Wernher von Braun, Part 2

Wernher von Braun, Part 2

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Wernher von Braun, Part 2

Rocket Man

Part One

By Frank White

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 1995, All Rights Reserved

This message is the eighteenth in a series of Space Frontier Foundation essays designed to inform the Internet public about the incredible possibilities awaiting us in space and the third in Frank White’s series on the Visionaries Of The Open Frontier.

Von Braun, like many of his contemporaries, had a vision of human exploration of the solar system, which he laid out for the public in the early 1950’s. He saw a space station in Low Earth Orbit, and a presence on the moon, but Mars was his ultimate goal. In a very real sense, he gave reality to the whole concept of a “space program” as a logical series of steps out from the home planet and into the solar system.

With hindsight, we can see that in addition to his practical contributions to Apollo’s landing on the moon, von Braun helped to set a specific image of human space exploration in our minds, i.e., the massive government-supported space venture. As we move away from that paradigm, we may well be able to re-think and re-evaluate von Braun’s true contribution to the opening of the frontier.

Today, we are slowly but surely convincing policymakers that, while governments may have a role on the frontier, it should be that of opening the frontier for everyone, not monopolizing the entire exploration effort. If Apollo had begun a process of establishing a moon base, it would have been more consistent with not only today’s open frontier vision, but perhaps with von Braun’s as well.

Even if the overall paradigm shifts, there will still be major missions, such as going to Mars, that might require an Apollo-type program. If so, we should bear in mind that the program is intended to support a process, not to serve as an end in itself.

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