Mission unspeakable: Nasa got a Nazi to get them to the moon

World

Mission unspeakable: Nasa got a Nazi to get them to the moon

On the 50th anniversary of the historic lunar mission, the space agency's dirty little secret is revealed

Rebecca Tinsley

As the world marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, spare a thought for the 60,000 slaves who helped make it possible.

French and Russian prisoners of war in Nazi Germany built the forerunner of the Saturn V rocket that put Neil Armstrong on the moon in July 1969. Much of this was down to the work of Wernher von Braun, a 22-year-old SS officer with a PhD in engineering who, in the early 1930s, was given a grant by the Nazis to build experimental rockets – military hardware that, due to an oversight, had been omitted from the list of weaponry prohibited under the Treaty of Versailles.

An elaborate facility at Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom was set up to serve Von Braun’s every need, and he quickly brought together hundreds of Germany’s top engineers and physicists. By the outbreak of World War 2 Von Braun was developing pilotless vehicles capable of delivering a payload of explosives. In 1942, his team launched the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile, the V-2 (short for “vengeance” weapon)...

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