Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wernher von Braun's Secret PhD for Sale

‘Nazi’ Rocket Man’s PhD for Sale
December 04, 2007

A secret dissertation prepared for the Nazi regime by the father of modern rocketry goes under the hammer today. The 166-page manuscript, prepared by Wernher von Braun, is expected to sell for up to $30,000 when auctioned at Bonhams in New York (sale page, press release).

Von Braun worked on Germany’s World War II rockets before being secretly spirited away to the United States at the end of the conflict. There he helped to perfect ballistic missiles before leading NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and playing a crucial role in the space race.

The document up for sale today, entitled Design, Theoretical and Experimental Contributions to the Problem of the Liquid-Fuel Rocket and prepared for Von Braun’s PhD dissertation, was classified as ‘Top Secret’ and unpublished till 1960. It appears for auction alongside a copy of Mein Kampf signed by Adolf Hitler. “It’s one of the first monographs about rocket science. It represents that moment of inception. People are fascinated with the exploration of space and this is one of the documents that symbolizes the space travel,” says Christina Geiger of Bonhams (Bloomberg).

As the Guardian’s coverage of this story notes, there is some debate over Von Braun’s motivations and whether he was just a scientist attempting to get on with his work. Appropriately enough a new biography of Von Braun was recently published that explores this issue (reviewed at The Space Review).

No comments: