I. recently read (and really liked) V2, a thrilling thriller by Robert Harris about World War II about the British attempts to find and destroy the base in the Netherlands, which launched Hitler’s “Weapon of Retaliation 2” – these destructive missile bombs aimed at London. Harris is famous for the meticulous research that underlies his plots and V2 is no exception. For me, a particularly interesting aspect of the novel was his portrayal of Werner von Braun, a German aerospace engineer who was a leading figure in the development of Nazi rocketry and who was affected by the United States (with many of its technical staff). enjoy a superb second career as the inspiration for the U.S. space program.

Harris portrays von Braun as an extremely witty cameraman who effectively used the Nazi regime to enable him to realize his dream of space exploration. Although he joined the National Socialist Party in 1937, he argued that it was the only way to get permission to continue his technical work in missile technology, which may be plausible. Less perhaps was his decision to join the SS, a decision that plays a useful role in Harris’s story.

However, at one point he was suspected of not being “patriotic” enough and spent two weeks in a Gestapo cell before being reinstated after the intervention of Albert Speer, the Minister of Military Production, on the grounds that he was needed for the V2 program. . Whatever the truth of this, it is absolutely clear that von Braun was a shrewd manipulator of the Nazi regime for his own purposes. He also knew that if Germany eventually capitulated, Americans would be more interested in its potential usefulness than, say, in the use of slave labor in the German missile program.

And she proved it. In June 1945, the State Department approved the relocation of von Braun and his group of specialists to the United States. He worked on the U.S. Army’s ballistic missile program and developed the rocket that launched the first U.S. space satellite in 1958, four months after the Soviet “Satellite” launched the American political class into panic. In 1960, his group was assimilated to NASA, where he became director of the new Marshall Space Flight Center and chief architect of the Saturn-5 rocket, which launched the Apollo spacecraft to the moon.

Not bad for a former SS officer, eh? But, as I discovered, when buried in the pleasant rabbit hole into which Harris launched me, the story gets better. In his early years in the United States, von Braun befriended Walt Disney, with whom he collaborated on a series of three educational films and to whom he probably entrusted his dream of a manned mission to Mars. Even more interestingly, in 1949, when he was in Fort Bliss, Texas, he wrote a science fiction novel (in German) called Mars project but could not find a publisher for it. He wrote this, he writes in the preface, “to stimulate interest in space travel.” Eventually, the novel was translated into English, approved by the Pentagon (on the grounds that its author’s perceptions of space were “too futuristic to violate secret matters”) and published in 2006 as Project Mars: Technical History.

The action takes place in 1980 – three decades after its composition. The world is ruled by the United States, created after the devastating war in the 1970s between the Western powers and the Eastern bloc. The West won the conflict with the help of Lunetta, an orbital space station that dropped nuclear missiles on the Soviet Union. Shortly after the “peace” returns to the world, astronomers open channels on Mars, indicating the existence of intelligent life there. The president orders to go to Mars to determine how smart the Martians are and whether they pose a threat to Earth.

Project Mars This is largely the work of an engineer, in which 48 chapters set out the technical requirements of a huge space expedition involving a flotilla of 10 spacecraft with 70 crew members returning after 443 days on Mars before returning to Earth.

Chapter 24 is particularly interesting because it discusses what researchers are discovering about the inhabitants of the planet who appear to be humanoid and live wisely underground. They greet visitors who seem to be members of an ancient and benevolent “supercivilization”. Martian technology far surpasses the technology of resting earthlings: it includes underground transport and organ transplantation, for example; Martians are serious about ethics and morals and believe that technology should be used responsibly.

But the real knockout, at least for this columnist, is von Braun’s story of how these superhumanoids are managed. All this is done by a group of 10 “men” under a super-wise leader.

And what is the name of this super sage?

Why, Elon.

Remind you of anyone?

What I read

Keep shipping
“Cars are here to stay” is the title of Alex Trembat’s sober essay.

Always optimistic …
Thomas Pickett believes that America is preparing for the redistribution of wealth – a transcript of good New York Times interview with a great French economist. I hope he is right, but I am afraid it is not.

When the pumps run dry
Forecourt Futures is a great blog post by Quentin Stafford-Fraser about what happens to gas stations when we all drive EVs.

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