Friday, July 24, 2009

Apollo 11 Anniversary: "There could have been no man on the moon, Russian or American, without Nazi know-how"

Excerpt from "Many moons ago," by Michael Handelzalts,

... It is [no] coincidence that the technology for the ambitious space projects on both the Russian and American sides originated in Nazi Germany. The moving force behind the U.S. enterprise was Wernher von Braun, the Nazi party member and high-ranking SS officer who was at least fully aware of, if not directly responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 slave laborers manufacturing his invention, the V-2 rocket, for the purpose of destroying London.

In contrast, Sergei Korolev, the chief visionary on the Russian side, who remained anonymous until after his death in 1966, was denounced in 1939 by a fellow scientist, and spent the war years in labor camps in Kolyma and as a prisoner working in the Tupolev airplane factory. When the war was over, he was entrusted (thanks to the recommendation of the colleague who had denounced him) with deciphering the blueprints and remains of V-2 rockets in production, with the help of former associates of Von Braun who had not been spirited off by the Americans.

Thus, there could have been no man on the moon, Russian or American, without Nazi know-how.

It is also worth remembering that both Von Braun and Korolev, while kowtowing to their new political masters and providing scientific technology with military applications (i.e., ballistic missiles that could carry conventional or nuclear warheads, satellites that could be used for reconnaissance), were also consumed by a purer scientific vision: of sending man into space.

In one respect, this was yet another instance of scientists enlisting in an effort that would inevitably lead to mass destruction, while deluding themselves that it was a temporary and necessary evil, and part of an otherwise noble quest for knowledge and enlightenment (see: the A-bomb dropped on Japan). They were similarly unaware of being mere tools in politicians' hands, to be chewed on, devoured and spat out at some later time. ...