Hermann Oberth is a rare example where science married fiction and it became difficult to tell the two apart. Oberth called the “Father of Space Travel” for his visionary writing about the future of space, was greatly influenced by Jules Verne, when at the age of 11, his mother gave him Verne’s “Earth to the Moon” and “Around the Moon”, three years later, he designed his first spacecraft. Oberth, along with Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and American Robert Goddard, became known as pioneers of rocket science. The career path was far from easy, however. Oberth designed and submitted a long range liquid propellant rocket, which was rejected in 1917 by the German Ministry of War. Oberth’s doctoral thesis based on his rocket design was also rejected by the University of Heidelberg. Opting to end his pursuit of a doctorate, Oberth partially financed the publication of his dissertation in a 1923 book, “Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen” (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space). A short readable biography of Oberth at the New Mexico Museum of Space History website, includes how in the book based on his rejected dissertation, “…he explained mathematically, how rockets could achieve a speed that would allow them to escape Earth’s gravitational pull. The book earned Oberth widespread recognition, and inspired a generation of German rocket enthusiasts”. In 1929, Oberth joined the Verein fur Raumshiffahrt or VfR (“Spaceflight Society”), which quickly grew and soon voted its president.
Oberth “..with his teen-aged protégé Wernher von Braun and other members of the VfR, launched Oberth’s first rocket on May 7, 1931, near Berlin (more than five years after Goddard launched the world’s first liquid-fuel rocket)”. Later, in 1941, Oberth worked under van Braun at Peenemunde in the development of the V-2 rocket.
In 1953, Oberth’s book “Menschen im Weltraum” (Man in Space) was published, where ideas were forwarded of space stations, electric spaceships and space suits. Van Braun was able to lure his mentor in 1955 to join him with many of the V-2 rocket scientists in the United States. Oberth resigned in 1958 and returned to Germany, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Hermann Oberth may be remembered as much for his enigmatic quotes as for his worldly accomplishments. In 1972, Oberth was quoted, “Today, we cannot produce machines that fly the same as UFOs do. They are flying by means of artificial gravity. This would explain the sudden changes of directions. This hypothesis would also explain the piling up of these discs into a Cylindrical or cigar shaped Mothership upon leaving Earth. Because it is in this fashion that only one field of gravity would be required for all the flying saucers,” as excerpted from Jonathon Eisen’s book, “Suppressed Inventions…,” in this You Tube Video. The most interesting Oberth quote of all, may be, “we have been helped by peoples of other worlds”. What in or possibly out of this world did Oberth mean?
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