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Von Braun said: "Human space travel is God's will"

From an interview to Dr. von Braun by Oriana Fallaci (1965)

“[…] A lot of people say: but how will anyone be able to live up there on the Moon where there’s no air nor water nor any of the things we need in order to live? It will be like in an airplane, I tell them, where we eat our steak, drink our champagne, are looked after by a charming hostess, When man is provided with an Earthly environment, man can live anywhere. And he will do it. We shall get used to the Moon as we have got used to planes, and the old argument that man is meant to stay upon the Earth no longer means anything. Man is meant to stay wherever he wants to stay and go anywhere he wants to go.”

“Then it would be appropriate to ask oneself where all this going will take us, Dr. Von Braun. Science is proceeding like a curious child, discovering things of which we know nothing, causing things to happen that we’d never imagined: but, like a heedless child, it never stops to wonder whether it’s doing good or ill.  Where will all this going take us?”

“Very far. Just as we’ve been taken far by the discovery of new seas, of new continents, by the sealing of new lands. And nobody can tell in advance whether it will bring good or ill. Until now man has done nothing but bring about heap of trouble: but it has been trough these very troubles that man has advanced and new civilizations have been built to replace those which have been destroyed. So I do not think that we are doing anything ill. Men must always travel farther and farther a field, they must always widen their horizons and their interests: this is the will of God. If God didn’t want it to be so, He wouldn’t have given us the ability and the possibility to make progress and to change. If God didn’t want it, He would stop us. Yes, of course I’m religious. Look I have known a lot of scientists and I’ve never known a scientist worthy of the name who could offer an explanation of nature without some notion of God. Science tries to understand creation but religion tries to understand the Creator and nobody can avoid trying to understand the Creator. It’s a pure scientist who deludes himself that he can do without religion and God: the kind of scientist who scrapes the surface without looking beneath. I try to look beneath the surface, and I see god there…”

They looked beneath the surface and saw the two Yugoslavians. They tossed aside the lid which had seemed so heavy to me, then they peered down the well and saw the two Yugoslavians in it. Mother and I could tell that they’d found them by the way they were laughing. As long as I live, Dr. von Braun, I shall never never forget the way those Germans laughed when they saw the two Yugoslavians. Laughing open-throated, tickled to death, one of them dropped his tommy-gun and clutched his stomach with laughter. The two Yugoslavians believed in God too, Dr. von Braun. The elder one had once had a great discussion with my father and had said just the same: that you can’t explain nature without some notion of God, etc. And they said that God is good and is on the side of the good, that if God didn’t approve He would stop us, etc. But God didn’t stop those Germans who aimed their tommy-guns down the well and ordered the Yugoslavians to come out. God let them do everything, those Germans and so the two Yugoslavians came out, climbing up the bricks that stuck out like steps,  commending themselves to God that He should not let them be killed: but God didn’t hear them and the Germans took them away, together with their scent of lemon.

“…I see ethical principles there. Two factors are necessary to make man accept ethics: one is the belief in the Last Judgment, when every one of us must account to God for his use on Earth of the precious gift of life, the other is the belief in immortality, which is to say the continuation after death of our spiritual existence. Because we have a soul…”

As well as a soul the two Yugoslavians had a little tube of explosive which they had forgotten to leave in the well. It was a little tube not much bigger than a bit of candle and they’d stolen it from the drain where I’d hidden it. We heard that it had been found in the pocket of the elder one, and the next day they where both in a sealed truck that took them to Germany, and they never came back from Germany, did they, Father?

“…we have a conscience and we know that nothing in nature can disappear without leaving a trace. Nature allows no extinction, it allows only transformation: if God applies His fundamental principle to the whole universe, and He does, there can be no doubt of the existence of immortality. And he work in this awareness of immortality, subject to the eternal cycle of life and death, true links between the past and the future. The future of the generations to come depends on what we discover today, with conviction that we are doing good, with the help of God. I hope I’ve made myself clear.”

“Perfectly clear, Dr. von Braun. Perfectly clear.”

“That’s thirty-eight minutes, eight more than the allotted time,” said  Slattery.

“I have to go now,” said von Braun.

“It has been interesting,” said I.

“”Very interesting,” said Slattery.

“the future is always interesting,” said von Braun.

“More than the past,” said I.

“Much more than the past,” said Slattery.

“Clearly,” said von Braun. And he left.


O. Fallaci, If the Sun Dies, translated from the Italian by P. Swinglehurst (New York: Atheneum, 1966), pp. 230-232.