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Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
Frankie Thomas Tom Corbett Space Cadet 1951.JPG
Frankie Thomas as Tom Corbett
Author Carey Rockwell
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Grosset & Dunlap
Publication date

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.

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) 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
Tom Corbett Space Cadet Cadets Manning Astro and Strong 1951.jpg
Created by Joseph Greene
Starring Frankie Thomas, Al Markim, Jan Merlin, Edward Bryce
Original network CBS (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 release October 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 The stories initially closely followed the scripts written for the unpublished newspaper comic strip Tom Ranger, Space Cadet, by Joseph Greene from 1949.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.


Tom Corbett and Doctor Dale 1951
Corbett and Doctor Joan Dale
  • Tom Corbett – Frankie Thomas Jr.
  • Astro – Al 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. Thistle – Jack 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 Advisor – Willy 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 [fr], ran Sunday and daily in American newspapers, from September 9, 1951 to September 6, 1953. Paul S. Newman scripted through February 8, 1953. The strips from September 9, 1951 to July 31, 1952 were republished by Eternity Comics as five issues of The Original Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.

Comic books

The original Tom Corbett series was published by Dell Comics beginning in their Four Color series, which was used to try out new story lines on the public to obtain feedback. After three tryout issues, Corbett moved to a standalone title which began numbering at #4. Corbett was also featured in a 1953 issue of Boys and Girls March of Comics, published by the K.K. Publications imprint of Western Publishing, with which Dell was partnered. As the popularity of the television series waned, Dell stopped producing the comic book at #11 in 1954, and the series was taken up in 1955 by Prize Comics for three issues. All eleven Dell issues were reprinted in black and white by the UK based World Distributors, with some cover rearrangements and material omissions. The Dell standalone issues were re-released digitally—albeit not in publication order—by Bluewater Comics as Tom Corbett: Space Cadet Classics in 2014–2015. In 2017, PS Artbooks released two volumes as part of their "Pre-Code Classics" line, collecting the first seven Dell issues in volume one, and the remaining four Dell issues along with the three Prize issues in volume two.

There were two four-issue manga-style Tom Corbett, Space Cadet mini-series released by Eternity Comics in the 1990, eventually followed by two four-issue Tom Corbett: Space Cadet mini-series released by Bluewater Comics in 2009 and 2012–2013.


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. Many of the radio episodes were based on television episodes. A radio version produced in Australia used local actors.

The radio drama company The Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air produced two "radio dramatization" audio versions of BlueWater/Tidalwave titles, Tom Corbett Space Cadet (2012), and Tom Corbett Space Cadet: Danger in Deep Space (2013).


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.

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.

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