Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


...and then "some clown invented the printed circuit."
December 24, 2013 3:17 PM   Subscribe

During the 1950's, Wernher von Braun served as technical adviser for three space-related television films produced by Disney: Man in Space, Man and the Moon and Mars and Beyond.

Man will Conquer Space Soon!
The three-part Disney television series aired on the ABC network, and was based on a series of articles which had appeared across eight issues of Collier's Weekly from 1952-1954, "detailing Wernher von Braun's plans for manned spaceflight. Edited by Cornelius Ryan, the individual articles were authored by such space notables of the time as Willy Ley, Fred Lawrence Whipple, Dr. Joseph Kaplan, Dr. Heinz Haber, and Wernher von Braun. The articles were illustrated with paintings and drawings by Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep, some of the finest magazine illustrators of the time."

Those articles can be seen online as viewable pdfs:
* March 22, 1952: Man will Conquer Space Soon! / Can also be seen here.
* October 18, 1952: Man on the Moon
* October 25, 1952: More about Man on the Moon
* February 28, 1953: World's First Space Suit
* March 7, 1953: More about Man's Survival in Space
* March 14, 1953: How Man will Meet Emergency in Space Travel
* June 27, 1953: The Baby Space Station: First Step in the Conquest of Space
* April 30, 1954: Can We Get to Mars? / Is There Life on Mars?

More on the von Braun / Disney collaboration.

Men Into Space
From non-fiction articles to educational PSA's to science fiction:

Between September 30, 1959 to September 7, 1960, an American science-fiction television series was broadcast on CBS which depicted future efforts by the United States Air Force to explore and develop outer space. It only ran for a single season and each episode is 22-24 minutes long.

The show is remembered for its strong efforts towards scientific accuracy -- even though they did depict sound in space. (Remember, this aired in the post-Sputnik era, but prior to Yuri Gragarin's ride in the Vostok 3KA spacecraft.)
"...38 episodes followed Col. Edward McCauley (played by William Lundigan) through a variety of space situations, using him as a viewpoint character while the astronauts he worked with dealt with breakthroughs and problems. In that sense there was a certain similarity to what would become the Mercury program — we can assume this is exactly what the producers had in mind — but in its relatively realistic view of the dangers of these missions, it also harked back to the era of the rocket plane, when test pilots flew the X-15 and its X-series predecessors to new speed and altitude records."
Some of von Braun's designs were used as props or settings. The show also used the Lockheed Space Station concept.

Episodes
1: Moon Probe
2: Moon Landing
3: Building a Space Station
4: Water Tank Rescue
5: Lost Missile
6: Moonquake
7: Space Trap
8: Asteroid
9: Edge of Eternity
10: Burnout
11: Quarantine
12: Christmas on the Moon
13: First Woman on the Moon
14: Tankers in Space
15: Sea of Stars
16: A Handful of Hours
17: Earthbound
18: Caves of the Moon
19: Dateline: Moon
20: Moon Cloud
21: Contraband
22: Dark of the Sun
23: Verdict in Orbit
24: Is There Another Civilization?
25: Shadows on the Moon
26: Flash in the Sky
27: Lunar Secret
28: Voice of Infinity
29: From Another World
30: Emergency Mission
31: Beyond the Stars
32: Mission to Mars
33: Moon Trap
34: Flare Up
35: Into the Sun
36: The Sun Never Sets
37: Mystery Satellite
38: Flight to the Red Planet

Synopses of all episodes are available at IMDb.
posted by zarq (40 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is from one of the links in the post:
Oh, Werner von Braun had it all figured out. In six issues of
Collier's magazine he laid out a plan to send men to Luna and Mars. First you build a space ferry as a surface to orbit cargo transport (which was the great-grandfather of the Space Shuttle). Then you use it to make a space station.

And it was going to be a beauty of a space station, too. Three decks, 250 feet in diameter, and a crew of fifty. Makes the ISS look like a tin can. This outpost in space was where the Lunar expedition fleet would be constructed.

It would pay for itself as well. Meteorologists could plot the path of storms and predict the weather with unprecedented accuracy. Radio and TV signals could be transmitted all over the globe. Not to mention observing the military activities of hostile nations.

...

Why was this marvel never constructed? Because some clown invented the printed circuit. Freed from the tyranny of fragile and short-lived vacuum tubes, technologists could make unmanned satellites for Meteorologists, radio and TV signals, and watching hostile militaries. Such satellites could be assembled and launched at a fraction the cost of a manned station. They also did not require constant resupply missions to keep the crew alive.

If we had followed von Braun's plan, we would have ended up with a fleet of space ferries, a titanic manned space station, a large lunar base, and men on Mars. Instead, we have four overly complicated space shuttles near the end of their operational life, a four man space station due to be de-orbited and destroyed in 2016, and a few bits of space trash on the Lunar surface. And we haven't been back to Luna since 1972. So it goes.

posted by zarq at 3:20 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


We'd be on Mars by now if WVB was alive
posted by Renoroc at 3:35 PM on December 24, 2013


"Once the rockets are up,
Who cares where they come down?
That's not my department,"
says Wernher von Braun.
posted by Longtime Listener at 3:41 PM on December 24, 2013 [18 favorites]


Though to be fair, the invention of transistors and integrated circuits did more to kill the career of interstellar TV repairman at birth than that of the PCB...
posted by Devonian at 3:45 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I aim for the stars! (but sometimes I hit London)
posted by Justinian at 3:47 PM on December 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


the man still rates at pretty much the top of my list for favorite quotes:

"Basic research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."

If I ever get around to it, my autobiography will be called Basic Research.
posted by philip-random at 3:58 PM on December 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Were there any Nazis Disney didn't collaborate with?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:29 PM on December 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


The links for "First Woman on the Moon" and "Quarantine" appear to be reversed.

BTW, "First Woman on the Moon" is brazenly misogynistic. FYI. I mean I figured it would be bad, but this was unbelievable.
posted by striatic at 4:48 PM on December 24, 2013


striatic: "The links for "First Woman on the Moon" and "Quarantine" appear to be reversed."

Ugh. Sorry about that.

striatic: " BTW, "First Woman on the Moon" is brazenly misogynistic. FYI. I mean I figured it would be bad, but this was unbelievable."

It was. There aren't that many reviews of the show online, but I saw at least a couple which actually praised it for depicting female astronauts. Which, sure, that's great but wouldn't it also be valuable to say how they're being depicted?
posted by zarq at 5:00 PM on December 24, 2013


BTW, "First Woman on the Moon" is brazenly misogynistic.

BTW, the 1950s were brazenly misogynistic
posted by philip-random at 5:07 PM on December 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


[Got those episodes switched.]
posted by cortex at 5:19 PM on December 24, 2013


Thanks, cortex!
posted by zarq at 5:21 PM on December 24, 2013


"It was. There aren't that many reviews of the show online, but I saw at least a couple which actually praised it for depicting female astronauts. Which, sure, that's great but wouldn't it also be valuable to say how they're being depicted?"

I went into watching that episode with great hope.

A show from 1959 depicting a female Astronaut? There would probably be misogynistic elements, but the very concept would make the depiction inherently progressive.. right?

Nope.
posted by striatic at 5:30 PM on December 24, 2013


We'd be on Mars by now if WVB was alive

Nah. Apollo was wound down while Von Braun was alive. He wanted tackle going to Mars, as did much of NASA, but politicians balked at the price.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:06 PM on December 24, 2013


Very nice post, Zarq.

Imagine the anticipation created for space exploration if we Earthlings could see a magnificent Collier's space station rolling overhead in every night sky. Stanley Kubrick reinforced this vision with his great, waltzing, double-wheeled Space Station 5 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. If we could go back to the future, we might find that spectacle is more inspirational than efficiency.
posted by cenoxo at 6:06 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


So awesome!
posted by Kevin Street at 6:07 PM on December 24, 2013


The episode "Dark of the Sun" is more like what I was expecting. Female scientist overcomes the unfair judgements of her male colleagues.

It does end on a very, very odd note but overall is much more interesting than "The First Woman on the Moon", the events of which are even mentioned in this later episode.

Here we have a much more capable protagonist and while she exhibits very stereotypical characteristics for a Female Scientist, at least there is awareness and condemnation of some of the cultural assumptions of the time.
posted by striatic at 6:36 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


WVB also argued for a single monolithic space ship to go to the moon and back, not the staged Apollo system with orbit capture that actually went. He was good a rockets though, with enough practical experience it does become possible to get good at rockets, and no one had more experience than the German rocket program. Except the Russians who built the first rocket to go into space, and the first ICBM, and the first satellite, and the first man in space, and... That was all due to Sergei Korolev, who most have never heard of, Korolev didn't have a Disney cameo. Korolev didn't exist, officially.
posted by stbalbach at 6:42 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Didn't the Russians have a jump start from their own Nazi rocketeers, too?
posted by thelonius at 6:44 PM on December 24, 2013


Operation Osoaviakhim
posted by cenoxo at 6:52 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believe WVB was extremely displeased with his Disney collaboration experience. I eagerly await Tom Hanks in next year's "Saving Mr. Braun," or perhaps "Don't it Make Your von Braun Eyes Blue."
posted by umberto at 6:57 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, Project Paperclip. Where the Allies bought into the propaganda of the Third Reich's unquestionable technical superiority, the idiotic echoes of which still reverberate around our military and space research.

No, sorry, the best tanks of the war were Russian and French, the best tracked vehicles American, and the best jet fighter, also American. It didn't matter one little bit the "cruiser tank" M4 was slow, undergunned and weakly armored. We had ten of them for every German tank, and upgraded them incrementally until they could go at it with the Panthers toe-to-toe. We had The Jug. We had long-range heavy bombers. We had Catalinas and Liberty Ships and aircraft carriers. We had Colossus and every code broken. We had nukes.

But, ohhhh... they had rocketplanes! And wildly inaccurate missiles! And big plans they could never seem to get off the drawing board and into the field! Let's do that!

Pfeh. Germany could keep Werner VonBraun, and should have. We had enough home-grown talent to pull off a space program without buying into the Nazi super-science bullshit.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:37 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The type XXI submarines were pretty cool. I think they managed to run, what, two whole war patrols after sinking untold amounts of men and material into the projects? Great specs though.
posted by Justinian at 7:51 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nazis in Space: The Truth about Hitler’s Space Program dispels some of the notions about rumoured German manned space flights during WWII:
In the past few years stories of other, more amazing schemes from the Third Reich have appeared, stories of intercontinental missiles and orbiting spaceplanes (all adorned with swastikas). These started on the internet (for example, a few years ago Wikipedia’s article on the Aggregate rocket family used to state that several Luftwaffe pilots made space flights in 1945 until saner editors prevailed) and since have spread to books and TV documentaries. Are there the slightest grains of truth in these tales of Nazis in space?
They made remarkable progress in relatively few years, but they ran out of time and resources.
posted by cenoxo at 8:05 PM on December 24, 2013


More details and stories about post-WWII 'Russian German' rocketeers in The Rest of the Rocket Scientists, Air & Space magazine, September 2003.
posted by cenoxo at 8:12 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy, some of your claims are rather strange, particularly your view that "the best jet fighter [was] also American." What are you referring to, the P-59? It never even saw combat. The British Meteor and German ME-262 both had successful combat records and were both produced in large numbers.

Escaping Nazi ubermensch propaganda does not require becoming a jingoist propagandist for your own country.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:51 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nope, the P-80. It saw no combat... but it did fly during the war. This kind of reinforces the point about Nazi superscience being useless to actually win conflicts.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:03 PM on December 24, 2013


First Woman on the Moon was astoundingly awful. I was amused to see that it was written by James Clavell. The same James Clavell who wrote The Great Escape and Shogun, among others? IMDB confirms that it is indeed the same man.

The remake of the Shogun miniseries will be released next year.
posted by eye of newt at 9:51 PM on December 24, 2013


Von Braun did bring one thing to the table that American decision-makers at the time were sorely lacking in: imagination.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:36 PM on December 24, 2013


From Mars and Beyond, @5:31: "Free and logical thought was stifled by a black period of stupidity, superstition, and sorcery." clever how the Disney crew glossed over the period between Greek Philosophy and the Renaissance without explicitly mentioning the elephant in the room, Christianity.
posted by camdan at 10:36 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the plus side, at least we're not looking at the orbital and lunar nuclear missile batteries and wondering "How the hell do we decommission th o se suckers"

Oh wait- I forgot that in libertarian space race nostalgia world, we'd be converting nukes to power Orion drives. My bad.
posted by happyroach at 12:21 AM on December 25, 2013


but politicians balked at the price.

I rather believe that Nixon, who never really got over Kennedy fucking him in the ass killed our hopes of colonizing space in my lifetime out of spite.

We can still get it all if we build it in support of space based solar/beamed microwave infrastructure, but I guess TPTB don't give a shit about either ending the 'energy shortage' or ensuring the survival of the human race. Do we REALLY have to pay for burning all the oil before we get our shit together.
posted by mikelieman at 4:31 AM on December 25, 2013


Didn't the Russians have a jump start from their own Nazi rocketeers, too?

Our Nazis are clearly better than their Nazis...
posted by mikelieman at 4:33 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Space City That Could Have Been, If Not For Wernher Von Braun — the incredible 1950s METEOR (Manned Earth-Satellite Terminal Evolving From Earth-To-Orbit Ferry Rockets) space city by Goodyear Aircraft engineer Darrell C. Romick.

Wernher, baby, you gotta think BIG.
posted by cenoxo at 5:18 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I rather believe that Nixon, who never really got over Kennedy fucking him in the ass killed our hopes of colonizing space in my lifetime out of spite.

Nixon did kill the plan to colonize Mars and expanded lunar operations, but it wasn't as if the country and Congress were eager implement those plans. That Apollo (and Gemini) were basically given a blank check and managed to do 6 manned lunar landings is nothing short of fluracle. Something like that won't happen again for a long while, if ever.

It will be an ongoing debate as to whether Apollo was good choice, heh.

Our Nazis are clearly better than their Nazis…

They were, but that was by design of the engineers (Von Braun(. They felt the British couldn't afford them, the Soviets would torture them and they didn't like the French. So that left the Americans and so the engineers were actively looking for US troops to find them as WWII wound down.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:29 AM on December 25, 2013


Meanwhile, China's moon rover continues lunar survey after photographing lander, Beijing (XNA) Dec 23, 2013.
posted by cenoxo at 5:38 AM on December 25, 2013


Sure, if you believe that isn't a soundstage.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:25 PM on December 25, 2013


THE MOON DOESN'T EVEN EXIST

WAKE UP SHEEPLE
posted by Sys Rq at 8:09 PM on December 25, 2013


Some people hope it is. Is it?
posted by cenoxo at 8:10 PM on December 25, 2013


I'm sorry, but anybody doubting the German technical superiority vis-a-vis the space race has clearly never seen this excellent documentary on the subject.
posted by regularfry at 6:08 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older Now listen dear children, and you will hear, A st...  |  "... and it was on that day I ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments