In 1977 the Death Star from George Lucas’ Star Wars was the coolest thing on the big screen and became a globally recognized icon. What is not widely known is that during WWII Hitler had a similar idea.
German physicist Dr. Hermann Oberth had been inspired by Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon at a young age. By the time he was a teenager, he had practically invented space travel. He saw far into the future, envisioning rocket ships and space stations to support them. In 1923 he published The Rocket into Planetary Space. The in 1931 he successfully launched a rocket proving that it could escape the Earth’s atmosphere. His goal was:
“To make available for life every place where life is possible. To make inhabitable all worlds as yet uninhabitable and all life purposeful.”
Hitler saw Dr. Oberth’s work as the ideal superweapon.
Adolph Hitler must have been one of those little boys who used a magnifying glass in the sun to burn ants on the sidewalk because that was his intent – only on a much larger scale.
His idea was a mile wide concave mirror in space that would act as a giant magnifying glass orbiting the earth at an altitude of over five thousand miles over the equator. The mirror, to be made of sodium, would reflect the sun down on cities and other targets burning them to a crisp. Reflectors would collect sunlight to generate steam powered turbogenerators to light the station. Inside, hundreds of pumpkin plants grown under fluorescent lighting would produce oxygen, and magnetic shoes would compensate for the lack of gravity. Small rocket thrusters on the rear side of the disk would be used for aiming it.
The plan was for the ‘Sonnengewehr’ (Sun gun), to be built in space using pre-fabricated sections sent up by rockets. There would be a hole in the middle to accommodate a cigar-shaped rocket which would serve as the airlock for people entering and leaving the station.
The project was fraught with problems. Rockets at that time could not carry such a heavy load. It would have taken more than fifty years to build and the light reflected from the sun would barely have been strong enough to light up a city much less destroy one because of such a long focal length. Knowledge about rocketry at that time would not have allowed for accurate aiming.
Evidentally, Hitler envisioned the Third Reich lasting well into the 21st century with the ultimate weapon to control the world.
During the second Punic War from 214 BC to 212 BC, according to legend, Archimedes had an idea to set up a similar system. He needed to repulse the Romans in the Siege of Syracuse. Some accounts claimed the Roman ships were set on fire using such a method, but modern science debunks this.
The chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Brian Muirhead, has stated that rather than trying to construct a space station from scratch with materials sent from earth, the smartest and most efficient way would be to use an asteroid as the core using the natural resources of the asteroid to create the station. Had Hitler known, the Death Star may have been completed much sooner, and Luke Skywalker may not have been so successful.
NASA is presently working on the Asteroid Redirect Mission. They are planning to send a robot to land on an asteroid and collect a boulder which will then be placed in orbit around the Moon. Scientists will collect the boulder and analyze samples to learn precisely what is required to achieve a station in space.
If the mission remains active, the robot landing could happen in 2023.