparent." Robert Heinlein's Influence on Tom Corbett
  2. Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (PDF). Radio-TV Mirror. October 1951. pp. 52–53. Retrieved 29 January 2012. (PDF)
  3. Preview of Tom Corbett: Space Cadet #1 (2009) by Bluewater Productions Archived 2009-09-13 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Solar Guard Academy Retrieved 28 March 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. "Tom Corbett Space Cadet: Toys", Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, The Ohio State University Libraries. Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  6. "Tom Corbett Space Cadet Song and March", item on Songs and records were (c) Rockhill Radio Inc. Made in the US by The Sandpiper Press, distributed by Simon & Schuster.


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