The Outward Urge is a 1959 novel by John Wyndham written as four stories. The fifth chapter was included in later versions, which was originally published in 1961 as a separate short story The Emptiness of Space.


Told through the Troon family, this future history novel is the story, with chapters at 50-year intervals, of the exploration of the solar system, with space stations in Earth orbit, then moon bases, and landings on Mars in 2094, Venus in 2144, and the asteroids.

In 1994 "Ticker" Troon is killed foiling a Soviet missile attack on a British space station, and is later awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.
In 2044 a major nuclear war wipes out most of the Northern Hemisphere. Inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere — virtually the only survivors of humanity — call it "The Great Northern War", the far earlier Great Northern War seeming very minor in comparison. Only after hundreds of years, with radioactivity going down, do expeditions from the south start carefully exploring and preparing to re-colonise the ravaged northern hemisphere. Brazil is left as the main world power, which then claims that "Space is a province of Brazil". However Australia eventually emerges as a serious rival. Consequently, English and Portuguese become contenders for the position of the major world-wide (eventually, Solar System wide) language.

Eventually, space explorers break away from the tutelage of both earthbound powers and establish themselves as a major third power, called simply "Space"; the Troon Family plays a major role in this as in many other events.


Like many other science fiction works of the same period, the events in this novel were superseded by later developments. In this account, the first space stations in Earth orbit are built in the 1990s, and the first moon landings take place in the 2020s. Mars is correctly described as a desert planet with no Martians, but there are plant forms in the bottom of the Martian canal (which are implied to be a natural phenomenon). Venus is a watery planet with some primitive life forms, the most advanced of which are "fish trying to become amphibians."

Also a curious feature for someone reading it at the start of the 21st century, is that Wyndham assumes that by the early-to-mid 21st century little will have changed politically since the 1950s (another fairly common assumption in the science fiction of the time). The USSR still exists, capable of fighting a major nuclear war with the West. Britain is trying to keep up with the USA and USSR as a superpower, lagging slightly behind, but is their only rival worth mentioning. White minority rule still exists in South Africa, although most of the whites are massacred in an uprising in 2045, and around 2120 there is a second rising which forces out the Indians.

Military conflict in space plays an important part in three of the five chapters, first between the Soviet Union and the West, and later between Brazil and Australia.