Ring and familiar bells? Elon Musk, the genius behind SapceX and Tesla Motors is the leading mastermind behind our species’ effort to colonize our neighboring planet Mars. Elon Musk’s SpaceX company has already made history in more than one way and continues to break boundaries by creating low-cost and energy efficient spacecraft that may one day—hopefully soon—take mankind to Mars.
If SpaceX does success in their efforts, Elon—specifically Elon Musk—will forever be associated with Mars.
But, how could have Wernher von Braun—A German aerospace engineer and the man behind the development of one of the most advanced Nazi weapons, the V-2 rocket—have known about it in 1952?
Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun was a German mechanical and aerospace engineer, nationalized in 1955 in order to be integrated into NASA. He is considered as one of the most important rocket designers of the twentieth century and was the design chief of the V-2 rocket, as well as the Saturn V rocket, which took mankind to the Moon.
In his quest to develop large rockets, he joined the German army and developed ballistic missiles before Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, and was later assigned to the SS in 1940. As his right hand—Ernst Stuhlinger— said in an interview, Von Braun had difficulty accepting the offer to join the SS. While performing his work for the Army, von Braun obtained a doctorate in aerospace engineering on July 27, 1934.
Despite his collaboration with the German army, Von Braun had trouble with the Gestapo as he publicly confirmed that he cared little for Hitler’s goal; and that all he cared about was interplanetary travel. By early 1945 it was obvious that Germany would not achieve victory in the war, so Von Braun began to plan his future in the postwar period.
Von Braun was able to contact the Allies and prepared his surrender to the American forces, who developed Operation Paperclip to capture German scientists and put them in the service of the Allied side. Von Braun surrendered along with 500 other scientists handing over equipment, designs, and several test vehicles. He was about to be captured by the Soviets, who wanted to integrate him and many other scientists in the team led by Sergeant Koroliov.
Once in the United States, Von Braun and his collaborators were urged to cooperate with the US Air Force, and in return, they would be exonerated of guilt for their Nazi past. Von Braun officially became a citizen of the United States of America on 14 of April of 1955.
But Von Braun was in love with space, space travel and he was extremely interested in developing a revolutionary propulsion system that could transport manned rockets not only to the moon but to Mars as well. And while he played a crucial role in helping bring mankind to the surface of the moon, Van Braun published several theoretical and non-fictional papers that explained the colonization of Mars and how we would construct a space station and place it into a stable orbit around our planet.
Curiously, in one of those works written by Von Braun was The Mars Project, published in 1952 and is considered strangely prophetical according to many.
The Mars Project is a technical specification for a manned expedition to Mars. It was written by von Braun in 1948 and was the first “technically comprehensive design” for such an expedition. The book has been described as “the most influential book on planning human missions to Mars”.
In the book, Von Braun explained that as managed mission to the red planet would eventually result, not only in the colonization of Mars but in the establishment of an autonomous Martian government.
Von Braun envisioned an “enormous scientific expedition” involving a fleet of ten spacecraft with 70 crew members that would spend 443 days on the surface of Mars before returning to Earth.
The spacecraft, seven passenger ships, and three cargo ships would all be assembled in Earth orbit using materials supplied by reusable space shuttles. The fleet would use a nitric acid/hydrazine propellant that, although corrosive and toxic, could be stored without refrigeration during the three-year round-trip to Mars.
Von Braun calculated the size and weight of each ship, and how much fuel each of them would require for the round trip (5,320,000 metric tons).
Hohmann trajectories would be used to move from Earth to Mars orbit, and von Braun computed each rocket burn necessary to perform the required maneuvers.
Strangely, Von Braun spoke about the government on Mars and said that instead of Presidents, rulers of the colony would be given the title of “Elon”.
“The Martian government was directed by ten men, the leader of whom was elected by universal suffrage for five years and entitled “Elon.” Two houses of Parliament enacted the laws to be administered by the Elon and his cabinet. The Upper House was called the Council of the Elders and was limited to a membership of 60 persons, each being appointed for life by the Elon as vacancies occurred by death.”
Obviously, at that time Elon had no particular significance, and the word most likely derived from the Hebrew word Elon meaning “oak tree” and is defined as great knowledge and wisdom, most likely why Von Braun used it in the first place.
Hover, nonetheless, it is still incredibly interesting that over half a century ago, someone spoke out a word that would become more than 50 years later something greatly associated with Mars: Elon Musk.