Lot 114
  • 114


20,000 - 30,000 USD
60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • "What is an Optimum Program?", 1960
Autograph manuscript, 22 pp (7 ¾ by 10 ¼ inches), in pencil on white lined notebook paper, written on rectos and versos of first 6 leaves, and rectos only of last 10 leaves. With extensive amendments and insertions, most in the hand of Bonnie Holmes, Von Braun's secretary, though with a few in Von Braun's hand. 

Catalogue Note

A SPECTACULAR, HEAVILY ANNOTATED AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT BY WERNHER VON BRAUN, THE ARCHITECT OF THE AMERICAN SPACE PROGRAM. Published in November 1960 in Astronautics (vol. 5, no. 11), this working manuscript draft for his visionary article differs slightly from the final published version.  It reads in part: "The purpose of this little treatise is neither to criticize nor to crusade. My objective is simply to clarify some of our semantics...All our missile and space systems are the result of careful optimization studies.... Just what is an optimum program? What is an optimized missile system?... WITH THE ADVENT OF THE SPUTNIKS AND LUNIKS, THIS COCKSURENESS WAS FOLLOWED BY A PERIOD OF SOUL-SEARCHING AND BREAST-BEATING AND MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT WE'D NEVER CATCH UP WITH THE RUSSIANS. I THINK IT'S ABOUT TIME TO SOBERLY APPRAISE THE OTHER FELLOW AND DEVISE A TECHNOLOGICAL STRATEGY BEST SUITED TO COPE WITH HIM. AFTER ALL, THE SOVIET UNION STILL HAS A LONG WAY TO GO UNTIL SHE WILL HAVE REACHED AMERICA'S —OR THE WESTERN WORLD'S—SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL PLATEAU. BUT SHE'S COMING UP FAST AND WE MUST NOT FIDDLE AROUND WITH NON-ESSENTIALS AND JEOPARDIZE OUR PRECARIOUS ELEVATED POSITION...."

It is interesting to see the various notes from Von Braun to his secretary Bonnie Holmes, and even more interesting to understand what a crucial role she had, as evidenced by the extensive amount of additions made in her hand. Yet another tangible piece of evidence pointing to the unrecognized role of women in the development of the American space program.