Preface

by J.D. Hunley


Hermann Noordung's Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums, published here in English translation, was one of the classic writings about spaceflight. Its author, whose real name was Herman Potocnik, was an obscure former captain in the Austrian army who became an engineer. He was born on 22 December 1892 in Pola (later, Pula), the chief Austro-Hungarian naval station, located on the Adriatic in what is today Croatia. As the location might suggest in part, his father served in the navy as a staff medical officer. The name Potocnik is Slovenian, also the nationality of Herman's mother, who had some Czech ancestors as well. The young man was educated in various places in the Habsburg monarchy, attending an elementary school in Marburg (later, Maribor) in what is today Slovenia. He enrolled in military schools with emphases on science and mathematics as well as languages for his intermediate and secondary schooling, in the obscure town of Fischau, Lower Austria, and in Mährisch-Weißkirchen (later the Czech city of Hranice), respectively.

Following that, he attended the technical military academy in Mödling southwest of Vienna. Upon graduation, he received his commission as a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army, where he served during World War I in a railroad (guard) regiment. From 1918 to 1922 he studied electrical engineering at the Technical Institute in Vienna, although tuberculosis had forced him to leave the army in 1919. While he appears to have set up a practice as an engineer, his illness evidently prevented him from working in that capacity. But he did become interested in the spaceflight movement. He contributed monetarily to the journal of the German Society for Space Travel (Verein für Raumschiffahrt or VfR), Die Rakete (The Rocket), begun in 1927, and he corresponded with Hermann Oberth (1894-1989), whose book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space, published in 1923) essentially launched the spaceflight movement in Germany and laid the theoretical foundations for future space efforts there. Another correspondent was Baron Guido von Pirquet (1880-1966), who wrote a series of articles on interplanetary travel routes in Die Rakete during 1928 that suggested space stations as depots for supplying fuel and other necessaries to interplanetary rockets. The rockets, in his conception, would be launched from the stations rather than from the Earth to avoid the amounts of propellants required for escape from the home planet's gravitational field, which would be much weaker at the distance of a few hundred kilometers.

Oberth encouraged Potocnik to express his ideas about rocketry and space travel in a book, which he completed with its 100 illustrations in 1928. Potocnik's gratitude to Oberth and the enthusiasts around him in Germany led the still young but ailing engineer to assume the pen name of Noordung (referring to the German word for north, Nord) in honor of the fellow space enthusiasts to his north. He published the book with Richard Carl Schmidt & Co. in Berlin in 1929, only to die soon afterwards on 27 August 1929 of tuberculosis. (1)

Potocnik's book dealt, as its title suggests, with a broad range of topics relating to space travel, although the rocket motor that forms the book's subtitle was not especially prominent among them. What makes the book important in the early literature about space travel is its extensive treatment of the engineering aspects of a space station. Potocnik was hardly the first person to write about this subject, as the comment about Pirquet above would suggest. The idea in fictional form dates back to 1869-1870 when American minister and writer Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) published "The Brick Moon" serially in The Atlantic Monthly. The German mathematics teacher, philosopher, and historian of science Kurd Laßwitz (1848-1910) followed this up in 1897 with his novel Auf zwei Planeten (on two planets), which featured a Martian space station supported by antigravity that served as a staging point for space travel. (2) Two years before the appearance of Laßwitz's book, the earliest of the recognized pioneers of spaceflight theory, the Russian school teacher Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), published a work of science fiction entitled (in English translation) Reflections on Earth and Heaven and the Effects of Universal Gravitation (1895) in which he discussed asteroids and artificial satellites as bases for rocket launches. He also discussed the creation of artificial gravity on the man-made space stations through rotation. (3) Unlike Laßwitz, Tsiolkovsky was not content with science fiction, however. Between 1911 and 1926, the Russian spaceflight theorist expanded his ideas and subjected them to mathematical calculation. In the process, he elaborated a concept of a space station as a base for voyages into space but did not develop it in any detail. (4) Others in what was then the Soviet Union also developed ideas about space stations, (5) but they were little known in the West. Thus, for the development there of conceptions about space stations the writings of Oberth were much more important. The Romanian-German spaceflight theorist wrote briefly about "observation stations" in his 1923 book and discussed some of their possible uses such as observation and military reconnaissance of the Earth, service as a fueling station, and the like. (6) In the expanded and more popular version of his book published in 1929, Wege zur Raumschiffahrt (translated as Ways to Spaceflight), Oberth covered these ideas in more detail, but he devoted most of his attention to a space mirror that could reflect solar energy upon a single point on Earth or upon a wider region for keeping northern ports free of ice in winter, illuminating large cities at night, and other applications. (7)

Oberth's expanded book appeared, according to Frank H. Winter, immediately after that of Potocnik. (8) Winter does not reveal his source for this information, but its accuracy appears to be validated by the numerous references to Noordung in Ways to Spaceflight. (9) On the other hand, since a review of Potocnik's book appeared in the October 1928 issue of Die Rakete, it is possible that Oberth saw an advance copy. (10) While these other early works on space stations had important theoretical influences, what Potocnik's book offered that they didn't was engineering details about how a space station might be constructed. (11)

While Potocnik's book is clearly the classic statement of how a space station might be constructed, (12) it is difficult to know how to assess its real importance for the later design, construction, and use of space stations and other spacecraft. For one thing, the work received considerable criticism, apparently even before it was published. (13) The unsigned October 1928 review in Die Rakete praised the book as a successful and understandable introduction to the highly interesting problem of spaceflight. But it said the work paid too little attention to recent contributions to the topic, such as those that had appeared in Die Rakete itself. The author's treatment of the issue of [rocket] efficiency could be accepted only with caution, the review went on. Noordung presented a detailed treatment of a space station, but he placed it in a 35,000 kilometer, geostationary orbit, which was not practical according to the existing state of research (see below). (14)

As can be seen from the translation that follows (pp. 108-110), in fact Potocnik spoke of a 35,900 kilometer orbit but also discussed the possibilities of orbits at different distances from the Earth and at other inclinations than the plane of the equator. Thus, this particular criticism was a bit unfair.

Both Willy Ley and Pirquet also criticized the book shortly after it appeared. (15) Their arguments appear to have been conveniently summarized by Ley in his widely-circulated Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel, which had appeared under a variety of titles and revisions and some twenty printings from 1944 to 1968. (16) In the 1961 revised and enlarged edition of that book Ley recalled that Potocnik had "succeeded in getting himself into the bad graces of the few rocket men of the time by a number of peculiarities. The first of them . . . was a somewhat fantastic method of calculating the over-all efficiency of a rocket." This particularly "incensed" Pirquet, Ley said. Secondly, he failed to answer correspondence--naturally enough since he was dying of tuberculosis--but most of his contemporaries were evidently ignorant of that fact. The third peculiarity was his insistence

that the space station must be in a 24-hour orbit, something that would decrease its value by, say, 75 per cent. In such an orbit it could observe only one hemisphere of the earth and that one not very well because of the great distance, which also would make the station's construction and maintenance rather expensive in terms of extra tons of fuel consumed [on the trip to the station]. He did have a number of interesting ideas, but each one of them came out somewhat flawed.

Nevertheless, Ley remembered writing to Pirquet "that 'Noordung's plans are of great historical significance even now.'" (17)

Ley went on to note several "essentially correct" thoughts in Potocnik's design, including an airlock and the plan to obtain power from the sun. But he said there were also "strange mistakes," such as an excessive concern with heating the station when what it really needed was air conditioning because of the absorbed heat from the sun, the heat from the bodies of the crew, and that generated by electric motors. Also, Potocnik wanted to rotate his living wheel--the inhabited element among the three connected but separate units in his space station--every eight seconds so as to create a full g of artificial gravity. Ley said that 1/3 g would be adequate and would allow the station to be "lighter and therefore cheaper to carry into an orbit piecemeal." (18)

Besides such criticisms, which must have served to reduce the influence of Potocnik's detailed designs, there was also the problem that the book appears not to have been widely available to the non-German speaking world. There was a very early, partial English translation by Francis M. Currier that appeared serially in what might seem (although it really is not) a strange place, Hugo Gernsback's Science Wonder Stories in mid-1929, (19) but it is uncertain how many people might have read the work in that magazine. Moreover, even if they did read it, how many of them kept their copies and how available the partial translation was in most libraries are questions no one seems to have asked. (20) There was also a (partial?) translation done for the British Interplanetary Society and kept at its library in London, apparently as an unpublished typescript. (21) And a Russian translation appeared about 1935 but may have been only partial since it was only 92 pages long compared with the 188 in the original German edition. (22) Despite these translations, at least in Britain the work appears not to have been readily available. For example, the famous British science fiction writer and member of the British Interplanetary Society Arthur C. Clarke had cited Potocnik's book in his October 1945 article in Wireless World where he had discussed using a satellite in geosynchronous orbit for purposes of radio communications. (23) But he later stated that at the time he had not seen the book, only pictures of Potocnik's space station in science fiction magazines. He only obtained his "first copy of Potocnik's classic book" in 1993. And while some Austrians have tried to credit Potocnik with first conceiving of both the communications satellite and a geostationary orbit for it, Clarke pointed out that Tsiolkovsky had written about the geostationary orbit at the beginning of the century and that Oberth first wrote about using space stations for communications in his 1923 book, although through optical means rather than radio. Clarke nevertheless credited Potocnik with envisioning the use of short waves for communications between the Earth and his space station. (24)

Evidently, Clarke was not aware of the translation in the British Interplanetary Society's library. Other members of the society apparently were not either, because a brief notice appeared in its publication, Spaceflight, in 1985 announcing that the editors had "at last" secured a copy of the Potocnik book in the original German. "This was a book to which the pre-war BIS Technical Committee frequently referred," the notice went on, "though none had actually seen it, for the simple reason that no copies were available." (25)

Both Frank Winter and Adam Gruen have suggested that Potocnik's book formed the basis for a plotless short story entitled "Lunetta" that Wernher von Braun wrote in 1929, describing a trip to a space station. (26) If correct, this hypothesis would suggest an important link in the evolution about ideas for a space station. As is well known, von Braun--technical director of the German Army Experimental Station at Peenemünde that developed the V-2 ballistic missile during World War II and later director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center while it developed the Saturn V rocket--wrote an article for the popular Collier's magazine in 1952 in which he described a space station at least superficially similar to Potocnik's. (27) This article, others in the eight-part Collier's series of which it was a part, and a Walt Disney television series, Man in Space, in which von Braun, Ley, and others appeared, helped establish the American popular image of a space station and of space exploration as well as a vision of a space station that, in Howard McCurdy's words, "would continue to guide NASA strategy through the decades ahead." (28) As McCurdy also stated, "More than any other person, von Braun would be responsible for clarifying in the American mind the relationship between space stations and space exploration." (29)

Thus, if Potocnik indeed influenced von Braun, through the latter he must also have influenced the United States and NASA. Unfortunately, there appears to be no conclusive evidence for such influence on Potocnik's part. Winter quotes von Braun as saying that during the period around 1929 he "read everything in the space field, including Willy Ley's popularizations," (30) and it seems likely that he would have read the Potocnik book along with the other contemporary literature. As stated above, von Braun wrote "Lunetta" in 1929, so it could easily have been influenced by Potocnik. At the time the future rocket engineer and manager was still attending secondary school at the Hermann Lietz International School on the island of Spiekeroog in the North Sea. The school published the plotless story in its publication, Leben und Arbeit (life and work) in the 1930-1931 issue, volume 2-3 on pp. 88-92. (31) It describes a trip by rocket to a space station and back, with some of the details similar to those in Potocnik's book, which does contain a description of a somewhat similar trip (pp. 170-174 of the translation). (32) However, Oberth had also included a description of a rocket flight through interplanetary space in Ways to Spaceflight, upon which von Braun could have loosely based his own story. (33) Thus, the influence of Potocnik's book upon von Braun remains probable but speculative.

What can be stated unequivocally is that Potocnik's book was widely known even to people who may have seen only photographs or sections from the book in translation. For example, Harry E. Ross of the British Interplanetary Society proposed a large, rotating space station in conjunction with Ralph A. Smith in 1948-1949, basing it upon Potocnik's drawings although neither of them could read his German. (34) It is also clear that although the details of Potocnik's designs for a space station were not repeated in later space stations, he foresaw many of the purposes for which space stations as well as other spacecraft were used. As the reader of the translation will discover, Potocnik, following Oberth on many points, predicted a great many uses for his space station. These included physical and chemical experiments conducted in the absence of gravity and heat, studies of cosmic rays, astronomical studies without the interference produced by the Earth's atmosphere, studies of the planet Earth itself from the vantage point of space (including meteorological and military applications of the resulting information), the use of a space mirror to focus the rays of the sun upon the Earth for a variety of purposes (including combat), and use as a base for traveling further into space (pp. 174-92).

Not all of these goals have been implemented. But on Skylab, which provided an orbiting habitat for three 3-person crews between May 1973 and February 1974, experiments included various solar studies, stellar astronomy, space physics, experiments to study the Earth, materials science, zero-gravity studies, and studies of radiation, among others. (35) Numerous other spacecraft from the Hubble Space Telescope to Shuttle orbiters equipped with a spacelab have also fulfilled some of the expectations set forth in a general way by Potocnik. (36)

It is also quite possible that by proposing the first actual design for a space station and by offering illustrations of that design, Potocnik helped to fixate the imagination of people interested in spaceflight upon a space station as an important goal in itself and means to the end of interplanetary flight. Since 1959 NASA has conducted at least a hundred studies of space station designs, (37) and the idea of a space station became a firm fixture in NASA's planning from the mid-1960s to the present day. (38) Much more continuously than the United States, the former Soviet Union and Russia have had a space station program dating back to the launch of Salyut 1 on April 19, 1971. (39) In view of the mid-1930s translation of Potocnik's book into Russian, perhaps that program, too, owes something to the little-known Austro-Hungarian engineer's study.

In view of these possibilities, it is time for Potocnik's book to be readily available to the English-speaking world in a readable and accurate translation. At the suggestion of Lee Saegesser, the NASA History Office commissioned the translation that appeared as NASA TT-10002 in 1993. The NASA STI Program had that translation done by SCITRAN of Santa Barbara, California, and subsequently edited by Jennifer Garland of the STI Program. She made numerous corrections to grammar, spelling, formatting, and vocabulary. She also ensured that all figures and equations were included, keyed, and oriented accurately. I offered a few preliminary corrections that appeared in the original translation, such as the rendition of the word Kunstsatz in a fireworks rocket as "bursting charge" rather than "man-made charge" and of Stab on the same rocket as "guide stick" rather than "brace." I have since gone through the translated text more extensively and compared it with the original German. In the process, I have made numerous other changes to the original translation. For example, SCITRAN consistently translated the word Betriebsstoff as fuel when in many instances it clearly refers to both a fuel and an oxidizer. Hence, according to usage, I have sometimes rendered it as "propellant" and in other instances left it as "fuel" where that translation seems appropriate. Similarly, where appropriate I have changed the translation of Gestirn from "star" to "heavenly body" or "planet" where the word clearly referred to something other than a fixed star. In general, I have tried to ensure that the translation followed American colloquial usage without deviating from the sense of the original German. I have added a number of asterisked footnotes to the text, largely to identify people Potocnik mentioned.

Following my editing, Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger kindly agreed to read the translation. Dr. Stuhlinger, who earned his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Tübingen in 1936 and whose involvement in rocketry and space work began at Peenemünde in 1943 and extended through service as associate director of science at the NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center through the end of 1975, has a much more intimate knowledge of the technological details about which Potocnik wrote than I do as well as a more subtle grasp of the nuances of Potocnik's Austrian German. He has painstakingly read through the original German and made numerous corrections to the translation that I missed. For example, the translators had rendered fortgeschleudert (literally, "flung away") as "accelerated away," whereas Dr. Stuhlinger improved that to the more colloquial and accurate "launched." Similarly, he changed the translation of Schwerpunkt from the correct dictionary meaning "center of mass" to the more exact "center of gravity." And where the translation rendered liegender in reference to a position of the human body as "lying," he changed that to the much more appropriate English word, "prone." In these and countless other ways, he made the translation both more accurate and more readable without altogether effacing the style of someone writing in Austrian German at a date well before many of today's technical terms had been coined.

As Dr. Stuhlinger wrote to me on 2 August 1994 after he had finished his final editing, "Noordung's way of writing is in his lovable and homely Austrian style, with many small words that do not contribute much to the content of a sentence, but rather to an easy flow of the language. Many of these little words," Stuhlinger went on, "can have a multitude of meanings, depending on the context; in looking up these words in the dictionary," it is easy to choose a wrong translation and thus change a sentence's meaning. "In numerous cases, I just struck out such words, because they are not really needed, and only burden the text; in other cases, I had to select another English translation." Despite such problems with translating the book, however, and despite "some basically incorrect views expressed by the author," Stuhlinger added "it is a remarkable book" that he thought should be made accessible to an audience not able to read it in the original Austrian German.

In my own editing and in writing this introduction, I have benefited from the advice and assistance of a number of people. In listing them, I run the risk of forgetting some whose help I neglected to annotate in my notes, but the list should certainly include John Mulcahey, Jesco von Puttkamer, Otto Guess, Lee Saegesser, Shirley Campos, Beverly S. Lehrer, Jennifer Hopkins, Bill Skerrett, Adam Gruen, Timothy Cronen, Michael J. Neufeld, Howard E. McCurdy, and Roger D. Launius. Fred Ordway deserves special mention not only for writing the foreword but for sharing materials for an earlier translation he had planned in conjunction with Harry O. Ruppe, Willy Ley and others. In addition to doing the initial editing of TT-10002, Jennifer Garland worked with me closely in arranging for the translation, and I would like to thank her for being exceptionally cooperative and professional in that effort. Above all, however, Dr. Stuhlinger deserves credit for making the translation much more accurate than it would have been without his careful editing. With very minor changes, I have accepted his corrections of the text, but I alone retain responsibility for any errors that remain in the translation.

__________________________

(1) Frank H. Winter, "Observatories in Space, 1920s Style," Griffith Observer 46 (Jun. 1982): 3-5; Fritz Sykora, "Pioniere der Raketentechnik aus Österreich," Blätter für Technikgeschichte 22 (1960): 189-192, 196-199; Ron Miller, "Herman Potocnik--alias Hermann Noordung," Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 45 (1992): 295-296; Harry O. Ruppe, "Noordung: Der Mann und sein Werk," Astronautik 13 (1976): 81-83; Herbert J. Pichler, "Hermann Potocnik-Noordung, 22. Dez. 1892-27 Aug. 1929," typescript from a folder on Potocnik in the National Air and Space Museum's Archives. These sources on Potocnik's life agree in the essentials but disagree in some particulars, even to the spelling of his first name, which appears as Herman (with one n) on the title page of the Slovenian edition of his book, first published in his native language in 1986. Winter and Sykora also discuss both Oberth and Pirquet. Further information about both appears in Barton C. Hacker, "The Idea of Rendezvous: From Space Station to Orbital Operations in Space-Travel Thought," Technology and Culture 15 (1974): 380-384. Other sources on Oberth's life include Hans Barth, Hermann Oberth: "Vater der Raumfahrt" (Munich: Bechtle, 1991) and John Elder, "The Experience of Hermann Oberth," as yet unpublished paper given at the 42nd Congress of the International Astronautics Federation, October 5-11, 1991, Montreal, Canada. On Pirquet's series of articles, see also Die Rakete: Offizielles Organ des Vereins für Raumschiffahrt E.V. in Deutschland 2 (1928): esp. 118, 137-140, 184, 189.

(2) Cf. Winter, "Observatories in Space," pp. 2-3; Hacker, "Idea of Rendezvous," pp. 374-375.

(3) Hacker, "Idea of Rendezvous," pp. 375-376; N.A. Rynin, Interplanetary Flight and Communication, III, #7, K.E. Tsiolkovskii, Life, Writings, and Rockets (Leningrad, 1931), trans. by Israel Program for Scientific Translations (Jerusalem: NASA TT F-646, 1971), pp. 24-25; I.A. Kol'chenko and I.V. Strazheva, "The Ideas of K.E. Tsiolkovsky on Orbital Space Stations," Essays on the History of Rocketry and Astronautics: Proceedings of the Third Through the Sixth History Symposia of the International Academy of Astronautics, ed. R. Cargill Hall (Washington, D.C.: NASA Conference Publication 2014, 1977), vol. 1, p. 171. This last work has since been reprinted as History of Rocketry and Astronautics, AAS History Series, vol. 7, pt. 1 (San Diego: Univelt, 1986).

(4) Hacker, "Idea of Rendezvous," pp. 376-377; K. E. Tsiolkovskiy (sic), "The Exploration of the Universe with Reaction Machines," in Collected Works of K.E. Tsiolkovskiy, vol. 2, Reactive Flying Machines, ed. B. N. Vorob'yev et al., trans. Faraday Translations (Washington, D.C.: NASA TT F-237, 1965), pp. 118-167, esp. 146-154; Tsiolkovskiy, "Exploration of the Universe with Reaction Machines," in Reactive Flying Machines, pp. 212-349, esp. pp. 338-346; Kol'chenko and Strazheva, "Ideas of Tsiolkovsky on Orbital Space Stations," pp. 172-174.

(5) Hacker, "Idea of Rendezvous," pp. 377-379.

(6) Hermann Oberth, Die Raketen zu den Planetenräumen (Nürnberg: Uni-Verlag, 1960; reprint of 1923 work), pp. 86-89; for a more detailed description of Oberth's ideas, see Winter, "Observatories in Space," pp. 3-4.

(7) Hermann Oberth, Ways to Spaceflight, trans. Agence Tunisienne de Public-Relations (Washington, D.C.: NASA TT F-622, 1972), pp. 477-506.

(8) "Observatories in Space," p. 4.

(9) Pp. 56, 138, 210, 247, 302, 308, 309, 351, 352, 354, 417, 478.

(10) Die Rakete 2 (Oct. 1928): 158-159.

(11) Sykora, "Pioniere der Raketentechnik," p. 198; Frank Winter, Rockets into Space (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990), pp. 25-26. In fact, Winter states, "his work was so comprehensive that no other space station study appeared until the mid-1940s."

(12) Cf. Winter, "Observatories in Space," p. 4.

(13) Willy Ley (Rockets, Missiles, and Men in Space [New York: Viking, 1968], p. 540) and others have dated Potocnik's book from 1928, but as Harry Ruppe points out ("Noordung," p. 82n) the 1929 edition of the book gives no indication that it is a second printing. Moreover, the copyright dates from 1929.

(14) Die Rakete 2 (Oct. 1928): 158-159.

(15) Ruppe, "Noordung," p. 82.

(16) As stated on the back of the title page of the 1968 edition, Rockets, Missiles, and Men of Space, which had a less extensive discussion of the author and book than the 1961 edition referred to in the narrative above and cited in the next footnote. Interestingly, the 1951 edition, also entitled Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel (like the 1961 edition), relegated Potocnik and the discussion of his book to a footnote, where none of the criticism appeared.

(17) Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel (New York: Viking, 1961), p. 369.

(18) Ibid., pp. 369-370, 375.

(19) Science Wonder Stories 1 (1929): 170-80, 264-72, and 361-68 (July-September issues). Photocopies in the National Air and Space Museum's archives in a folder on Potocnik; copies of the original magazine at the Library of Congress. Science Wonder Stories is not as strange a place for a translation of an engineering study to appear as the title might suggest. Gernsback (1884-1967) carried on the masthead of the new magazine the dictum, "Prophetic Fiction is the Mother of Scientific Fact," and it was his policy to publish only stories that were scientifically correct, with a "basis in scientific laws as we know them. . . ." He also carried a section entitled "Science News of the Month," in which the publication sought to report up-to-date scientific achievements "in plain English." Copy of editorial page from Science Wonder Stories 1 (1929) in Hugo Gernsback, biographical file, NASA Historical Reference Collection. See also Tom D. Crouch, "'To Fly to the World in the Moon': Cosmic Voyaging in Fact and Fiction from Lucian to Sputnik," in Science Fiction and Space Futures, Past and Present, ed. Eugene M. Emme, AAS History Series, Vol. 5 (San Diego: Univelt, 1982), pp. 19-22, and Sam Moscowitz, "The Growth of Science Fiction from 1900 to the Early 1950s," in Blueprints for Space: Science Fiction to Science Fact (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), pp. 69-82, among other sources on Gernsback, who is generally credited with coining the term "science fiction."

(20) As of March 17, 1994, the On-Line Computer Library Center (OCLC) data base showed 8 libraries in the U.S. as holding hard copies of the June 1929-May 1930 issues of Science Wonder Stories plus 14 others with those issues on microfilm. There may, of course, have been other libraries holding the set including the partial Potocnik translation at earlier dates, but many of the current holdings of microfilm especially seem to have been acquired recently. The Library of Congress Pre-1956 Imprints shows only 6 libraries holding Science Wonder Stories and its sequels, for example, and Donald H. Tuck (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, 3 vols. [Chicago: Advent Publishers, Inc., 1974-1982], vol. 1, p. 185) reports that all of Gernsback's science fiction magazines "led checkered careers, some lasting only brief periods." On the other hand, Fred Ordway reports that he owns a fine set of Science Wonder Stories and that many copies of such pulp magazines found their way to England as ballast on ships returning less than full from carrying certain types of cargo to the United States. Thus, there may be many copies of the publication still in private hands.

(21) Hacker, "Idea of Rendezvous," p. 384n. Hacker seems to suggest that this was a full translation, but according to L. J. Carter, long-time executive secretary of the BIS, this was not the case. In a letter to Fred Ordway on April 15, 1994, he wrote in answer to Fred's question about the existence of such a document, "yes, we used a translation of extracts from it [the Potocnik book] when considering the early BIS Space Station designs. This, however, was done before the war so it is unlikely that anything has survived." Information kindly provided by Fred Ordway.

(22) On-Line Computer Library Center printout from early March 1994 showing one copy in the United States at the California Institute of Technology.

(23) Entitled "Extra-Terrestrial Relays," this article is generally credited with being the first account that clearly outlined the idea of communications satellites. In it, Clarke suggested three satellites space equidistantly at altitudes of 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers) to provide complete coverage of the Earth. See, e.g., Telecommunications Satellites: Theory, Practice, Ground Stations, Satellites, Economics, ed. K[enneth] W. Gatland (London: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964), pp. 1-2, 21; Neil McAleer, Odyssey: The Authorized Biography of Arthur C. Clarke (London: Gollancz, 1992), pp. 58-61.

(24) Clarke's comments appeared in a letter to the IEEE Spectrum 31, (Mar. 1994): 4, responding to a letter from the Austrian, Viktor Kudielka, in the same journal, vol. 30, (June 1993): 8, where the latter claimed precedence for Potocnik in inventing a geostationary orbit for short wave communications. (My thanks to Lee Saegesser of the NASA History Office for bringing the Clarke letter to my attention.) Pichler, "Potocnik-Noordung," pp. 2, 10, also claims precedence for Potocnik in inventing communications satellites and the geosynchronous orbit.

(25) "Space Station Update," Spaceflight 27 (Feb. 1985): 92.

(26) Winter, Prelude to the Space Age: The Rocket Societies (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983), p. 114; Gruen, "The Port Unknown: A History of the Space Station Freedom Project" (as yet unpublished typescript dated 30 April 1993 and submitted to the NASA History Office), p. 13n7.

(27) "Crossing the Last Frontier," Collier's Mar. 22, 1952: 24-29, 72-73.

(28) Howard E. McCurdy, "The Possibility of Space Flight: From Fantasy to Prophecy," paper delivered at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology, 15 Oct. 1993, pp. 2, 10-11, 16; The Space Station Decision: Incremental Politics and Technological Choice (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), pp. 5-8, quotation from p. 8. Cf. the comment of W. Ray Hook, who had helped develop space station concepts at Langley Research Center and was later the manager of its Space Station Office and then its Director for Space. In an apparently unpublished paper entitled "Historical Review and Current Plans," p. 1, received in late 1983 in the NASA History Office and now residing in a folder marked "Space Station Historical" in the NASA Historical Reference Collection, he stated of von Braun and others' space station concept published in Collier's in 1952, "The basic tenets and objectives of this proposal were essentially sound and have been pursued with varying levels of activity ever since." See also in this connection, Randy Liebermann, "The Collier's and Disney Series," Blueprint for Space, pp. 135-146, and the video on the subject at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

(29) Space Station Decision, p. 5.

(30) Winter, The Rocket Societies, p. 114.

(31) Ernst Stuhlinger and Frederick I Ordway, Wernher von Braun: Aufbruch in den Weltraum (Munich: Bechtle Verlag, 1992), pp. 47-48. The English version of this book, Wernher von Braun: Crusader for Space, vol. 1: A Biographical Memoir (Melbourne, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 1994), contains this information on p. 16.

(32) Copy of "Lunetta" from Leben und Arbeit 2/3 (1930/31): 88-92 in von Braun biographical folder, "Sputnik to Dec. 1965," in the NASA Historical Reference Collection.

(33) Ways to Spaceflight, pp. 410-435.

(34) Hacker, "Idea of Rendezvous," pp. 384-385; Frederick I. Ordway, III, "The History, Evolution, and Benefits of the Space Station Concept (in the United States and Western Europe)," paper presented at the XIIIe Congress of the History of Science, Section 12, Moscow, August 1971, p. 6, later published in the Actes du XIIIe Congrès International d'Histoire des Sciences 12 (1974): 92-132. As Hacker points out, it was for Ross and Smith that the BIS English translation was later prepared. The design of their space station appeared in the London Daily Express in November 1948 and later as "Orbital Bases" in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 8 (Jan. 1949): 1-19.

(35) W. David Compton and Charles D. Benson, Living and Working in Space: A History of Skylab (Washington, D.C.: NASA SP-4208, 1983), esp. pp. 247-338, 381-386.

(36) See for example, The Aeronautics and Space Report of the President, Fiscal Year 1992 Activities (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993), pp. 11, 15-16.

(37) Sylvia D. Fries, "2001 to 1994: Political Environment and the Design of NASA's Space Station System," Technology and Culture 29 (1988): 571.

(38) See, e.g., the unpublished paper of Alex Roland, "The Evolution of Civil Space Station Concepts in the United States" (May 1983), seen in his biographical file, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

(39) Hook, "Historical Review and Current Plans," pp. 8-10; Aeronautics and Space Report, FY 1992, Appendix C.


[Previous Page] [Next Page] [Table