Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From From Nazis to Nasa: The Life of Wernher von Braun by Bob Ward:

'Von Braun's avalanche of fan mail ran the full spectrum. One woman wrote, "I only have one question before I sign off: is it possible for one to attain sexual pleasure from sending up rockets?'... One of the strangest letters, an ominous one, came from a correspondent in Germany claiming to represent a "world-famous rock'n'roll group". All that the band wanted was for von Braun to secretly bring to America a pretty, 14-year-old German girl whom they had marked for stardom as a singer. They would pay him well for his trouble but, if he didn't cooperate, it would be "death for you and your wife".'


'"It was my suggestion,' Dr Generales recalled years later, "that before he attempted a lunar flight, it might be worthwhile to try it with mice as 'passengers' first. Wernher agreed it was a good idea. And so we found ourselves spinning white mice on a specially mounted bicycle in Wernher's rooms." But disaster struck some of the experiments, as the home-made centrifuge, designed to simulate rocket take-offs, spun faster and faster, the blood of "a number of these unfortunate beasts" was flung against the ceiling of the room – with unpleasantly messy results, as von Braun later reported. "Our... inquisitions were summarily interrupted by my landlady's violent objections to a ring of mouse-blood upon the walls of my otherwise neat Swiss room." Medical student Generales dissected the mice and reported to his space-minded friend that the high acceleration had caused cerebral haemorrhages in the subject animals.'

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