When We Were Apollo: “Von Braun the Amphibian and the Dreams of Visionaries”

When We Were Apollo: “Von Braun the Amphibian and the Dreams of Visionaries”

Visionaries come in many forms. The most effective kind are amphibians–able to capture the hearts and minds of the public while speaking the language of our scientists, engineers and mathematicians. When I look at these early concept drawings by rocket scientist, Werner von Braun, I see that special type: a man who could inspire the politicians to fund the endeavor while ensuring the scientists the machines could be built.  I also see a person who didn’t allow his technical expertise to stop him from expressing his passion for space exploration. I see a person who didn’t allow his scientific mind to put a damper on the intrinsically human notion of “what if.”

Chelsey Bonestell painted this image of von Braun’s space shuttle ejecting its booster rocket.

While nothing identical to his concepts ever flew in space or landed on the moon, when I look closely enough I see in his ferry rocket our great Saturn V launch vehicle. When I study his concept for a moon lander I see our Apollo Lunar Module. When I study his space plane I see our Space Shuttle. And when I admire his grand space wheel I see our International Space Station. Through all the paint and color I see a clear idea of where we have always wanted to go that is now in some way, shape or form a part of our collective history.

Visionaries like von Braun are critical to our collective futures because they are the beginning–the spark, the moment of inception–the “big bang.”  And if they are not given a chance to share their visions with us–if they are dismissed or lampooned in the name of fiscal responsibility, technical impossibility and/or ideological purity–the world of tomorrow will never arrive. So to the politicians and public at large I say this: give the visionaries the support and funding they need to do their job on our behalf. To the scientists, mathematicians and engineers: do not laugh at or shoot down their concepts because the technology does not yet exist.  And to all the von Braun’s out there: continue to dream and share with us.  Move us with your creativity. Inspire us with your passion.  Show us your visions for a grand, prosperous and enlightening future.  Through your efforts, we will inevitably discover a will to see your dreams realized.  And once there’s a will, there will always be a way.

Von Braun’s space shuttle delivers supplies with the space wheel space station in the background.