Frau im Mond
Written July 2019
years before earthlings set foot on another heavenly body, a movie
showed us how it could be done.
I speak of
the motion picture Frau im Mond, or Woman in the Moon.
This lengthy silent film by German director Fritz Lang premiered
in Berlin on October 15, 1929.
audience of 2,000 saw it in this theater, UFA's Palace at the Zoo.
Hermann Oberth had figured out by 1922 how to travel to the
moon. He detailed the requirements in a proposed doctoral
dissertation. All that was necessary (which would require
another 47 years, as it turned out) was a little engineering by the
rocket scientists. By 1929, Oberth was static-firing a liquid-fueled
rocket engine with the help of 18-year-old student Wernher von Braun.
written that to reach the moon, an escape velocity of 11,200
kilometers per second would be needed, and therefore a three-stage
rocket would be required. The occupants would experience an
acceleration of 4 G's, the most they could withstand. To
survive it, they would have to lie down during launch. These details
were included in the motion picture and in the subsequent
begins with a mad scientist who speculates that there's gold in them
there lunar craters.
like this guy want to get it. They rob safes and tap phones to
find out how. One financial backer says, If the moon's
riches of gold really exist, I want them to fall into the hands of
business people and not into the hands of dreamers and idealists!
scientists have already built this H. 32
Unmanned Survey Rocket. Now the crooks coerce them to
construct a much more powerful vehicle. They return to their
Vertical Assembly Building and complete a moon rocket.
will be in the proper position for a launch at 9:30 pm. This is
announced to everyone by a plane that skywrites START 2130.
by floodlights, the rocket is rolled out on a mobile transporter
that takes it to the water-cooled launch pad, just like Apollo.
of excited spectators is on hand. So is a crowd of reporters,
including this on-the-scene broadcaster whom I'd like to think of as
suspense builds as the crew watches the clock, waiting until
second-by-second final countdown, inspiring the procedure that's used
in real life today, goes something like this:
several minutes of acceleration to reach escape velocity, the
passengers become weightless.
adventurers, including one woman for further drama, are aboard.
There's also a stowaway kid and a pet mouse.
gizmos are reaction
wheels, used to control the craft's attitude in airless
space. If an electric motor spins the wheel to the right, the
craft reacts in the opposite direction, turning slowly to the
left. (Apollo would use small rocket thrusters instead.)
spacecraft arrives at the Moon.
Then, after a rocket-assisted landing, it's down the ladder for one
small step and one giant leap!
happens. Spoiler alert: gold is found, two people die,
two return to Earth, and the woman and her man are left behind.
was not a great box-office success. It was silent, and
audiences were beginning to prefer talkies.
von Braun, however, was a fan. He continued building rockets,
including a ballistic missile that somewhat resembled the movie's H. 32.
This was after Hitler came to power in Germany.
banned the movie because it gave away too many secrets, but a Frau
im Mond logo appeared on von Braun's first successful V2.
After World War II, of course, he came to America and headed the team
that constructed our actual moon rocket, the Saturn V.