This Day in Aviation History: The V2
Contributor: Barry Fetzer
Sources: Wikipedia, History.com
Could it be that what was designed, implemented, and used to deadly affect as a weapon of mass destruction could ultimately be our earthly savior?
In the animated 2008 Pixar movie “WALL-E” (according to Wikipedia), “The film follows a solitary robot named WALL-E left to clean up garbage on a future, uninhabitable, deserted Earth in 2805. The Earth was deserted by humanity due to our planet becoming a garbage-strewn wasteland, caused by rampant consumerism, corporate greed, and environmental neglect. In the 29th century, humanity is surviving in outer space, traveling there on rockets and “living” on giant, orbiting space ships.”
And today, science fiction has become reality as we’re sending landers and robots on rockets to our closest planet, Mars, to (amongst other reasons) evaluate the “Red Planet” as a possible extra-terrestrial place to “save humanity”, the potential “saving” made possible by rockets…rockets conceived by the V-2.
So, our possible “saving” can be marked as beginning on October 3, 1942, when according to History.com, “German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun’s brainchild, the V-2 missile, was fired successfully from Peenemunde, as island off Germany’s Baltic coast. It traveled 118 miles. It proved extraordinarily deadly during WWII and was the precursor to the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and space programs of the postwar era.
Wernher von Braun at Peenemünde Army Research Center. Courtesy Wikipedia.
German scientists, led by von Braun, had been working on the development of these long-range missiles since the 1930s. Three trial launches had already failed; the fourth in the series, known as A-4, finally saw the V-2, a 12-ton rocket capable of carrying a one-ton warhead, successfully launched.
A V-2 launched from Test Stand VII in summer 1943. Courtesy Bundesarchiv
The V-2 was unique in several ways. First, it was virtually impossible to intercept. Upon launching, the missile rose 50 miles vertically; it then proceeded on an arced course, cutting off its own fuel according to the range desired. The missile then tipped over and fell on its target at a speed of almost 4,000 mph. It hit with such force that the missile burrowed itself into the ground several feet before exploding. It had the potential of flying a distance of 200 miles, and the launch pads were portable, making them impossible to detect before firing.
The first launches as part of an offensive did not occur until September 6, 1944 when two missiles were fired at Paris. On September 8, two more were fired at England, which would be followed by more than 1,100 more during the next six months. More than 2,700 Brits died because of the rocket attacks.
A V-2 rocket is readied at Blizna launch site,1943. Courtesy Park Historyczny Blizna.
After the war, both the United States and the Soviet Union captured samples of the rockets for reproduction. They also captured the scientists responsible for their creation.”
According to Wikipedia, “The V-2 (German: Vergeltungswaffe 2, literally ’Vengeance Weapon 2′), was the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile. The missile, powered by a liquid-propellant rocket engine, was developed during the Second World War in Nazi Germany as a ‘vengeance weapon’ and assigned to attack Allied cities as retaliation for the Allied bombings of German cities. The V-2 rocket also became the first artificial object to travel into space by crossing the Kármán line (edge of space) with the vertical launch of MW 18014 on 20 June 1944.
The first photo of Earth from space was taken from V-2 No. 13 launched by US scientists on 24 October 1946. Courtesy Wikipedia