“Always the goal.”
—Michael Flynn (1)
In the closing days of the Second World War, German rocket engineers and their technologies became one of the most coveted spoils of a defeated Third Reich. Led by Wernher von Braun and General Doctor Walter Domberger, these were the rocket scientists and technicians who had designed and built the infamous flying bomb, the V-2 (Vergeltungswaffen Zwei, or Retaliatory Weapon Two). (2) Shortly after the Allied victory, the German rocket team was shipped to the United States, where it was required to continue its wartime experiments. The arrival of the Germans on American soil was the necessary catalyst for postwar astrofuturism. Their presence brought together three national spaceflight movements—American, British, and German—that had been sundered by the war (significantly excluding that of the Soviet Union), enabling the collaboration that made the space age technically feasible in the West.
The rocket team had come to the United States under a War Department program called “Project Paperclip.” While many Americans thought that the Paperclip scientists should have been tried as war criminals, a few men in the Army and the War Department believed that the knowledge and expertise of these men were too valuable to waste. The terror that the “flying bomb” had created in London and its suburbs convinced them that this new technology could be an important factor in determining the postwar balance of power.
At least twenty thousand men would die there before the end of the war. Working without power drills or mechanical excavators, the slaves were constantly threatened and beaten while they dug, hammered and heaved their pickaxes. Since there was scarcely any food or water and no sanitation or medical facilities, life expectancy rarely exceeded six months. During their daily tour through the tunnels, the Peenemunde scientists felt the extreme humidity, the chill gusts of air, the dusty atmosphere, and intense depression. Despite the constant arrival of new labor the number of workers never increased. On average, one hundred men a day died of exhaustion, starvation, and disease, or were murdered by the SS guards, either on a whim or as punishment. . . . Replacements supplied by the SS from other concentration camps arrived on demand from [Arthur] Rudolph or Werner [sic] von Braun. Neither scientist was directly responsible for these conditions, but they accepted the situation created by the SS without demur. (5)
This record of rocket team complicity in Nazi war crimes was adroitly covered up by the U.S. Army and the War Department to avoid the public outcry that would have resulted from its broadcast. (6)
These hopes were informed by a historical and ideological faith, common to Europeans and Americans, that the blessings of civilization followed the course of empire. Arthur C. Clarke represented majority opinion in astrofuturism when he declared, shortly after the war, that “Interplanetary travel is now the only form of ‘conquest and empire’ compatible with civilization.” (9) On the American ground this has meant that even ardent antiimperialists, such as Carl Sagan, came to believe in space exploration as a logical and desirable consequence of the Western history of contact with new frontiers. (10)
The expatriated Germans also threw themselves into the task of becoming American citizens. No one did this with more zest than von Braun. (16) He seems to have made a conscious decision to change elements of his character, language, and political vision to make him acceptable in the American context. If he wanted to gain access to the U.S. government and to the American people, he could not play the role of a German aristocrat. (17)
A result of the Disneyland episodes’s success was von Braun’s elevation to public celebrity as an ambassador for an American space program. (33) He and his work became central to Disney’s animation of America’s future in all the media at the studio’s command—film, television, comic books, and amusement parks. The new technoscience of rocketry was at last able to bring its ambitions to a mass audience. To make its aims palatable for the broadest possible consumption, it domesticated them through the nostalgia for frontier prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s. Henceforth the notion of space as an American property would dominate mid-century discourses on the power of Western science to expand social and economic freedoms.
In their haste to establish von Braun’s benevolent social credentials, Stuhlinger and Ordway neglect the record of civil rights activity in Huntsville, including “lunch counter sit-ins, boycotts, picket lines” and a visit by Martin Luther King, Jr. (36) Nevertheless, if we take seriously von Braun’s singular goal, his intervention into civil rights, prompted by federal interest in civil stability, makes sense. No doubt von Braun was sincere when he encouraged George Wallace to “shed the shackles of the past” during a 1965 encounter in Huntsville. But, characteristically, he did not tell Huntsville’s elite that racial equality should be offered on constitutional or principled grounds. Rather, he argued that “Alabama’s image is marred by civil rights incidents and statements.” Since he was speaking to the chamber of commerce of a segregated Huntsville, it is safe to read this statement not as an indictment of white racism, but as a complaint against black objections to racism. Von Braun was concerned to make improvements that would allow the state to save face and contribute to the social peace required for a quiet and dependable work force.
[of] the legions of scientists, generals, admirals, engineers and administrators at work on missiles and man-made moons, German-born Wemher von Braun, 45, best personified man’s accelerating drive to rise above the planet. Von Braun, in fact, has only one interest: the conquest of space, which he calls man’s greatest venture. To pursue his lifelong dream, he has helped Adolph Hitler wage a vengeful new kind of war, has argued against bureaucracy in two languages and campaigned against official apathy and public disbelief on two continents through most of his adult years. (39)
Such accounts present spaceflight as a noble end in itself, and represent von Braun as a hero and martyr transcending the petty allegiances of this world in his devotion to the promise of the future.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to introduce von Braun to numerous people of widely diverse backgrounds—editors, physicists, the military, Madison Avenue types and businessmen, large and small. Again and again, I have seen von Braun’s personality work magic on opinionated individuals who had preconceived notions and erroneous impressions of von Braun himself, his projects and accomplishments. It is human nature I suppose, to suspect and to be a little envious of someone who had been a wartime enemy and who has had subsequent widespread publicity in a technology as yeasty as rockets and spaceflight. But over and over I’ve watched these opinions change, usually within a few minutes of a first meeting, as von Braun’s personal warmth and engaging manner and obvious honesty are communicated as if by a sixth sense. (43)
Von Braun proved equally persuasive to politicians in the wake of the first Sputnik:
[Testifying before Congress had become a relatively simple task for von Braun. He had considerable experience from his many contacts in the Pentagon, and his frequent visits to Capitol Hill to appear before this or that committee soon became routine.... Indeed, several congressmen welcomed the opportunity to question von Braun—simply because he mesmerized them with his overwhelming knowledge, wisdom and charm. “Listening to Dr. von Braun,” the late Senator Alexander Wiley said, “is like listening to a radio science fiction spectacular in the old days.” (44)
In The Mars Project, von Braun emphasizes a theme that recurs time and again in American astrofuturism: a future in space is no dream but, with current science and technology, an immediate possibility. Through tables, graphs, and equations, von Braun describes and illustrates the elaborate infrastructure he thought necessary for a successful trip to another world. Unlike the cost-conscious scenarios of a later date, his imagined expedition of the late 1940s followed precedents set by earlier, terrestrial explorations. Invoking the memory of Columbus’s New World voyages, von Braun imagined the first Mars trip as an immense project requiring an armada of ten ships with a crew of at least seventy astronauts. His justification for the commitment and expense required to undertake the voyage refers to the man he takes as a predecessor: “In 1492 Columbus knew less about the far Atlantic than we do about the heavens, yet he chose not to sail with a flotilla of less than three ships, and history tends to prove that he might never have returned to Spanish shores with his report of discoveries had he entrusted his fate to a single bottom. So it is with interplanetary exploration: it must be done on the grand scale.” (52)
Technicians in this space station, using specially designed, powerful telescopes attached to large optical screens, radarscopes, and cameras, will keep under constant inspection every ocean, continent, country, and city. Even small towns will be clearly visible through optical instruments that will give the watchers in space the same vantage point enjoyed by a man in an observation plane only 4,000 feet off the ground.
Nothing will go unobserved. Within each 2-hour period, as the earth revolves inside the satellite’s orbit, one-twelfth of the globe’s territory will pass into the view of the space station’s occupants; within each 24-hour period, the entire surface of the earth will have been visible. (12-15)
Failure as a fiction writer did not diminish von Braun’s desire to write and publish. Rather, it forced him to concentrate his energies on making the fantastic real within contemporary life. In an account of himself as a writer von Braun remarked, “After a day of excruciating meetings for the Redstone Project.. . it is such an enjoyable relaxation to transpose yourself to the lunar surface and simply charge ahead with a colorful description of all the exciting adventures that expect you [sic] there. ... I mix me some martinis, put a Brandenburg concerto on the record player, and just write and write . . . until Maria [his wife] gets out of bed and reminds me that I must be in the office two hours from now.” (59) The space future is an adventure to which von Braun could escape the pressures of creating the vehicles he hoped would make it possible. He presents his literary activity as a culturally expressive act dignified by professional activity and the consumption of middle-class luxuries. The astrofuturist places himself within a context of industrial activity and suburban domesticity, thereby offering his readers is a fair example of how astrofuturism could make sense during the 1950s and 1960s.
Astrofuturism’s expository conventions were not, however, the creation of one man. Willy Ley, another German émigré, was the necessary mediator in the importation and integration of German spaceflight enthusiasm into what became an American vision of the space future. With the exception of those years when the National Socialists were in power in Germany, Ley’s career was intimately intertwined with that of von Braun and the other members of the rocket team. He was a founding member of the Verein fur Raumschiffahrt when it was established in 1927 and he served as its vice president from 1928 through 1933. During the society’s early experiments, Ley helped devise some of the basic principles and methods that guided the development of liquid-fueled rocketry in Germany. (60) His greatest contribution to science, rocketry, and astrofuturism, however, was not as an experimenter, but as a writer.
By 1934, the VfR disbanded and the vigorous astronautical network that Ley had helped build dissolved. (72) In 1935, Ley wrote his overseas correspondents that he was in trouble with the authorities. And on the eve of the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Ley became a part of the migration of German intellectuals and political dissidents fleeing the rise of national socialism. (73) As the storm clouds of war gathered, spaceflight activity in Europe ground to a halt. (74) Ordway and Sharpe note that, “With Ley’s departure from Germany, the flow of rocket society news virtually ceased—and hardly anyone noticed. This is not surprising, for outside of small amateur societies operating on shoestring budgets and occasional isolated dreamers and experimenters typified by America’s Robert H. Goddard, interest in rocketry was virtually nil in the United States and the United Kingdom.” (75) Spaceflight advocates who remained and continued their work in Nazi Germany were pressed into the practical business of making weapons.
Almost twenty years after David Lasser’s pioneering effort, Willy Ley wrote his own version of The Conquest of Space, a book that sought to widen the audience for the spaceflight dream. (80) Published by the Viking Press in 1950, it gained wide notice in the spaceflight and science-fiction communities on both sides of the Atlantic. In a contemporary review of the book, Arthur C. Clarke describes it as “an outstanding example of co-operation between art and technology.” (81) The synthesis that excited Clarke and his colleagues was a result of Ley’s collaboration with Chesley Bonestell, the architect who would make space art a respectable discipline in the aerospace and science-fiction communities. Ley’s technical authority coupled with Bonestell’s hard-edged illustrations of the machines and landscapes of space exploration helped move astrofuturism from the fantastic to the real. By creating the atmosphere of technological verisimilitude essential to the project, Bonestell’s illustrations and paintings supported Ley’s history of technology, replaced the tin-pot space ships so familiar from the Flash Gordon science-fiction serials of the 1930s and the pulp iconography of spaceships produced by artists such as R. Frank Paul, and connected rocket flight and space travel to other transportation revolutions.
Ley’s The Conquest of Space introduced its audience to what Michael A. G. Michaud calls the “classic agenda” for manned spaceflight: a technosocial plan that represents the core of the space future as it was imagined in the 1950s and 1960s. Michaud points out that the “classic agenda is positive and expansionist. To the advocates of spaceflight, humanity’s outward expansion was not only desirable but obviously so.” (85) It is around this agenda that the first-generation astrofuturists formed their technical and ideological consensus in the 1950s. The Conquest of Space set the epistemological framework for the astrofuturist project by weaving together the literary, scientific, and technological background to the spaceflight idea. It also used the narrative strategies of science fiction to present the reader with attractive social and cultural reasons for accepting its inevitability. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Ley text is his presentation of the space future as a natural extension of Western and, therefore, American culture. For Ley, the conquest of space is mandated by natural and historical law, ordained in the same fashion as the European conquest of the New World. Support for this teleology comes from his understanding of history as the advancement of Western science and technology.
For Ley, an astronomical/historical era is distinguished by its technology.
He defines the first two eras of astronomy by the technology of sight: the unaided eye is superseded by the primitive telescopes of sixteenth-century Europe and their ever more powerful and sophisticated descendents. Optical technology is still a part of Ley’s postulated third era, but with the addition of a transport technology powerful enough to escape Earth’s gravity. Although in his discussion of Kepler he acknowledges astronomy’s theoretical side, he believes that the discipline advances through practice, not theory. In other words, progress occurs through advances in technology, not through abstract reasoning. The spaceship, therefore, is the next logical step in the progress of astronomy:
It almost seems that each era of astronomy does best when it comes to solving the problems of the preceding era. The inaccuracies of naked-eye observation were easily corrected by the optical instruments of the second era. The questions posed by the telescope—mostly concerning the surface conditions of the planets—will be answered by the spaceship. If the third era also poses new problems and questions without answering them, it will be up to the scientists of the third era to find ways and means toward a fourth era. (89)
Using astronomy as both metaphor and guide, Ley presents the conquest of space as a historical inevitability arising from the technological progress forced by the needs of scientific observation. Thus science and technology are placed in the service of a human need to control the material universe. Progress in astronomy is not measured by an interest in abstract knowledge, but by the increasing ability to provide the tools necessary for an inventory of the weltall. Astronomy itself becomes a technoscientific tool that will allow us to explore other worlds, just as it enabled the exploration of distant islands and continents on our own. Projecting this instrumental view of astronomy into the future and aided by a further forty more years of science fiction and technological speculation, it is easy to imagine what the fourth age of astronomy might be: the direct manipulation of extraterrestrial bodies—asteroids, planets, and even stars—for fun and profit.
At this point in the development of American astrofuturism, however, the space-future vision was recognized as desirable only by its immediate constituency, habitual readers of science fiction and boys’ adventure literature. The evangelism of the pioneering astrofuturists demanded a wider audience, one that transcended the generic and social confines of that era’s science-fiction community. The search for that audience led to the creation of a symposium at the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York focusing exclusively on the topic of space travel. It was the brainchild of the ubiquitous Willy Ley, who, while in contact with Robert R. Coles, the chairman of the planetarium, mentioned “the annual astronautical congresses which were then just starting in Europe.” Because of the distance involved, Americans had difficulty finding the time and money to attend the European conferences. While the home-grown American Rocket Society did hold annual meetings, sessions on space travel took up very little of its time. On the other hand, the European meetings “were devoted to nothing else.” Ley proposed a conference at the planetarium that would redress the balance. (93) As it had done in the 1930s, the planetarium would provide a forum for a new generation of space travel visionaries.
Significantly, the organizers of the First Annual Symposium on Space Travel picked Columbus Day, 1951, for their first meeting, “partly for symbolic reasons.” They had to restrict the size of that first gathering because of limited space, but the committee made sure they had a representative cross section of the constituencies the space futurists wanted to reach. The meeting led to interest by two of most powerful forces influencing public opinion in the 1950s: the upscale general interest magazine and motion pictures. Ley notes, “Those invited were representative of universities, other scientific institutions, of the armed forces stationed in New York, of city and state governments, and of publications.” (94) Among those publications was Collier’s, a mass-market magazine whose audience was the crucial middle-class, college-educated reader, also sought by Life, Look, and the Saturday Evening Post. (95)
The classic agenda of first-generation astrofuturists had a measurable impact on the lives of many American scientists, writers, and social activists. Second-generation futurists as different in background and political outlook as Carl Sagan, Ben Bova, and Jerry Poumelle have pointed toward the space literature and science fiction of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s as the catalyst for their interest in science and their involvement in the space program. Long after he became a leading figure in science fiction and space popularization, Arthur C. Clarke credited Lasser’s Conquest of Space for giving him his start. (98) Carl Sagan echoes Clarke by crediting the science fiction of the 1930s for his career as a planetary scientist and spaceflight advocate: “Such ideas, when encountered young, can influence adult behavior. Many scientists deeply involved in the exploration of the solar system (myself among them) were first turned in that direction by science fiction. they who will live in the future” (171). For him, as for many other astrofuturists, science fiction helps provide those who listen with alternatives, blueprints for the ever- advancing future. Sagan also presents what may be considered the often unstated rationale for astrofuturism when he says, “It is my firm view that no society on earth today is well adapted to the earth of one or two hundred years from now (if we are wise enough or lucky enough to survive that long). We desperately need an exploration of alternative futures, both experimental and conceptual” (171).
Hence, astrofuturism is more than a technological enterprise or a parts catalog of means and ends. It represents an attempt to describe futures that are attractive projections of contemporary social and political desires. While futurism is a broad-based phenomenon appearing in everything from military analysis to regional planning and real estate speculation, its clearest cultural expression is in science fiction. It is through science fiction, as a popular literature and as a social phenomenon, that the first-generation astrofuturist consensus made itself felt in American culture. Despite or even perhaps because of its marginal status within the mainstream of official culture, science fiction gave the early spaceflight enthusiasts a common ground where they could create narrative models of how spaceflight could be accomplished, its influence on everyday life, and its significance for the course of American civilization.
Representing a mode of technosocial thinking within Western culture, the roots of American astrofuturism extend beyond national boundaries. No matter where they came from, the futurists of the first generation shared a common background in the romantic imagination of nineteenth-century technoscience and exploration. Therefore, when the German rocket team arrived in the United States and began their postwar process of Americanization, they found that they already shared a common language with the native science-fiction community. That commonality was to prove invaluable in years to come because it allowed them to be a part of the infrastructure of periodicals, organizations, and personal relationships that serves as the lifeblood of science fiction.
1. Michael Flynn, Firestar (New York: TOR Books, 1996).
2. The Peenemünde engineers had originally named the rocket the A-4 or Aggregate 4. Their numbering system continued that which they had used during the days when they were just an amateur rocket society working at a leased field on the outskirts of Berlin. The Nazi propaganda machine renamed the rocket V-2 for obvious reasons (Richard S. Lewis, Appointment On the Moon [New York: Ballantine Books, 1969], 12).
3. Erik Bergaust, Wemher von Braun (Washington, D.C.: National Space Institute, 1976), 147.
4. This is a landmark moment in the development of American space capabilities. However, before the end of the Third Reich, General Walter Dornberger had claimed the creation of the spaceship for his own rocket team at Peenemünde (Michael J. Neufeld, The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era [New York: Free Press, 1995], 165). After World War n, rocketry in America is as much a story of technological transfer or appropriation as it is of homegrown invention.
5. Tom Bower, The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Hunt for the Nazi Scientists (Boston: Little, Brown, 1987), 125. For more on the von Braun team’s involvement in the crimes of the Third Reich, see Linda Hunt, Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991) and Neufeld.
6. Joseph J. Trento and Susan B. Trento, Prescription for Disaster: From the Glory of Apollo to the Betrayal of the Shuttle (New York: Crown Publishers, 1987), 7.
7. Dale Carter, The Final Frontier: The Rise and Fall of the American Rocket State (New York: Verso, 1988), 7.
8. Walter A. McDougall,... the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (New York: Basic Books, 1985), 229.
9. Arthur C. Clarke, “Space Flight and the Spirit of Man,” Voices from the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 4.
10. See, for example, Carl Sagan’s The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective (New York: Dell Publishing, 1973) and Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (New York: Ballantine Books, 1980).
11. Bergaust, 20.
12. Fredric Jameson, “Progress Versus Utopia; or, Can We Imagine the Future?” Science-Fiction Studies 9 (1982): 150-51.
13. For a pioneering academic treatment that argues for science fiction’s utility as an anticipatory genre, see J. O. Bailey, Pilgrims Through Time and Space: Trends and Patterns in Utopian Fiction (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975 ).
14. Ernst Stuhlinger and Frederick I. Ordway IH, Wemher von Braun: Crusader for Space—A Biographical Memoir (Malabar, Fla.: Krieger Publishing Company, 1994), 250.
15. Sagan’s rhetoric here invokes J. Robert Oppenheimer’s remark that many physicists worked on the World War II atomic bomb project because the problem was “technically sweet.” The remark was made in the context of Oppenheimer’s regret regarding his own participation. The Manhattan Project inaugurated a strong contingent within the American scientific community that questions the militaristic use of science. Its members have created the Pugwash conferences in which scientists discuss the moral and political implications of nuclear weapons; The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a major antinuclear watchdog publication; and at least one science-fiction novel, Jack McDevitt’s The Hercules Text (New York: Ace Books, 1986), in which a scientist refuses to pursue the implications of his research because of the cataclysmic dangers posed by its possible application in war. See also Oppenheimer’s collection of essays, Atom and Void: Essays on Science and Community (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989).
16. For more on the Americanization of the rocket team, see Michel Bas-Zorhas, The Hunt for German Scientists (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1967), 143-44 and RaySpangenburg and Diane K. Moser, Wemher von Braun: Space Visionary and Rocket Engineer (New York: Facts On File, 1995).
17. According to William Sims Bainbridge’s investigation into the class backgrounds of the spaceflight advocates, von Braun was one of only two men who came from the upper class. His biographer, Erik Bergaust, notes that although von Braun’s father, Freiherr Magnus von Braun, was a baron of the Prussian Junker aristocracy, this was not common knowledge. Within the American context, such status is generally kept out of public discourse. See William Sims Bainbridge, The Spaceflight Revolution: A Sociological Study (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976), 37. The British, however, had no such egalitarian pretensions. In the immediate postwar era, the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society published a biographical sketch by Willy Ley that makes clear von Braun’s connection with German aristocracy. Ley notes that the prewar von Braun was contemptuous of both the Weimar Republic and of the Nazis. These attitudes were typical of his class and formed a plank in “the political platform of the Deutsche Adels Gesellschaft (Society of German Nobility),” the party of Magnus von Braun, who served the Weimar Republic as Minister of Agriculture and Education (Willy Ley, “Correspondence: Count von Braun,” Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 6 [June 1947], 155). David F. Noble argues that von Braun’s assimilation into the American mainstream was aided by the assumption of a fundamentalist Christian faith, which also accounts for von Braun’s success in making the spaceflight dream consonant with the Bible Belt sensibility of the southern state in which he lived and worked (David F. Noble, The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997], 126-29).
18. Frederick I. Ordway III and Mitchell Sharpe, The Rocket Team (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1979), 408-9. Adolf K. Thiel, a member of the German rocket team, was one of the fourteen Germans that Allied security classified as “potential or actual threats to the US” because of long-term membership in the Nazi Party and/or membership in the SS or SA. Von Braun was also included on that list (Bower, 237).
19. Stuhlinger and Ordway, 94.
20. See, for example, the scholarship of Dale Carter and Michael J. Neufeld and Tom Lehrer’s incisive 1965 satire, “Wemher von Braun,” Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981), 124-25.
21. Stuhlinger and Ordway, 251.
22. Spangenburg and Moser, viii.
23. Mike Wright, “The Disney-Von Braun Collaboration and Its Influence on Space Exploration,” Inner Space/Outer Space: Humanities, Technology and the Postmodern World, ed. Daniel Schenker, Craig Hanks, and Susan Kray (Huntsville, Ala.: Southern Humanities Press, 1993), 153.
24. Michael J. Neufeld, “Weimar Culture and Futuristic Technology: the Rocketry and Spaceflight Fad in Germany, 1923-1933,” Technology and Culture 31, no. 4 (October 1990): 725-52.
25. Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985).
26. Steven Watts, The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 312.
27. For an incisive account of the Chicago (1933) and New York (1939) fairs, see Robert W. Rydell’s valuable World of Fairs: The Century of Progress Expositions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
28. Marc Eliot, Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince, a Biography (Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1993), 224-25.
29. Watts, 304.
30. Wright, 156.
31. Randy Liebermann, “The Collier’s and Disney Space Series,” Blueprint for Space: Science Fiction to Science Fact, ed. Frederick I. Ordway III and Randy Liebermann (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), 145. See also Wright, 156.
32. Liebermann, 146. Wright recounts that Ward Kimball, Disney’s producer for the Man in Space series, wanted to make this connection as a promotional strategy. Von Braun, fearful of publicity that would derail the political commitment to spaceflight, intervened (Wright, 155-56).
33. Tom D. Crouch, Aiming for the Stars: The Dreamers and Doers of the Space Age (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999), 121.
34. Spangenburg and Moser, 35. Concern for the safety of a valuable engineer, however, prompted officials to block his youthful aspirations in this direction (Neu- feld, Rocket and Reich, 58).
35. For more on the racism that accompanied the United States’s war with Japan, see John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986).
36. See the documentary “A Civil Rights Journey,” which includes film footage of the time recorded by Huntsville African American physician Sonnie Hereford (Calhoun Community College, “Calhoun News Release,” [database online] cited 20 September 2001 <www.calhoun.cc.al.us/Prelations/releases2001/civilrightsjoumey.htm>).
37. Sputnik I, launched on 4 October 1957, was “the shot heard ’round the world.” The Russians quickly followed this success with Sputnik II, launched 3 November 1957.
38. Lewis, 58.
39. “Space: Reach for the Stars,” Time, 17 February 1958, 22.
40. T. Keith Glennan, The Birth of NASA: The Diary ofT. Keith Glennan (Washington, D.C.: NASA History Office, 1993), 167.
42. Ordway and Sharpe, 408-9. Referring to his bibliography on von Braun’s work, Mitchell Sharpe notes, “You will quickly see that most of the items are articles and books for the popular press. Von Braun knew where his customers lay: the men in the street and the men in Congress (those who held the NASA purse-strings).” Mitchell R. Sharpe, letter to author, 5 November 1988, Huntsville, Ala.
43. Bergaust, 18.
44. Ibid., 311.
45. “Science fact” is used within the science-fiction community to distinguish actual knowledge from literary speculation.
46. Sagan, Broca’s Brain, 162-64.
47. Stuhlinger and Ordway, 250-51.
48. Walter McDougall notes that, “Science fiction books and magazines rebounded from the wartime slump (with its paper shortage) to reach a circulation by 1949-53 double the prewar peak and seven times the wartime trough. In 1951 Life magazine estimated the science fiction readers in the United States at over 2 million” (100).
49. Ordway and Sharpe, 408.
50. Bergaust, 155-56.
51. Ibid., 156.
52. Wemher von Braun, The Mars Project (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962 ), 2.
53. Glennan, 23.
54. Wemher von Braun, “Prelude to Space,” Across the Space Frontier, ed. Cornelius Ryan (New York: Viking Press, 1952), 50-56.
55. This, of course, is also long before the creation of NASA, with its ostensibly civilian-directed space program, which stabilized the institutional matrix around which a rhetoric of peaceful intent might form. In later years, the peaceful benefits of space exploration would get a more elaborate articulation in the work of von Braun and other astrofuturists, partially as a response to criticisms from the left. At the same time, von Braun would become more explicit about the importance of the high frontier to the security of the free world (Wemher von Braun, Space Frontier [Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1969], 183).
56. Von Braun, Across the Space Frontier, 52-53.
57. Ibid., 56.
58. H. Bruce Franklin, War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
59. Stuhlinger and Ordway, 115. Italics in original.
60. Beryl Williams and Samuel Epstein, Rocket Pioneers: On the Road to Space (New York: Julian Messner, 1958), 160. The authors note that Ley was at the “the core of the Society’s research program,” along with Klaus Riedel, Rudolph Nebel, and von Braun.
61. The meeting occurred in 1930 (Bergaust, 40, Spangenberg and Moser, 18). Oberth, “the Father of Modem Rocketry,” is credited with sparking post-World War I interest in rocketry and space flight among Germans (Williams and Epstein, 144; for Oberth’s influence on Ley, 117). He also opened a correspondence with Robert H. Goddard prior to the publication of Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen. A brief exchange of information was followed by Goddard’s nervous campaign to establish priority for his innovations in liquid-fueled rocketry (RHG, 485-86, 497-98).
62. According to his biography in Contemporary Authors, Ley had at least a reading knowledge of eight languages including his own: French, Dutch, Latin, Italian, German, English, Russian, and classical Greek (Contemporary Authors, Vol. 9-12: 523).
63. Williams and Epstein, 121-23 and Frank H. Winter, Prelude to the Space Age: The Rocket Societies, 1924-1940 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983), 22. The initial success of the German spaceflight movement in the late 1920s is accounted for by the compensatory narratives it offered of German technological superiority after the national defeat in the late war (Neufeld, Rocket and Reich, 8). Peter S. Fisher extends consideration of the racist and nationalist strands of Weimar era tech- nischer Zukunftsroman (technological future novel) in Fantasy and Politics: Visions of the Future in the Weimar Republic (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), 104-56.
64. R. H. Goddard to Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker, 10 June 1944, Worcester, The Papers of Robert H. and Ester C. Goddard, Box 13, Special Collections, Robert H. Goddard Library, Clark University, Worcester, Mass. Goddard wrote this letter in response to a review that Wilson had written in The New Yorker on Ley’s Rockets: The Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere (New York: Viking, 1944).
65. R. H. Goddard to G. Edward Pendray, 4 September 1944, Worcester, RHG II.
66. Ley attempts to prove this in Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel (the 1957 revision of Rockets), by pointing out the limited appeal (though importance) of Goddard’s 1920 monograph “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes” in scientific circles, its small circulation in a Europe recovering from the disruption of World War I, and Goddard’s refusal to participate in the information network of the early rocket community (Willy Ley, Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel [New York: Viking Press, 1957], 108, 133). He also notes Goddard’s tardiness in publishing his findings (145). We should not, of course, entirely discount the possibility that Ley was willing to promote the VfR’s precedence in rocketry in the interests of German nationalism.
67. Neufeld, Rocket and Reich, 5, 8. Crouch notes that public enthusiasm for spaceflight in Germany during the late 1920s was popularly recognized as a “raketen- rummer (rocket craze) (Crouch, 51).
68. Neufeld, Rocket and Reich, 24.
69. Contemporary Authors, Vol. 9-10, s.v. Ley, Willy (Robert Willey).
70. Neufeld, Rocket and Reich, 26.
71. Ibid., 27.
72. Ordway and Sharpe, 104-5.
73. That company included Albert Einstein, Paul Tillich, Kurt Weill, and many of the scientists who became involved in the Manhattan Project (Klaus Wurst and Heinz Moos, Three Hundred Years of German Immigrants in North American: 1683-1983 [Baltimore, Md.: Heinz Moos Publishing, 1983], 178; Gerald Abraham, The Oxford Concise History of Music [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979], 823; and Laura Fermi, Illustrious Immigrants: The Intellectual Migration from Europe 1930-41 [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971]).
74. Frank Winter provides a detailed account of the forces that drove the German rocket enthusiasts apart in the early 1930s. By 1932, the VfR suffered from a series of internal conflicts that occurred between Rudolph Nebel, the de facto president of the society, and the group’s board of directors. Nebel was a P. T. Bamum type whose promotional schemes involved promising technological miracles he could not deliver, often leaving prospective investors disappointed. One of his bolder schemes prompted the board to take him to court. The action exacerbated a leadership crisis that the society had been struggling with for some time. Ley, the vice president, had moved out of participating in the society’s experimental program and into the more rewarding work of popular science (spaceflight) lecturing. The society’s president, Winkler, was absent working on a secret project with an industrialist. And von Braun, who was to become one of rocketry’s most successful managers, was lured away by the German Army. In other words, it was not simply economics and the intervention of the government and politics that drove the VfR apart, as Ley and other historians of the period would have us believe, but the internal divisions that are inevitable in a small, amateur group (Winter, 44-50). Michael Neufeld records that Nebel was also involved in disputes with Army Ordinance over how rocketry should be developed by the Weimar Republic. There is little doubt that these conflicts hardened the Reichwehr’s commitment to keep all rocket work to itself (Neufeld, Rocket and Reich, 26-28).
75. Ordway and Sharpe, 103.
76. Williams and Epstein, 169.
77. Astounding Science Fiction (ASF) continues as Analog Science Fiction/ Science Fact, which remains a popular forum for astrofuturist fact and fiction.
78. Jon Gustafson, “Ley, Willy,” Science Fiction Encyclopedia, ed. Peter Nicholls (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979), 354.
79. A partial list of those books includes: Chesley Bonestell and Willy Ley, The Conquest of Space (1950); Cornelius Ryan, ed., Across the Space Frontier (1952); Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration of Space (1951); R. A. Smith and Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration of the Moon (1954); Willy Ley and Wemher von Braun, The Exploration of Mars (1956); and Wemher von Braun, First Men to the Moon (1960).
80. Ley was undoubtedly aware of the precedent Lasser set with the title in the early 1930s. The traffic between the VfR and the AIS allowed for the sharing of fiction and technical information. Indeed, R. F. Starzl, a science-fiction writer and early AIS member, mailed the first issue of Science Wonder Stories to Willy Ley, “thus converting him instantly to science fiction.” These exchanges were essential to the imagined community that formed around the wonderful dream. Ley’s new Conquest can be read as an homage to the Lasser’s initial statement. See Eric Leif Davin, Pioneers of Wonder: Conversations with the Founders of Science Fiction (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1999), 33.
81. Quoted in Frederick C. Durant III and Ron Miller, Worlds Beyond: The Art of Chesley Bonestell, (Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Va.: Donning/Starblaze, 1983), 8.
82. Lester Del Rey, The World of Science Fiction: 1926-1976, The History of a Subculture (New York: Ballantine Books, 1979), 189.
83. The John C. Winston Company published a series of hardbound science- fiction juveniles in the 1950s under the editorial direction of Lester Del Rey. Del Rey’s work on the series owed a lot to literary and experimental initiatives of von Braun, Ley, and company.
84. O. B. Hardison, Jr., Disappearing Through the Skylight: Culture and Technology in the Twentieth Century (New York: Viking, 1989), 139. See also Thomas Hine, Populuxe (New York: Knopf, 1986), 83-90.
85. Michael A. G. Michaud, Reaching for the High Frontier: The American Pro- Space Movement, 1972-84 (New York: Praeger, 1986), 8.
86. Chesley Bonestell and Willy Ley, The Conquest of Space (New York: Viking Press, 1950), 55.
87. Ibid., 56. On Leeuwenhoek’s invention of the microscope, see Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Ballantine Books, 1980), 117.
88. Bonestell and Ley, 55. Levania is Kepler’s name for the Moon. Ley expanded on his systemization of the history of astronomy in his Watchers of the Skies: An Informal History of Astronomy from Babylon to the Space Age (New York: Viking Press, 1969 ).
89. Bonestell and Ley, 95.
90. Willy Ley, Engineers’ Dreams (New York: Viking Press, 1954).
91. While the pulp-fiction and boys’ literature of the early twentieth century was dominated by westerns and urban detective stories, stories in which heroic engineering and engineers played a role were also popular. The best of these is the Doc Savage series originally published from 1933 to 1949. Doc Savage is a superhuman scientist who travels the world righting wrongs in the company of “the five greatest brains ever assembled in one group” (Kenneth Robeson, World’s Fair Goblin [New York: Bantam Books, 1969 (1939)], back cover). One of those brains is an appropriately heroic civil engineer.
92. Further examples can be found in the work of J. D. Bernal, Jacques Ellul, and Freeman Dyson (J. D. Bernal, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil: An Inquiry Into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969 (1929)]; Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society [New York: Vintage Books, 1964]; and Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe [New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1981]). We shall see further examples of this obsession with large-scale engineering in astrofuturist proposals in the chapters that follow.
93. Ley, Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel, 331.
95. Kenneth McArdle, ed., A Cavalcade of Collier’s (New York: A. S. Barnes, 1959), xii.
96. Ryan, iv.
98. Jeremy Bernstein, “Profiles: Out of the Ego Chamber,” The New Yorker 45, no. 25, 9 August 1969, 46. A correspondence between Lasser and Clarke followed the publication of the profile and lasted until the former’s death. Clarke was happy to show off his copy of Lasser’s pioneering book to interested visitors (Arthur C. Clarke, letter to David Lasser, 2 December 1986, Colombo, Sri Lanka, DLP).
99. Sagan, Broca’s Brain, 172.In: Astrofuturism: Science, Race and Visions of Utopia in Space. Philadelphia, 2003, pp. 49-81.