The arrival of the ’50s brought two space exploration pictures of note. With a tagline that stated: “The Future is Here” Rocketship X-M was rushed through production and into release to beat the higher budget Destination Moon in ’50. Ferde Grofé Sr., who is best known for his “Grand Canyon Suite,” scored X-M using a Theremin for the eerie scenes on Mars. Before X-M actually arrives on Mars, however, one gets pure Golden Age orchestration with sweeping strings, boisterous brass and crashing cymbals. Although he rarely scored pictures, Grofé displays a knack for dramatic build-ups and atmospheric tension. The juxtaposition between the familiar, earthly sonorities of strings, brass and woodwinds and the otherworldly warble of the theremin echoes the scenes that find man in an ominous alien environment.
Comparatively, Leith Stevens’ Destination Moon is firmly rooted in the modern classical tradition and does not feature electronics. The music still calls to mind the mysterious reaches of outer space particularly during “In Outer Space” when Stevens uses vibes for a suspenseful tick-tock tactic, which Goldsmith later mimicked with woodwinds on the Alien (’79) soundtrack.
– from Chapter 5: Sci-Fidelity and the Superhero Spectrum of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979