Braun, Wernher von
- ink on paper
The architect of the V-2 rocket predicts that the space program holds the key to "Peace on Earth." Of the great canon of reinvention stories in American life few can be as startling as that of Wernher von Braun, the brilliant and charismatic rocket scientist who was transformed in little more than two decades from one of the chief weapons designers of the Third Reich to America's most influential proponent of space exploration.
Von Braun begins his article (which he had hoped to publish in Astronautics & Aeronautics) by claiming that the views of "Spaceship Earth" transmitted by Apollo spacecraft had been largely responsible for raising awareness of pollution, the limitations of natural resources, and the ecology movement. Ironically, he continues, because of "the sudden awareness to the Earth's limitations, the question is raised ever more frequently whether we should not take a substantial portion of the space dollars and devote it these 'more relevant' problems.'"
Not surprisingly, von Braun answers his own rhetorical question in the negative. He declares that the most significant issue facing Earth is "the Maintanence of Peace" and that "the space program can make a vital contribution" to this goal. High altitude imaging technology, von Braun argues, will allow mankind "to inventory the known resources, to locate the still undiscovered resources and to develop a global earth resources management system to make sure that the worldwide pattern of resource supply really meets the worldwide pattern of resource demands." The key to this strategy of resource management, von Braun maintains, is space flight: "While it is less costly to get an airplane aloft than to get a spacecraft in orbit, the spacecraft stays there for years without any further fuel consumption. On a miles-to-the-gallon or an hours-to-the-gallon basis, a long-life spacecraft beats a Honda scooter, hands down!"
In his conclusion, von Braun mentions the visit to the United States of Soyuz 9 cosmonauts Andrian Nikolayev and Vitaly Sevastyanov and envisions a time when U.S. and Soviet spacecraft will have a mutual docking capability and, so, can "begin to pursue some of these objectives together. Nothing," von Bruan writes, "could be more effective in convincing the multi-billion crew of our planetary spacecraft that there is at least some hope for Peace on Earth."