Aimee Ferrier on the space race's influence on pop culture

For Far Out Magazine, Aimee Ferrier looked at the various ways that ‘the space race infiltrated pop culture‘, particularly in fashion, music, interior design, and film. But one particular example made me shudder where others might not:

According to [David] Schwartz [the chief curator of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York]: “What Disney did that was really important was he teamed up with the scientist Wernher von Braun, who was really the most prominent scientist of the United States and was trying to promote the idea of space travel. Disney had something to promote himself, he was trying to build Disneyland theme park in California. And so in 1955, they teamed up and created a TV show called Man in Space.” Disney’s portrayal of space travel represented the idea of outer space as “this frontier that was really just an extension of the west and this whole idea of American expansion.” With increased technological advancements, space travel became the height of modernity.

For those who don’t know, Wernher von Braun was a German aerospace engineer who was also a member of the Nazi Party, where he was the leading figure in their development of rocket technology. His work on the V-2 which killed around 9,000 civilians and military personnel in attacks, and a further 12,000 labourers (including concentration camps prisoners) who were forced to work on the rockets.

After the war, he was one of about 1,600 other German scientists and engineers who were secretly moved to the US as part of a secret US intelligence program known as Operation Paperclip. He then worked for the US Army, and he developed the rockets for their first space satellite, Explorer 1. His work was later absorbed into NASA and he served as director of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

This is very much the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the relationship between American and Nazi politics but it’s important to know all sides of the space race and aerospace technology besides Disney movies, The Jetsons ,and Googie architecture.

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