A few days ago, I indulged my curiosity by doing a little web searching for unrealized spacecraft designs – I was motivated by having read Project Orion recently. The Orion designs relied on nuclear impulse power; they would chuck a shaped-charge nuclear bomb behind them, touch it off, and absorb the energy using a pusher plate, shock absorbers and a massive ship/payload. While noodling around I ran across a Nazi secret weapon project I’d never heard of before: Dr. Eugen Sanger’s Amerika Orbital bomber.
Reading about how this thing was to be launched, all I could think of was my favorite childhood TV show. A bit of background – the year I was to start school, my family moved to Newport, Wales for a year so instead of first grade, it was Infant’s One for me. Lest you think that I spent my time in Wales zoned out in front of the tube – well, it was different then (and there). If I recall correctly – no guarantees – there was one channel, it wasn’t broadcasting all the time and a significant portion of the programming was in Welsh. My time in Newport cemented my love of the outdoors and started my bibliomania; my teacher gave me a copy of this book as a going away present when we left to return to Phoenix (AZ). There was one thing on the telly (couldn’t resist) that I loved: Gerry Anderson’s Fireball XL5. If you’re not familiar with him, Mr. Anderson is the guy behind Supermarionation and shows like Thunderbirds and Stingray. Fireball XL5 was one of his earlier efforts; the eponymous rocketship was launched by – you guessed it – being propelled down a long track by a rocket sled. Convergent evolution or had Anderson or one of his people heard of Sanger’s work? You got me. I can tell you that World War II was still echoing in Great Britain in the early sixties in a way it definitely was not in the US. I started building plastic model airplane kits (Airfix!) while we were in Wales – Spitfires and Lancaster bombers were all I remember – no Vulcans, nothing contemporary. Who knows, but in any event, a good excuse for me to turn the clock back. I don’t miss the school uniform though!