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Author Topic:   Considering Wernher von Braun's legacy
perineau
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posted 07-15-2020 01:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for perineau   Click Here to Email perineau     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I often wonder if America could have reached the moon without Wernher von Braun, but at the same time his checkered past is still a vivid subject of debate.

Simply put, though, I asked myself the other day whether any installations, research centers, schools and the like have been named after him or is that still too controversial — any thoughts?

randy
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posted 07-15-2020 03:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for randy   Click Here to Email randy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my opinion, the U.S. couldn't have reached the moon without von Braun and his fellow scientists.

I was in Huntsville in the mid 70's, and I think I remember a street or two with his name on them. I don't remember any other places that had his name on them.

Jim Behling
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posted 07-15-2020 04:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It could have been done without him. Just not in quite the same timeframe, which he was a big part in setting.

Apollo spacecraft (CSM and LM); Gemini and Mercury spacecraft; Atlas, Titan and Thor/Delta launch vehicles; Agena, Delta and Centaur upper stages; and Ranger, Surveyor, Lunar Orbiter and Mariner probes were all done without his involvement. MSFN and DSN networks, Houston flight control, Goddard comm had none of his involvement.

The CORONA and GAMBIT spysats had no ABMA support. Added this just to show US technical prowness independent of the "rocket team."

Huntsville, "Rocket City"? Actually, no. More rockets were produced in San Diego, Santa Monica, Huntington Beach, or Denver. More rockets programs were managed from El Segundo, California.

quote:
Originally posted by randy:
I don't remember any other places that had his name on them.
Von Braun Center.

Dirk
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posted 07-15-2020 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dirk   Click Here to Email Dirk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If the US (and Russia) could have done it without the (118) German von Braun engineers, they never had them let come over to the US, or Russia (or France and UK), but sended them to the Nurenberg trial.

hbw60
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posted 07-16-2020 12:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hbw60   Click Here to Email hbw60     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Personally, I think the significance of von Braun and his team has been falsely heightened by the very ethical dilemmas involved in hiring them. People want to think that the US wouldn't even consider hiring ex-Nazi scientists unless they were absolutely essential. And so their mere presence strengthens the assumption that it must have been necessary.

But as we know, perhaps the biggest reason the Germans were recruited was simply to prevent the Soviets from getting to them first. The Space Race was really just a way of putting a happy face on the Cold War. By 1950, both the US and the USSR had nuclear capabilities; but true power would belong to whomever had the best missiles on which to deploy them. From a government perspective, the Space Race was never about space. It was about designing the best orbital rockets in the world, to ensure nuclear domination. Spacewalks and moon landings were just a way to hide that horror with something inspiring and meaningful. The public was much happier spending billions of their tax dollars on orbital rockets when there was a spacecraft on top, instead of a nuclear warhead.

And without the horrific reality of the Cold War, I doubt von Braun would have been needed or wanted at NASA. There's no doubt that he was instrumental to NASA's success, and the space program would have been poorer without him. I don't want to downplay his brilliance. But I don't think his involvement was a make-or-break situation. At the end of WWII, both the US and the USSR recruited thousands of German scientists and engineers for their own purposes. Wernher was certainly the most high-profile of them. But when we consider the thousands of scientists transferred out of Germany, along with the hundreds of thousands of brilliant citizens already employed within the US/USSR, it seems wrong to place so much of the credit on any one person. If he happened to have been picked up by the Soviets instead, I don't think history would have been dramatically different.

As for his legacy, I think you're correct that surprisingly few buildings have been named after him. At the height of the Apollo program, he was a beloved media figure, so one would expect him to be remembered fondly. But that obscurity is probably a benefit to his legacy. The average American today has never heard of him. He's only remembered within the space/physics/engineering communities. If there were more buildings named after him, it'd greatly increase the chances of the public re-discovering his story. I wouldn't be surprised if the public eventually demands to rename the Von Braun Center, and we start seeing dozens of online articles about "the secret truth that the Nazis built Apollo 11."

capoetc
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posted 07-16-2020 04:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Historical figures are almost all complicated. Some (like von Braun) have more complicated and problematic backgrounds than others.

They should all be remembered within the context of their times, their achievements, and their flaws. If perfection is the standard for historical remembrance or for being honored in some way, then all historical figures should be banished from public view. That standard is simply not realistic.

This point of view does not excuse abhorrent behavior, it simply acknowledges that humans are flawed, some more than others.

I once had a professor who suggested, when considering historical figures or events, one must take these two things into account:

  1. Personalities matter. To understand why events occurred the way they did, one must consider the personalities of the decision makers involved, and

  2. Most importantly, remember that people do the things they do and make the decisions that they make for what, to them, were good reasons at that time.
Specifically regarding von Braun, in my opinion there is no way the US reaches the moon without von Braun, and it is likely we still would not have reached the moon without him in 2020. The timeline was everything, and Kennedy being assassinated mattered as well. Public support for going to the moon was not strong, even in the 1968-69 time frame, and without von Braun (and his German team) developing the Saturn I and Saturn V on an achievable time line, the funding would have disappeared.

The US would have still gotten into space, but the moon might still be awaiting its first human visitors.

Jim Behling
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posted 07-16-2020 11:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by capoetc:
...it is likely we still would not have reached the moon without him in 2020.

The US would have still gotten into space, but the moon might still be awaiting its first human visitors.


As I have shown, we didn't need him to go to the moon. The US had the ability. Not by 1970, but certainly before 1980 and more likely 1975.

edorr
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posted 07-16-2020 11:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for edorr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've always been a von Braun "fan-boy," but I feel that he was probably not indispensable from a technical standpoint. The German group as a whole, though, likely did advance the capability of the US to get to the moon by 5 or 10 years.

Where I think von Braun himself was critical is in preparing the general tax-paying public for the idea of manned spaceflight and big space projects. His space popularization work with Walt Disney made the idea of getting to the moon on JFK's terms something that seemed possible and not just crazy talk.

capoetc
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posted 07-16-2020 12:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Behling:
As I have shown, we didn't need him to go to the moon.
You did not show that we could have gotten to the moon without von Braun, not at all. Those systems you listed would not have gotten us to the moon by themselves, and the decision to go would not have happened without von Braun and his team at Huntsville already working on the Saturn program before the decision was made. His ability to work the PR, engineering, and political sides all at once made it possible, and Kennedy's assassination made the end of the decade even more of a target.

Others could have done the engineering ... eventually. But the circumstances to go to the moon in the 1960’s was only possible because of a confluence of multiple interlocking factors, not least of which was the USSR and the Cold War.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on this.

Jim Behling
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posted 07-17-2020 11:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did show that we could do it without him. The tech already existed and most of it was done by others. Saturn was not required to go to moon. Saturn was only required to go to the moon before 1970. Earth-orbit rendezvous could have done it in the early 70's using smaller launch vehicles. The Cold War existed without him and so need for a show of soft power was still there.

Those who don't worship at the house of Wernher von Braun can understand that he wasn't as essential as the NASA PR machine hyped him to be. Bernard Schriever had a bigger impact on the US space program than von Braun.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-17-2020 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If going to the moon was only an engineering challenge, we could very well still be on the lunar surface today.

It can be argued that Wernher von Braun's legacy is not only the Saturn V (or the Juno), but as mentioned upthread, the role he played in creating the political atmosphere for President Kennedy's challenge to the nation. While it is possible von Braun's engineering contributions could have been replaced, it is more difficult to find an equal for his role as the chief salesman and advocate for the program.

Colin Anderton
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posted 07-18-2020 04:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Colin Anderton   Click Here to Email Colin Anderton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Although I know many will disagree with this, I always felt that the extra unmanned test launch of Mercury — the MR-BD mission — was a deliberate attempt by von Braun to ensure the Russians put the first man in space. If the Americans had got there first, I feel certain that support for a manned lunar landing would not have been sustained — and I think von Braun foresaw this. The Americans could have argued, "OK, Russia put up the first satellite, but we got the first human in space — and that's more important." The U.S. taxpayer would have been satisfied with that position.

I think that the MR-BD flight was a touch of genius on von Braun's part; Gagarin's flight taking place before Shepard's pushed the Kennedy administration into creating a long-term goal that would give the U.S. time to catch and overtake the Russians in space.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-18-2020 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That is one way of looking at it. Another, giving von Braun equal credit, is that he knew that if an American astronaut died on the country's first human spaceflight there would be no way of hiding it (as opposed to the Soviets, who were operating in secret).

A causality on the first American launch could have equally halted the program, or at least put a stop to any talk of going to the moon for a significant time.

Colin Anderton
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posted 07-19-2020 07:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Colin Anderton   Click Here to Email Colin Anderton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not sure I see the connection, Robert. That risk was there, whether America was first or second in space.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-19-2020 10:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In addition to perhaps having a genuine concern for the safety of Alan Shepard (or any astronaut), therefore meriting an additional test flight, Wernher von Braun may have thought the fallout from a casualty would be far greater than any consideration about who was first or second.

Besides, even with the additional test flight, von Braun had no way of knowing for sure that the U.S. wouldn't still be first. And even if Mercury had flown first, the Soviets would have likely responded by dismissing the suborbital mission for the more challenging first human in orbit.

oly
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posted 07-19-2020 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Besides, even with the additional test flight, von Braun had no way of knowing for sure that the U.S. wouldn't still be first. And even if Mercury had flown first, the Soviets would have likely responded by dismissing the suborbital mission for the more challenging first human in orbit.
Excellent points, I feel that the influence of von Braun has been well established by many, including his peers. While the potential for the Redstone rocket was something von Braun pushed forward, there is an equal amount of due appreciation required for the Mercury spacecraft development team. Without either or the myriad of other contributors, history would have played out differently.

Winning the first man in the space race was like having two independent teams race to the top of a mountain, approached from opposing sides. It is difficult to predict who will win without knowing what terrain and obstacles need to be overcome, and even as you approach the summit, nothing is guaranteed until the flag has been planted and everyone makes it home safely.

Von Braun's contribution to spaceflight has been established by historians, his peers, and society of the time. Questioning history by demanding that a modern lens be focused on the subject using different light may produce a different result, but such results don't simulate the atmosphere such achievements were attained within.

As pointed out above, there were many other contributors to the spaceflight industry who had already achieved the ability to build and launch rockets, including rocket motors, stabilization, and navigation systems. Many exploded on the pad or during flight, some failed spectacularly on national television.

The Redstone rocket ended up being the vehicle that carried the first US astronaut. Von Braun's legacy is that he was chosen to head up these programs, he had the charisma and strength to push ideas through the engineering, political, and bureaucratic red tape (he was not the only one), he formed part of a team that achieved great things, and he was recognized by his peers and his society for these achievements.

Colin Anderton
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posted 07-20-2020 06:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Colin Anderton   Click Here to Email Colin Anderton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Besides, even with the additional test flight, von Braun had no way of knowing for sure that the U.S. wouldn't still be first.
Yes, that's true, but by early 1961 von Braun would have known that the Russians were very close to making that first manned flight.

Even the general press had wind of the fact that the race was very tight, and I believe von Braun calculated the odds, and went for it. Without that decision, I don't think the necessary long-term support for Apollo would have existed.

Like so many events in history, Apollo was the result of an accumulation of occurrences at a specific time to create the right circumstances. Although I feel uncomfortable saying this, I also think Lee Oswald contributed to sustained support for Apollo. (God, that really is a nasty thought, but — I fear — true.)

Cozmosis22
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posted 07-20-2020 08:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
During the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58 both super powers announced their plans to send up an orbiting satellite. The Huntsville team was lobbying for a flight opportunity and ready to go months before the Soviet Sputnik launch.

Many claim that it was inter-service rivalry at the time that put the Navy/JPL Vanguard Team in the driver's seat. Schriever's Army Group in Alabama was told to stand down. So von Braun stashed away a complete Jupiter rocket for future use. That day came in January following the December "Stayputnik" launch.

It was only after the Vanguard's spectacular pad explosion, a month after Sputnik II, that the Huntsville crew got the green light and was allowed to bring the Jupiter rocket back out of storage to prepare for flight.

Don't really think that political posturing had any great part in Werner von Braun's reasoning as at the time he wanted to get on with the business of exploring space as quickly and safely as possible.

Ken Havekotte
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posted 07-20-2020 01:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wernher von Braun's legacy has always been a passionate subject of mine, but I'll make these brief remarks for now.

Simply put, in my opinion, von Braun, along with his original German/US rocket team, should be credited as the "mover and shaker" of having sold the American people the moon. Not without saying, both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations with NASA boss James Webb deserve a lot of credit for our nation's Project Apollo's "landing on the moon" goal throughout the 1960's. Also in line would be the U.S. Congressional astronautics and science committees for funding of such an ambitious decade.

Obsessed by rockets and space travel as a teenager, von Braun's enthusiasm, drive, and passion in rocketry goes back to 1925. From volunteering his time with Germany's early liquid-fueled rocket experiments at the Rocket Flight Field in Berlin, working for the German Army at Kummersdorf for most of the 1930's, and throughout the 1940's at Peenemunde, created the world's first long-range ballistic missile, the V-2, which had been the first man-made object to reach the edge of space in 1942.

Those 20 years of crucial rocket research and development laid out the foundation of the U.S. missile, rocket, and space efforts from 1945 on-wards. By that time, our nation had virtually no advance rocketry experiences, except by the incredible work of one man, Robert Goddard. As Americans learned, they came to respect and trust the German rocket pioneers as the German and U.S. teams worked together for the U.S. Army in Texas, New Mexico, Redstone Arsenal, and later for NASA in Huntsville, AL. It was here that the U.S. Redstone, Jupiter, Juno, and Saturn rocket families were designed, engineered, and built in putting our first satellites and astronauts into space, and in 1969, Americans were on the moon!

Of the leading space pioneers of the 19th and 20th centuries with Tsiolkovsky, Oberth, Goddard, von Braun and Korolev, only von Braun was able to conceive and successfully build a massive rocket that took Americans to the moon.

In simple terms, he was the RIGHT man with the RIGHT team at the RIGHT time/place on America's road to space. Many considered von Braun as a visionary genius as the most prominent advocate and spokesman for U.S. space exploration. Several of his own peers in all areas of space development considered von Braun as the most influential rocket engineer, leader, scientist, and space flight advocate of our times.

Von Braun's mentor and teacher, Hermann Oberth, said on a visit to Huntsville,
"von Braun, who despite all obstacles never wavered from his goals, marks the front line of man's step into the universe. He represents a new type of scientist: scholar, engineer and manager, all in one person, like a conductor. His success is based on his genius and drive, but no less on human qualities."

His time was "right" all throughout the Cold War decades as von Braun was able to master all the needed political, financial, military, and private industrial support for such ambitious space endeavors. But not only that, perhaps more importantly, though, was his ability to excite, enthrall, and motivate the American people in traveling with him to the stars. I was one of those young teens when I first heard the name of Wernher von Braun and it did change my life's direction.

Without von Braun, could America have gotten to the moon, even a decade or more later, I really don't think so under those circumstances, climate, and conditions of our country. We must also keep in mind that if had not been for the Soviet's first satellite in 1957 and Gagarin's flight in 1961, maybe the race and top priority of being first in other space areas could have changed.

Jim points out, though, that the U.S. did eventually have their own rocket programs with the Atlas, Titan, Thor, and other military and space launch vehicles. While that statement is certainly true, however, I don't think those military vehicles would have come that far along, nor been government accelerated, if it had not been for the earlier rocket developmental studies, work, influences and visions generated by the German pioneers since the very beginning. In fact, one of the top von Braun team members from Germany was put in charge of the Atlas/Centaur combination for GD's Convair Division when he first came to the U.S. under the military's Paperclip Project. Another went on to spearhead the X-20/Dyna Soar program for Bell Aircraft Corp. with the Air Force in the 1950's, and so on.

But take into consideration all of the non-rocket support elements of our space program -- such as Houston flight control, manned spacecraft developments, the worldwide tracking networks, spacesuit fabrications, astronaut training and simulations, Goddard space flight communications, and much more -- while not a direct implication of von Braun's team, it doesn't really matter if you first can't get a powerful multi-million dollar rocket off the ground successfully in putting men on the moon. And that's where von Braun comes in.

LM1
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posted 07-21-2020 07:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But there will never be any statues or other memorials to Wernher von Braun in the US because part of the basis of his success with the V-1 and V-2 was a large supply of slave labor, according to Wikipedia:
SS General Hans Kammler, who as an engineer had constructed several concentration camps, including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality and had originated the idea of using concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the rocket program. Arthur Rudolph, chief engineer of the V-2 rocket factory at Peenemünde, endorsed this idea in April 1943 when a labor shortage developed. More people died building the V-2 rockets than were killed by it as a weapon. Von Braun admitted visiting the plant at Mittelwerk on many occasions, and called conditions at the plant "repulsive," but claimed never to have personally witnessed any deaths or beatings, although it had become clear to him by 1944 that deaths had occurred. He denied ever having visited the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp itself, where 20,000 died from illness, beatings, hangings, and intolerable working conditions.

Some prisoners claim von Braun engaged in brutal treatment or approved of it. Guy Morand, a French resistance fighter who was a prisoner in Dora, testified in 1995 that after an apparent sabotage attempt, von Braun ordered a prisoner to be flogged, while Robert Cazabonne, another French prisoner, claimed von Braun stood by as prisoners were hanged by chains suspended by cranes. However, these accounts may have been a case of mistaken identity. Former Buchenwald inmate Adam Cabala claims that von Braun went to the concentration camp to pick slave laborers:

... also the German scientists led by Prof. Wernher von Braun were aware of everything daily. As they went along the corridors, they saw the exhaustion of the inmates, their arduous work and their pain. Not one single time did Prof. Wernher von Braun protest against this cruelty during his frequent stays at Dora. Even the aspect of corpses did not touch him: On a small area near the ambulance shed, inmates tortured to death by slave labor and the terror of the overseers were piling up daily. But, Prof. Wernher von Braun passed them so close that he was almost touching the corpses.
Von Braun later claimed that he was aware of the treatment of prisoners, but felt helpless to change the situation.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-21-2020 08:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LM1:
But there will never be any statues or other memorials...
There is a bust of von Braun in the headquarters building at Marshall Space Flight Center. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center displays a recreation of von Braun's office. The entranceway into U.S. Space Camp prominently displays a quote from von Braun as its founder.

There is also the National Space Club's annual Dr. Wernher von Braun Memorial Dinner, the American Astronautical Society's annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium and the National Space Society's Wernher Von Braun Memorial Award.

NukeGuy
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posted 07-22-2020 12:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NukeGuy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If the lunar landing had not occurred in 1969-1970, it would probably not occurred for a long time, perhaps decades. Not from technical considerations but from political realities. Even a less intense effort than Apollo would have had difficulty staying under the radar from budget cuts for social programs and the Vietnam War.

On one hand, von Braun's work on the Saturn launch vehicles in the late 1950s was essential. On the other hand, the incremental testing plan he supported would have made reaching the moon by 1970 very unlikely.

LM1
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posted 07-22-2020 06:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While considering the legacy of Wernher von Braun it should be mentioned that he reportedly met Adolf Hitler five times and he appears in a group photo with Hitler once (unless it is a forgery).

Von Braun appeared on the cover of TIME magazine once on Feb. 17, 1958.

Von Braun has been honored with stamps by at least 10 countries: Romania, Rwanda, Guine-Bissau, Paraguay, Montserrat, Ajman, Bolivia, Mali, Benin and Sharjah.

He was a member of the Nazi SS according to Wikipedia. Considering this, is it possible that the US will ever issue a stamp to honor this visionary genius?

Jim Behling
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posted 07-22-2020 07:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NukeGuy:
If the lunar landing had not occurred in 1969-1970, it would probably not occurred for a long time, perhaps decades.
Not true at all. A lower level of funding with EOR would have only taken a few more years and not decades.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-22-2020 08:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The fact is there is no way to say for sure what would have happened. There are too many factors that are unpredictable, from politics to engineering, not to mention the unknowns from extending the time line, that there is no definitive yes or no.

Gordon Eliot Reade
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posted 08-30-2020 10:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Eliot Reade   Click Here to Email Gordon Eliot Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virtually none of the 6th grade students I teach have ever heard of von Braun before I tell them and when I do and play the Tom Lehrer song and they're amazed. Most of what they know about WW2 seems to come from superhero movies and comic books, such as Captain America and Inglorious Bastards. Nazi scientists working for NASA just seems unbelievable.

In his last few months of life, von Braun knew the end was near. He could have expressed remorse for his war time activities at that time. That he didn't I find unforgivable.

David C
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posted 08-30-2020 11:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I find citizens of a once grateful nation that were more than willing to make full use of von Braun's services now slamming him, whilst letting all those whose power and authority allowed and encouraged it off the hook equally bad. It was the Cold War. Arguably distasteful things had to be done. Then argue it, don't just slam von Braun and think that cleans the nation's conscience.

As for his WWII activities, well that was a war too and we were bombing his country. Should he have been been remorseful to be fighting us? Realistically, I don't think so even if his country's leadership was evil. He did what he did to get his rockets built and he honestly believed that was important for humanity beyond the war. I agree. Yes, the Nazis perverted his life's vision but he couldn't control world history playing out. They also perverted the use and manufacture of the axial compressor gas turbine engine. Shall we all forever more protest this Nazi technology by refusing to fly anywhere on business or vacation, or having jets in our Air Forces. Surely using these every day is "unforgivable" too?

Did he make the wrong choice? Well the allies didn't think so. They were glad he tied up so much war material. The V-2 program was very inefficient. An awful lot more people would have died if it had all gone into conventional weaponry.

Should he have expressed remorse in general for producing the V-2? Well no. What would be unforgivable would be claiming to be remorseful when he plainly wasn't. As for the use of slave labor, well the bitter truth is it's not as if he had a choice there. It's either build with, or don't do it at all. Build nicely wasn't an option. So is there any point at all in expressing remorse when you have no choice?

Von Braun lived though some very hard, and some very great times. I suspect that some of the questioning we are now seeing would just seem petty to him. Thousands of people were dying daily in WWII. In the Cold War people were talking about the future of civilisation (perhaps they were mistaken, but that's how they felt). And space, well that's the very future of the human species. Besides all of that I'm sure there's a quote about eggs and omelettes that springs to mind.

As for the use of slave labor, well the bitter truth is that it's not as if he had a choice there. It's either build with, or don't do it at all. Build nicely wasn't an option. So is there any point at all in expressing remorse when you have no choice? What do you think would have happened to those slaves if they weren't working on V-2s?

As for the lamentable state of 6th grader education, well that really is unbelievable. I'm glad we have people like you trying to fix it. I fear you're in a minority.

quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The fact is there is no way to say for sure what would have happened.
Whilst Robert is of course absolutely right that there's no definitive way of really knowing, it's not a very useful answer.
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Behling:
A lower level of funding with EOR would have only taken a few more years and not decades.
But of course that funding would not have been there at all. There was absolutely no mandate to fund a low level lunar landing program out to say a 1975 first landing date in anyone's mind's other than those who were derisively termed "space cadets." Certainly not if the Russians had pulled it out of the bag by then. America doesn't fund losers.

moorouge
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posted 08-31-2020 01:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gordon Eliot Reade:
In his last few months of life, von Braun knew the end was near. He could have expressed remorse for his war time activities at that time. That he didn't I find unforgivable.
Why do you expect remorse from someone who was in a situation not of his making but nevertheless doing all he could to try to save his country. History, they say, is written by the victors and from that perspective you may be right. But at the time von Braun did what he thought was best for his country. Don't judge him by today's standards — to a true historian they are, or should be, irrelevant.

Jim Behling
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posted 08-31-2020 07:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by David C:
As for the lamentable state of 6th grader education...
The story can be told without including von Braun. He was not the equivalent to the Soviet's Korolev.

Cozmosis22
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posted 08-31-2020 11:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Recall that soon after his surrender to American forces in Europe on May 2,1945 the German scientist was asked during an initial interrogation how he designed and developed his new rocket technology.

He replied quizzically (paraphrasing now) "Why do you ask me? Go ask your own rocketry expert Robert Goddard. We got everything we needed to develop the V2s from him."

Unfortunately the great American space pioneer, Robert H. Goddard, passed away about three months later on August 10, 1945. There is no record of the two ever meeting in person.

capoetc
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From: McKinney TX (USA)
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posted 08-31-2020 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Behling:
The story can be told without including von Braun. He was not the equivalent to the Soviet's Korolev.
When you make statements like this, it sounds as though you are stating fact; what you are stating is opinion.

I disagree with your assessment, and I suspect most competent historians would do the same. You surely are aware that the US would have preferred to have almost anyone else in charge other than von Braun (which is, in large part, why the effort to place a satellite in orbit was led by the Navy and Project Vanguard until it became clear that Vanguard could not do the job).

No one else had the broad skill set that von Braun had — like him or not, he was absolutely critical to the effort to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, just as Korolev was vital to the Soviets.

Had Korolev not died in Jan 1966, no one knows whether he would have been successful in landing the USSR on the moon (not likely before the US, but who knows?).

sts205cdr
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posted 08-31-2020 05:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sts205cdr   Click Here to Email sts205cdr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have found it beneficial to avoid disagreeing with Jim B., the man knows his stuff. Wernher von Braun was key, but not the only key.

NukeGuy
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From: Irvine, CA USA
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posted 09-01-2020 08:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NukeGuy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Cozmosis22:
Go ask your own rocketry expert Robert Goddard. We got everything we needed to develop the V2s from him.
This article argues that Goddard had little impact on von Braun and the German V2 program: Robert Goddard Was the Father of American Rocketry. But Did He Have Much Impact?

Without the V2 program demonstrating a ballistic missile's capabilities, I doubt that we would have seen an attempt to develop ICBMs in the US or the USSR until years after they were actually developed. The Soviets didn't even have a Goddard. The "missile gap" would not have appeared until years after it actually did.

Vietnam, the social unrest and the social welfare programs of the 1960s were independent of the space program in general and Apollo in particular. The same fiscal constraints of the late 1960s would still be present. Imagine Apollo with a Space Shuttle development environment but without the experience of Apollo behind it.

Von Braun didn't even have to be brought to the US to have a critical impact on Apollo.

oly
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posted 09-02-2020 12:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Discounting the V2 during the second world war, there were other rocket technologies in use at the time, such as the wing-mounted rockets used for ground strafing, the Bazooka rocket-powered grenade, truck-mounted rocket artillery, and others.

Granted that none were as sophisticated as the V2, with its stabilization and guidance system, but the concept had been under development for some time, along with RATO and JATO systems.

Given the advancements made in aviation in the post-war era, the Bell X1 along with other rocket-powered aircraft saw increased development of both rocket motors and guidance systems that led to the X-15 design, it is clear that engineers were heading towards manned rocket planes, altitude and speed records, independent from the V2 program ancestry.

Weaponized rocketry would have progressed all the same, if the Soviets designed an ICBM first, the USA would follow, and vice versa. The US guided-missile program developed independently from the von Braun team's work in many areas and the competitive nature of the Army ballistic missile program, the Airforce designs, the Navy systems, and the technology developed by the manufacturing companies that were involved in the weapons programs were all drawn upon in the race to the moon.

The work done by MIT to develop the Apollo GNC is a legacy of the Polaris guidance system combined with work done by Draper in inertial navigation systems, which was independent of anything done by von Braun, and many rocket weapons systems have equally independent histories. There is little doubt that a similar historical outcome would have eventuated without von Braun's influence, however, his charisma and foresight played a key part in selling the idea.

As for von Braun's direct influence on the Saturn rocket program, it should be noted that the designs of both the Saturn I and V were manufactured by many different aerospace companies that all have teams of engineers that worked under the oversight of the NASA management team (a key point that made the program a success) that von Braun was a part of, but was not in charge of. He did have input in many aspects of the program, including the decision to go down the LOR path, but was not responsible for the decision to do all up testing of the Saturn V.

Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson all enabled a system that led to the success of the Apollo program, just as Dryden, Webb, Seamans, Paine, and Low all led the teams that achieved success.

Von Braun was a part of this team.

Cozmosis22
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From: Texas * Earth
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posted 09-02-2020 10:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by oly:
...his charisma and foresight played a key part in selling the idea.
Von Braun's publicity work with Collier's magazine in 1953 and Walt Disney in 1955 was instrumental in transforming space travel from the realm of science fiction to potential scientific fact.

LM1
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posted 09-06-2020 08:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember Wernher von Braun on Disney World every Sunday on ABC and later NBC. I always looked forward to the weeks when the show was devoted to Tomorrowland because it usually meant that Wernher von Braun would give more of his visions of the future in space.

NukeGuy
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From: Irvine, CA USA
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posted 09-06-2020 11:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NukeGuy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think a scientific or engineering innovation is fated to be tied to any individual(s). Several discoveries were made nearly simultaneously by independent researchers. Several have later been found to be at least considered earlier by other researchers and either forgotten or never pursued.

There were a lot of "AND" and "OR" gates in the sequence of events that led to Apollo. Then there were outside developments. Would ICBMs have been developed had nuclear warhead designers not been able to improve the explosive capability to size ratio over those dropped on Japan? If the plutonium implosion bomb had not worked, our nuclear arsenal would have been limited by our capacity to enrich uranium which was an expensive, laborious process in the 1950s. Would we have developed ICBMs for such a limited arsenal? Unless an alternative to the gun-type design was found, the warheads would also have little margin for optimization and might have to be delivered by large bombers. Or for non-nuclear warheads?

This article considers what might have happened if the Trinity test had failed.

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