Chattanooga Daily Times from Chattanooga, Tennessee on October 26, 1958 · 19
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

Chattanooga Daily Times from Chattanooga, Tennessee · 19

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 26, 1958
Start Free Trial

Von Braun Evaluates Space (This interview was given by Dr Wernher von Braunt to Ho VI Brandon the Washington representative of The Bunday Times of London It was pubished in the Oct 5 edition in England and is reprinted with permission) — By HENRY BRANDON UNTSVILLE Ala—I asked the corporal who drove me beck to the airport after my interview with Dr Wernher von Braun the director of the de- velopment operations division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency how people on the base felt about him He said: "Look What he has done for this place! In 1950 it had 16000 inhabitants today it has 50000 and the payroll has gone up to 100 million dollars a year Were proud of him" I had gone to see Dr von Braun who was responsible for developing the V-2 for Nazi Germany with mixed feelings but with his slightly heavy yet urbane old-world charm his in- formality and his arresting con- versation he put me quickly at ease He looks and sounds Teutonic though his American-English is remarkably fluent T h e simplicity with which he can explain the most complicated problems on the other hand is quite un-German HERE in Huntsville which according to the large road sign as you enter the town considers itself "the Space Capital of the Universe" one can see how the missiles are developed from the gleam in von Braun's eye to the time when they are ready for' the crews to be trained in their use At 46 Dr von Braun can look back at a remarkable career He fortunately did not quite build the "ultimate" weapon for Germany and today some of the West's best missiles were his brain-child He becomes slightly uncomfortable talking about his past under the Nazis but he feels that it was simply bad luck and destiny to have been born in Germany and to have become as a scientist the prisoner of the military With unmistakable pride and satisfaction he showed me the cable of congratulations Brit- ain's Minister of Defence Mr Duncan Sandys sent him after he had succeeded in launching Explorer I America's first sue cessful satellite It said in part: - " you and I had some differences during the war I ant glad we are now working together for the same cause " 0NCE or twice von Braun asked me to shut off the 7 tape recorder when he was not quite sure sure whether he was violating security but he was nevertheless amazingly at ease ' Here in how our tape-recorded interview went: BRANDON: In the world of spaèe flight the United States seem to concentrate now on getting to the moon whereas the Russians seem to be thinking more of trying to bring a human being into space What Is the reason for this differentiation in effort? VON BR AU N: I'm not so sure whether this is really established fact or just conjecture There are some indications that the Russians are more interested in the man-inspace aspect at this time but I would not say that this necessarily Indicates they're not going after the moon also From the money point of view the situation looks to me a bit like this for either project you need big rockets and these big rockets —in Russia as well as in the United States—are essentially developed with military means the ICBMs and the IRBMs Whether you use these rockets for men-experiments in space —or as the first stage of a carrier to the moon—is more or less a question of task assignment of the basic rocket BRANDON: But they have developed t h e possibilities of shooting animals into space and there do seem indications of a certain concentration on that - VON BRAUN: I wouldn't say so I think the carrier that must have been used for Sput- nik III is most certainly powerful enough to throw some thing in the general direction of the moon and pass the moon and even pass out of the gravitational field of the earth You see it takes about 98 per cent of the speed required to escape the gravitational field of the ' earth to go to the moon It really doesn't make any difference whether you're talking here about escape opeed or speed to hit the moon By just putting a solid rocket—a highly-efficient solid rocket—singlestage on top of the Sputnik III carrier the Russians should be able to reach escape velocity and shoot the solid rocket if they want to in the general direction of the moon But the difficulty is if you don't carry a guidance system : in the top stage it is not so : simple to hit the moon The i typical travel time to the moon : is sixty hours If you have a sI ightly different terminal : xpeed — say: fifty-nine hours instead of sixty which is not too : much of a difference—then the : moon as it orbits around the : earth will already in this one : hour have preceeded along its own orbital path by about one moan diameter which means that you miss the moon by this amount : It may very well be that the Russians have decided that there's very little point in shoot: ing something past the moon : at least from the propaganda point of view—that they'd rather wait until they have a terminal guidance system to THE CHATTANOOGA CHA'rTANOOGA TENN SUNDAY OCTOBER 28 1958 --Associsted Press Wirephoto A grin and a globe for the first US moon put into that top stage and then make a real splash on the moon that people can see BRANDON: I think the Rue-slang indicated at Amsterdam that they consider shooting past the moon just a stunt VON BRAUN: I don't think it is a stunt because you can get some information out of it but in all these new tests the question of what is a stunt and what is real progress is a little bit doubtful Take Bleriot's flight across the Channel' you can say well if the man can fly thirty minutes across land he should be able to fly across water so the fact that he chose to fly across the water was a stunt Yet it made history BRANDON: Can you give me any idea of how many millions of pounds of initial thrust it would take to fire a man to the moon— or for a trip in a satellite—assuming that he would have enough supplies to subsist in space for several days? VON BRAUN: I think this depends entirely again on the scope of the objective If the objective Is to get a man into a satellite orbit — a single man — leave him there for a few orbits and then re' trieve him safely to the earth this is about the minimum sustained space-flight that you can achieve By "sustained" I mean as compared with a ballistic missile flight where you know in advance the thing comes back into the atmosphere fifteen or twenty minutes after you have fired it If you get a man up in an orbit you can keep him there if you want to as long as you wish But you may plan the experiment in such fashion that you don't give him even food and only an oxygen supply for two days because you want to get him down after ten orbits or fifteen That can be done with our ICBMs as boosters—like the Atlas —and it can also be done if you squeeze a little hard with our IRBIL I would say the minimum thrust you need to do this is between 150 and 200000-pound thrust and it is simpler if you have twice that much But you don't need a million With a million-pound thrust you can get two men in orbit sustain them there for a substantial period give them all kinds of equipment to make ob By JOY MILLER Associated Press Stan writer H ADLEY Mass — Elizabeth Porter Phelps is a very genteel ghost One of the oldest practicing apparitions in this country and certainly one of the most socially acceptable she's a tiny lady in rustling silk and frilled white cap who passes the years haunting the Porter-Phelps-Huntington house where she lived a couple of centuries ago She never indulges in the phantasmal flummery often affected by Jess demure ghosts You'll never catch her wailing like a banshee moving furniture like a poltergeist or flapping sheets P t trayeters on onely roads like the traditional haunt ' She'd rather tuck children in bed So the report goes And a very much flesh-and-blood descendant of Elizabeth Dr Jams L Huntington who spent his Arly summers on the estate and lives there now recalls: "Some of us as children woke up at night to find a figure bend' ing over the bed someone whose full skirt of oddly patterned design and frilled while rap were perfectly visible in the dark Our aunts would say 'Oh don't alind that That's Just Elizabeth We've all seen hen' " These days though with no youngsters around the motherly shade keeps pretty much to herself Occasionally she makes a midnight trip to the attic or takes a turn at the spinning wheel In the narth kitchen Sometimes the swishes through a room to see who's been invited servations physical measure ments—you can equip them with lavish telemetry to check on the -- physical well-being of the people and all that And with a million pound you should most certainly be able to get one or two men in a trip around the moon with a landing back on the earth—but not including a landing on the moon Itself The moment you include a landing on the moon you have to make additional allowance for the fuel for the landing and departure And all this fuel must be got to the moon to begin with so the initial rocket is substantially larger In addition to this to land people on the moon if they are to do more than just walk importantly around the landed rocket there you have to equip them with say transportation and housing and exploratory tools and equipment to do something useful And all this costs weight BRANDON: What Ts really the problem in producing a million-pound thrust? VON BRAUN: I would say the main problem is the dollars —money You can get a miilion-pound thrust in the simplest form by clustering existing engines When you come to very large units where you will have too many of these engines in a cluster it pays off to have bigger units to begin with BRANDON: But it isn't any thing more than an engineering problem is it? VON BRAUN: Nothing more than that And very straightforward engineering too It's just costly because it involves large test facilities and you burn up a lot of fuel making the tests BRANDON: You were saying that a million-thrust engine is a question of dollars you were also thinking of the experimentation that goes into it? VON BRAUN: Yes The development of such a new engine today—until it can ' be flight certified which means you'd be willing to put a man into a rocket powered by such an engine—is a question of oh to give you a "ball park figure" 100 million dollars Once you have it the problem is to produce it It's a question of maybe one million dollars BRANDON: Are you aiming to the house (Once in a while the guest is unaware the house is haunted and asks who rustled by beiore he cm turn to see The announcement he has been inspected by a ghost has an under standably unsettling effect) 4 But Elizabeth has never been known to harm a sine utter a scund or leav the estate at Forty Acres "She's really a member of the family" says Dr Huntington "But then of course she L She's My great-great-grandmother" nit Huntington tall and white' betzded is retire from obstetrics practice in Boston and Northampton He lives with his wife in the converted carriage house connected by a long arched arcade to the big house—a three-story white clapboard colonial mansion with a gam'rel roof It stands exactly the way it was in 1799 when the last structural change was made Then Elizabeth's husband Charles Phelps added the third floor to the house Elizabeth's father had built 41 years before Dr Huntington has taken great pains to preserve the family furnishings and it must make Elizabeth feel very much at home On her spectral strait through the quiet unheated rooms—which In winter grow as icy cold as the air that people say strikes them when she brushes past—she possibly runs her ethereal fingers tenderly over the pewter Lowestoft china and antique furniture some of it old when she was a girl The only mom not in keeping with the colonial decor is the study Of Bishop Frederic Hunting t Race its at an engine of say one million pound thrust — or something closer to the kind of rocket motors the Russians are using? VON BRAUN The Advance Research Project Agency only a few days ago gave us here at the Army Ballistic Missile ' Agency the assignment and on a high priority -- to construct a liquid-propelled booster engine wi th an approximate thrust of more than one million pounds We will 11110 motors similar to those used in the IRBMs or ICBMs: I mean already existing motors and cluster them into a single unit This is the quickest and least expensive way of going about building such a big engine BRANDON: A great many serious scientists say that it would be a waste of time and money to work now on sending human beings into space that plenty of new scientific data about apace can be otained simply by instruments VON BRAUN: There are lots of things you can measure and determine with instrumentation We are doing just that with our Explorers —so I'm certainly not against this approach And as more and more weight becomes available in satellites the equipment Klerk' tlfIc5 equipment measuring equipment that we can send up can become more sophisticated and our measurements refined The Russians' big Sputnik III is a flying laboratory S But when it comes to the role of man I think we should realize that there are certain area s where instrumentation just isn't so suitable especially in areas w he re judgment is needed Let's take a hypothetical case of a space ship landing on Mars I wouldn't know how to design an instrument to tell me from the surface of Mars ' whether there's life there and what kind of life To analyse such problems to analyse the improbable there's nothing like the human brain BRANDON: Do you think England should go into t his space field? VON BRAUN: Absolutely I think we all belong there—and space is a big place there's room for all of us With at least one project that's going on you are about to get a very fine tool in this area—the IRBM BRANDON: How good an en gine is t h a t compared with yours? VON BRAUN: You mean the Rolls-Royce engine? As far as I know Rolls-Royce have a licensing agreement with Rocket-dyne This first engine is essentially a Rocketdyne engine built by Rolls-Royce It will have all the hallmarks of the Rolls- Royce manufacturpg quality but I would say as far as its basic engineering feature Is concerned it is essentially a licensed engine I expect that from this departure Rolls-Royce will probably decide to go their own way and come up with their own ideas BRANDON: What are the criteria for a missile to become an operational instrument? I read not long ago that it will take some time before even a 150 per cent overall reliability of rockets can be achieved VON BRAUN: I wouldn't say that With our Redstone rocket we are much better than that right now The Jupiter and the Thor have their teething prob lems There's no short cut to this you just have to bite your way through these troubles BRANDON: A lot has been 1 said about the advantages and disadvantages of liquid and solid-propelled missiles How do you feel about this? ' VON BRAUN: This can't be answered in a sweeping state rnent either way In order to throw a certain weight say a military warhead over a given range you need a total impulse ---the product of thrust and burning time Today for warhead weights and ranges as we have them in the Jupiter or 3 hr41 by A14 41 o00 4' t- I vod —Associated Press Photo The Haunted 4-Poster ton the dodoes grandfather who made Forty Acres his summer home the last half of the Hill century It was during his tenure that Elizabeth reportedly made her first appearance "We don't know what she was doing in the meantime but in 1864 —CI years after her death—she turned up in a maids room standing by her bed The maids screams brought the whole family My father wrote about it in a letter to a classmate at Harvard Problems —Associated Press Wire DhotisExpressing his views for a Senate committee the Thor there's no solid rocket available anywhere that car do the trick And if you were to build one it would be such an awful monstrosity as far as transportation is concerned you couldn't airlift it and even its transportation on shipboard would be an awful thing By reducing the payload w eigh t as has been done on the Polaris you can reduce the missile's weigh t and by cutting the warhead weight down you can do the same thing with a smaller MiSgile Now in the case of the Polaris and this is a very important thing it is the first IRBM that has ever been built as to solid rocket and the firing base is a submarine Under these conditions rather heavy loads can be handled relatively conveniently Now we are as you probably know presently developing a solid-rocket missile that is called the Pershing which will be a longer range Army ballistic missile this will also have solid propellants But this missile is broken down into Individual components that are so light that the thing can be airlifted BRANDON: What range will that have? - VON BRAUN: The maximum range of the Pershing is classi-f tied but it's more than the Redstone and less than the Jupiter But here again it has a much lighter payload You see the fundamental advantages of the liquid rocket is that you can ship it empty and you can load It up with five-gallon containers It you wish The solid rocket always comes as one big unit When you come to the very big units It's like shipping the Leaning Tower of Pisa through the countryside BRANDON: Mr Dubridge the President of the Californian Institute of Technology once said of the space platform that from military point of view it is not very useful Are you thinking of the space platform mainly for scientific purposes—because he said it is about as difficult to get one human being back to earth as it is to project a bomb back to earth—since it is very difficult to land it in exactly the right place? VON BRAUN: I don't like the GreatGreat-Grandmother Is a Very Nice Ghost "That was the first reference to Elizabeth's return" says Dr Huntington But she made up for lost time and the house quickly gained a reputation as haunted The family had difficulty keeping domestic) help Even in the summer of 1922 when the house was being readied for Dr Huntington's mother his sister bad to stay in view of the cleaning women every minute When she went outdoors they accompanied her in a body and wait ed until she led them back inside There has been no real family life in the old house since his mother died in 1926 says the doctor but the second-floor bedrooms are still used as guest rooms for visiting relatives No one ever sleeps in the first floor bedroom however About 15 years ago the imprint of a small person kept appearing on the white coverlet of the canopied bed Smoothed out the same in dentatiom would be there the next day Somehow no one ever want ed to stay in the room after that A BOUT three years ago a faun- 11 dation was set up to maintain the historic house as a museum with Dr Huntington as curator From May to October he guides visitors through the house pointing out its treasures And although probably the eerie reputation attracts as many as its fine old architecture and furnish ings — a fact Dr Huntington deplcres—Elizabeth has never seen fit to perform for he general public Nor for the college professors and psychic investirators who have spent nights in an upstairs bedroom hopefully waiting for something to happen and Potentials word "bomb" because it is quite obvious that you can't drop a bomb from an orbit at all I mean if you try to detach it from its shackle in a rocket-plane or a space-station it simply wouldn't fall down because it has the same speed and is also suspended in the orbit What we should be talking about is launching guided missiles from such a space platform and the technique would be to provide them with a relatively small— probably solid rocket charge and fire them in the direction opposite to the orbital movement BRANDON: The space platform has to be manned I pre-rime? VON BRAUN: Yes in this case it would be manned But when I say "space platform" I don't necessarily mean a doughnut-shaped huge thing with a hundred or two hundred people inside It can actually be a hypersonic plane equipped with say 20 such guided missiles —7 but this hypersonic plane would be temporarily at least in an orbit It could go in orbit three times around the earth fire these missiles and then land again BRANDON: Does such a plane exist? VON BRAUN: It doesn't exist today There's still some argument about the military value of all this My personal feeling is that this unfortunate tendency of making things into weapon systems too early just In order to get the big money rather than the small amount available for research and de velopment projects only forces people to make all kinds of statements as to how to utilize such things for military purposes before they even know how to survive up there I consider this whole business of putting a man into space and getting him back alive and observing from space and so forth as a research and development problem in essence However I am convinced that these guided missiles from an orbit have a very great military potentials And if people say they can't see why they should get it up in the orbit to begin with you might as well say there's no point in carrying a bomb up to Most of her descendants and their iriends however say that at one time or another they have seen heard or felt her presence Just a summer ago Dr Huntington's brother Paul a retired Episcopal minister visiting front Richmond Va was startled to see the shadow of a small person on the floor of the north kitchen A chill wind encircled him as he stool there watching the shadow retreat they) disappear No sun shines through the north windows lie could not have cast the shadow himself ' "That's what he said he saw" says Dr Huntington with a smile "and you have to take the word of a minister" And there's the experience of Dr Huntington's late brother Frederic "He was a powerful fellow—on ' Harvard's varsity football team" says the doctor "and certainly not one given to 'hearing things' For two nights when he was sleeping In the attic bedroom one summer he heard the grandfather clock in the downstairs hall strike midnight then the second floor deor to the attic open and Elizabetit'S firm steps come up "Well he stuck it out for two nights On the third when he heard the steps he bolted As he plunged down the stairs he said a small figure moved politely to one side to let him pass—and the Icy eold surrounding it chilled him to the bone That big brawny lad never went to the attic) again" 19 40000 feet in order to drop it again BRANDON: But if you can send an ICBM over 5000 miles why do you need to? VON BRAUN: In the first place the ICBM has its drawbacks The ICBM is fine and good when you know exactly where your target is There may be conditions where you don't know For example the Russians don't publish geographteal co-ordinates of their atomic plants and the like as we do Such things may be discovered from an orbit Point Two is of course the question of moving targets because the ICBM nor the IRBM will do you any good whatsoever Whereas when you have a space station with missiles that you can aim at sight you don't even care where they are exactly you just shoot them down with the line-of-sight method I would mention one more thing This may sound a little fantastic but I believe that even this has a future I believe that with these guided missiles launched from a satellite you can even get after airplanes after high-flying bombers Bombers flying at 40000 to 50000 feet are well above the clouds but from the vantage point of a space station you will see these bombers crawling over the cloud cover like bedbugs BRANDON: What is really the driving force in your work I VON BRAUN: I got in all this as a kid when I was interested in astronomy When I was fourteen my parents gave me an astronomical telescope so as a yohngster I spent many hours watching the skies and looking at the moon and the planets Then I saw a little booklet on astronomy and there was an announcement Professor Obert had written on the attainability of the planets by means of rockets I was startled by the mathematics it contained I worked my way through it and—well ever since that day rockets have been my life BRANDON: Are you yourself yearning to get into space? VON BRAUN: Oh yes Let's look at it realistically By the time we can put man into space they'll probably pick some younger men to make the first exploratory trips But this is the Age of the Flying Grandmothers It may be that by the time I'm a grandfather grandfathers on the moon or on space stations will be a very customary sight BRANDON: It's not just the desire for technical accomplishments? VON BRAUN: No I think it is just curiosity—I want to know what it's like out there on the moon and I think curiosity has always been ray main motive I think curiosity is what makes a scientist—I guess I'm a scientist but if it takes engineering means to get there then I am probably an engineer BRANDON: Where do you think the Russians have been able to get ahead of us? I mean apart from the fact that they have almost unlimited means at their disposal? VON BRAUN: I don't think they have The Russian effort in engineering and science is just as limited by their total resources as it would be in any country but it's a question of emphasis and priority The Russians decided to go into this rocket business maybe a little earlier than the decision was made in this country and as a result they are a little bit ahead of us right now You can't buy back lost time with any amount of money BRANDON: How much of an edge do the Russians have? VON BRAUN: Well my personal analysis is that they simply have big ICBM-type rockets flying—and reasonably reliable —things of the Atlas class you might say—that are still in the experimental stage in this country But before you weigh the relative strength of the two nations you should look at the over-all situation For example even if the Russians have an ICBM that is reasonably reliable and could drop bombs on New York or on Washington they know that if they tried the entire Strategic Air Comrnand would be unleashed Within a couple of hours all major Russian cities would be in ashes so they would still not shoot For that reason I believe it's unrealistic to say that for a year or two the Russians have the edge on us because our Adel isn't ready and theirs is BRANDON: How far do you think we've gone with the development of the anti-missile missile now? ON BRAUN: Well this is so far a project I would say the anti-missile missile is recognized today as feasible limited to certain defense areas It is not the kind of thing in which you can say that once we have an anti-missile missile no point in England or the United States can be hit at all by a missile ''' But it appears to be entirely feasible to provide a means of defense for say the city of London or the ci ty of New York It's not available today it's feasible to build it and a great effort is going on in this area but I think it's a question of several years BRANDON: Would the suspension of nuclear tests delay the anti-missile missile development? VON BRAUN: That's a hot one I think this is a loaded question As a scientist I must say that there is little doubt that you can make better progress by being able to go on experimenting but the question you asked me is of much bigger scope It must be decided on a south broader basis by people who can assess the entire implications t 1 1 ' ' ' 'l 1 ' -1 ' 1 ' - ' i 1 ' 1 le g 1 ! 1 i ) ! ‘ 't i 4 ' 1 - 1 '' ' " " ? i ' 1 '' ' 1 - 1 s 1 '' !i 9 '4' A - - f i L h' i § ' A ' : ' —Associated Press WirePhotO ' iLt - 4 0 0" ' t00 ' - 5ss 11 - ' 1 I 4 ' 1 t r ' t 4 4 2 1 1 0140 4 ' toboot

Clipped articles people have found on this page

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 22,600+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Try it free