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Father of the American Space Program

VON BRAUN, WERNHER. (English) A superb archive of original signed drawings and diagrams of space vehicles and flight, together with related material.

Huntsville, Alabama, 1952-53

26 autograph documents, letters, diagrams, sketches, most pencil on drafting paper, many signed by Von Braun. Accompanied by two issues of Collier’s with related cover art. Excellent condition.

Wernher von Braun prepared these original drawings of rockets and spaceships for the artists who illustrated his epochal series “Man Will Conquer Space Soon.” This publication played a central role in inspiring a generation of American rocket scientists and convincing the American public of the possibility of space exploration.

Von Braun headed the German rocket program in World War Two. At war’s end he and his team fled the Soviets and surrendered to the Americans. Soon von Braun and his staff were working on the nascent American ICBM. The launch of Sputnik in 1957 brought fear of Soviet domination of space, and von Braun was the natural choice to develop an orbital launch vehicle. In the coming years von Braun and his team developed ever-larger rockets for the Apollo program, culminating in the mammoth Saturn V that sent Apollo 11 to the moon.

Von Braun’s technical accomplishments alone would have made him the father of the American space program, but he was also the foremost popularizer of space travel. In October 1951 he helped to organize the First Symposium on Space Flight in New York. Out of that conference arose the Collier’s magazine series “Man Will Conquer Space Soon,” featuring articles by Von Braun and other leading figures in the field. The Collier’s series, which ran for eight issues in 1952-54, anticipated and helped make possible the great developments of the American space program and influenced John F. Kennedy’s vision of an American presence in space.

Von Braun’s skillful drawings are filled with engineering detail to provide the Collier’s series illustrators with scientifically accurate renderings of the spaceships of the future. Subjects include space shuttle-like satellite vehicles, ships for travel to the moon, rocket exhaust nozzles, banks of computers, diagrams showing the orbits and trajectories of satellites and space vehicles, and more.

“Man Will Conquer Space Soon” covered seemingly every aspect of manned space flight and anticipated many developments including the enormous multi-stage vertical launch vehicle (to become Saturn V), a horizontal landing space ferry (the Space Shuttle), an orbiting space station, a lunar landing, the establishment of a base on the moon, and ultimately a manned expedition to Mars.

A detailed inventory is available on request.