I just finished reading Bob Ward’s “Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun,” which I’ve been reading off and on for nearly nine months. It’s a very thorough book, and at times I found it overwhelming. But I was hopeful for some interesting nuggets of history or insight about von Braun — a household name in my hometown of Huntsville, Ala., and at one time a person after whom I considered naming my youngest son.
For all its cumbersome parts, the book certainly delivered on revealing things that I didn’t know. It also created a new appreciation for von Braun and the impact he had on space exploration and ultimately the history of Huntsville, America and mankind.
Throughout the book I marked several things that stood out to me. One of those was the “von Braun plan” for space exploration. I found it interesting that the plan von Braun laid out in 1970 is so similar to the plan we are under today. The timeline has been extended greatly and some of the plans were modified or downsized, but the basic outline is the same.
“The resultant twenty-year plan included several main elements. There were to be a series of three separate Skylab space stations in Earth orbit; a smaller, simpler Space Shuttle than the mainstream concept then being pushed; and continued production and use of Saturns and other launch vehicles for scientific , unmanned missions to Mars, the Sun, and on multiplanet tours. Later would come a larger shuttle, a larger, permanent space station, a permanent lunar base, and ultimately a manned mission to Mars.” (Ward, 192)
A second comment that really stood out is something I’ve written about here before, and that is the connection of God with science. Towards the end of his life von Braun wrote a presentation titled “Responsible Scientific Investigation and Application.” In that presentation he wrote about the compatibility of science and faith.
“‘In this reaching of the new millennium through faith in the words of Jesus Christ, science can be a valuable tool rather than an impediment. The universe revealed through scientific inquiry is the living witness that God has indeed been at work. Understanding the nature of the creation provides a substantive basis for the faith by which we attempt to know the nature of the Creator.'” (Ward 217-18)