British Antipathy Of NASA?

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Apollo 09 David Scott podczas lotu Apollo 9 GPN-2000-001100.jpg This article is a Historical Essay
Written and submitted by
Grady Woodard.

Grady's Space Chronicles

British Antipathy To NASA?

On September 11, 1962, after the President gave his Moon Order at the Redstone Airstrip to the Marshall Space Flight Center’s Team in Huntsville, Alabama, a tour was given. It was after twelve noon we rushed to our Labs to get ready for the President’s visit to see our facilities and a Saturn C-1 static firing. We in the Manufacturing Engineering Lab had an awesome display set up in our Missile Assembly Building 4705 for the President and his dignitaries.

After viewing a display showing our planned trip to the Moon, a heated discussion of the best method of going to the Moon occurred between Dr. Wernher von Braun and Britton’s expert, Dr. Jerome Wiesner. President Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson appeared lost at that point in a tour of the space facility at Huntsville, Alabama. Others also present were NASA Administrator James Webb and US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The British wanted to directly hit the moon’s broadside with a Nova rocket and Dr. von Braun had select a lunar orbit and descend to the surface of the moon known as “The Moon Mode.” To end the argument, President Kennedy turns and said, “Show me something else!” The massive Nova was in our blueprints for a Mars trip.

The story behind the British controlling ego, antipathy or jealous mood if any, may be found in the following report.

Surrender of the German Scientists - The Soviet Army was about 160 km from Peenemünde in the spring of 1945 when von Braun assembled his planning staff and asked them to decide how and to whom they should surrender. The rumored Soviet cruelty to prisoners of war, von Braun and his staff decided to try to surrender to the Americans. After using forged papers to steal a train, von Braun led 500 people through war-torn Germany toward the American lines. The SS had meanwhile been issued with orders to kill the German engineers and destroy their records. The engineers, however, had hidden these in a mineshaft and continued to evade their own troops.

On May 2, 1945, Riding a bicycle and upon finding an American private, Dr. Wernher von Braun’s brother, greeted him "My name is Magnus von Braun. My brother invented the V-2. We want to surrender." In a check with the high Command, the group was in the British Zone and General Dwight Eisenhower turned the matter over to the British.

Following the surrender, the British and American command realized the importance of the engineers and immediately went to Peenemünde and Nordhausen to capture the remaining V-2s and their parts before destroying both sites with explosives. Enough V-2 parts were gathered for three V-2 rockets, the Germans with the parts were shipped to England. The plan was to have the German team assemble three V-2 rockets and launch them while everything was documented.

The first V-2 assembled failed on ignition. The second V-2 lifted off a short distance and blew up. The third V-2 did fly well into the skies before it blew up. The British felt they had what they wanted. After much debate about not finding the money for a rocket program, the British’s painful made a decision, it gave the Germans and the documents to the Americans. A bitter loss was held by the British for many years afterwards but, it was just what Dr. von Braun wanted!

Over 300 train-car loads of spare V-2 parts ultimately found their way to America. Much of von Braun's production team, however, was captured by the Russians. The V-2 rocket plans that had been hidden near Bad Sachsa in Germany were later recovered by members of the 332nd Engineer General Service Regiment.

The scientists, under the leadership of Dr. Wernher von Braun, were commanded into custody and brought to the United States by the U.S. government.

Finally, von Braun and his remaining Peenemünde staff were transferred to their new home at Fort Bliss, Texas, a large Army installation just north of El Paso as prisoners . While there they trained military, industrial and university personnel in the intricacies of rockets and guided missiles and helped to refurbish, assemble and launch a number of V-2s that had been shipped from Germany to the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. They also continued to study the future potential of rockets for military and research applications. Since they were not permitted to leave Fort Bliss without military escort, von Braun and his colleagues began to refer to themselves only half-jokingly as "Prisoners of Peace". The Germans later were given U.S. Work Permits to stay in America as workers, they were not prisoners anymore.

In 1950, Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team were transferred to Huntsville, Alabama, his home for the next twenty years with their families. Between 1950 and 1956, von Braun led the Army's rocket development team at Redstone Arsenal, resulting in the Redstone rocket. In 1955 von Braun became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

General Dwight Eisenhower became President and when the Russians launched their first satellite, he chose the Navy and Air Force to launch rockets for space, not Army’s Dr. von Braun’s German Rocket team. The President reserved the German team for War rockets. He told them if they ever say the word “Space,” they would be deported back to Germany! Things didn’t go well for the Navy and Air Force try in rockets as they blew up and the U.S. fell further behind. After Dr. von Braun bagged the President that his Team could place a satellite in space, Eisenhower gave von Braun 90 days. It was done in 88 days with a Redstone rocket. The Team continued to develop the Saturn 5 rocket and placed men on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

For a brief time in the 1960s, it looked as if Britain could be more than just a footnote in the annals of space history. Looking back at the British Space Program History, today we find these facts. Britain was home to one of, if not the leading companies in the world for the design and creation of small satellites.

Despite severe budgetary restrictions the UK had a very successful rocket research program in the 50s and 60s; even managing to put a satellite into orbit in 1971 (Prospero, carried by Black Arrow). The Blue Streak missile had a success rate only matched by the American Saturn V, but cost a fraction of what it's nearest American equivalent (the Atlas rocket) did. The Blue Streak was so good, in fact, that when the very first pan European launch vehicles, Europa 1 and 2, were flown the only bits that actually worked properly was the first stage: i.e. Blue Streak. They might seem hopelessly quaint to some, but a Blue Streak/Black Arrow combination (perhaps with a new third stage) is proven technology and would make an excellent and economic satellite launch vehicle. This would enable the UK to not only launch it's own independent scientific missions, without having to always rely on the good will of NASA, ESA and the Russians, but would also allow us to compete in the commercial satellite market.

But that's not all. Remember HOTOL? Like much of British industry the Thatcher years killed that particular dream, but it lives on in the form of Skylon. In a similar vein (the spaceplane) is the Bristol Spaceplanes Ascender, Spacecab and Spacebus concepts. The latter two of which could be used to transport astronauts/euronauts and cargo to the ISS. Britain isn't short of people with the vision and talent to make us a first rate space power, but sadly that's not reflected in the corridors of White Hall or the board rooms in Britain.

Many ask this question, “What if Britain was able to have kept the Germans engineers after WWII, how would Space History been changed?

Grady 18:42, 22 July 2012 (UTC)“