Nazis, Magic and McCarthyism

Frank J. Malina is a forgotten name in the history of the USA’s quest for space – his story is just a part of the deeply political story of American space exploration

Not all revelations about space are about exoplanets or ancient water on Mars. We’re also discovering more about the history of space exploration – about how it happened and what motivated the early rocket pioneers. And it’s becoming clear that some of the most important engineers have been written out of the story.

The conventional roll call of rocketeers in the United States opens with Robert H. Goddard, a secretive Clark University physicist who experimented with liquid propulsion. For Goddard, the goal of a rocket was to reach ‘extreme altitudes’ though he never quite managed this himself.

Next up is Wernher von Braun, the architect of the Nazi V-2 who subsequently designed the Saturn V launch vehicle that took America to the Moon.

But in between these two is another engineer, Frank J. Malina, who has been largely forgotten. Why?

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