The telescope that launched the space age

Childhood photo of Nazi armourer and space age pioneer Wernher von Braun
Future rocket engineer, and Nazi armourer, Wernher von Braun (on right), with brother Sigismund. Image courtesy of NASA.

… and changed the world. This odd snippet of V2 rocket history spotlights a haunting connection between an old 3″ refracting telescope, hidden but in plain view, high up on a wall in the Berlin Technical Museum, and the astonishing career of Wernher von Braun, leading architect of the V2 missile and the space age that culminated in the Apollo Moon landings. Unregarded by most visitors to the museum, the dusty and care-worn telescope had a life changing impact on the young Wernher. The things he saw at the eyepiece of this instrument would have repercussions for the entire length of his life, and eventually, for our lives too. Because the young Wernher didn’t just want to look at the marvels of the solar system – he wanted to explore, to touch them, to go there.

This short video, recorded in 2012, reflects on the importance of small influences that may seem insignificant at first sight. To set the scene, Robert himself a keen astronomer, introduces us to his own first telescope from boyhood, and then we are shown another boy’s first telescope, hidden away, bolted high on the wall of a Berlin museum. A telescope that did not just change the life of the 14 year old Wernher von Braun who received it as a gift from his mother, but changed everyone else’s lives as well. Presented by V2 Rocket History’s Robert J Dalby FRAS

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At V2 Rocket History our aim is to investigate the history and technology of the A4-V2 missile, and share the results in the most accessible and engaging way possible. Our general approach is to highlight the engineering and industrial aspects of the subject.