German rocket is 1st to reach space, October 3, 1942
The 2-ton, liquid-propellant rocket was designed by rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and proved extraordinarily deadly during World War II. Over 3000 were launched at Allied targets beginning in September 1944.
Employing supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance, and rudders in jet control, the V-2 was difficult to intercept as it would rise six miles vertically then proceed on an arced course, cutting off its own fuel according to the range desired before tipping over and falling on its target at a speed of almost 4000 mph. (See photo on right of V-2 rocket replica found in the Peenemünde Museum.)
It was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile. History records that Adolf Hitler was not particularly impressed by the V-2, believing it to be an expensive, long-range artillery shell. Still, he supported the research, which ultimately gobbled up tremendous Nazi resources.
During the aftermath of World War II, the American, Soviet, and British governments all gained access to the V-2's technical designs and the scientists responsible for creating the rockets, via Operation Paperclip, Operation Osoaviakhim, and Operation Backfire, respectively.
With such knowledge and engineers now on their sides, the rockets became the progenitors of modern rockets and missiles, including those built by the United States’ and Soviet Union's space programs during the Space Race and later Cold War.
- 1st human journey into space, April 12, 1961
- Design hindsight from the tail-gunner position of a WWII bomber, Part one
- Allies capture German Enigma machine, May 9, 1941
- Rocket mail attempt fails, June 28, 1928
- Apollo-Soyuz Test Project ends Space Race, July 17, 1975
- The top 10 reasons for the US to return to space exploration
For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.
Editor's note: This article was originally posted on October 3, 2012 and edited on October 3, 2016.