IT may sound like a something a Bond villain would propose, but these amazing picture reveals the secret plans drawn up by the German army to create a mile-wide ‘space gun’ powered by the sun.
The giant mirror could be used to focus the sun on a target - rather like the magnifying glasses often used by children to create fire. The pictures, from Life magazine in 1945, reveal to its readers how ‘US Army technical experts came up with the astonishing fact that German scientists had seriously planned to build a ‘sun gun’.’
The giant orbital mirror would ‘focus the sun’s rays to a scorching point on the earth’s surface.’ The German army, readers were told, ‘hoped to use such a mirror to burn an enemy city or to boil part of an ocean.’
The idea is the brainchild of renowned rocket scientist Hermann Oberth, in 1923. With an estimated cost of three million marks and taking 15 years to construct, the original purpose of the space mirror was to provide the people of earth with sunshine on demand, anywhere on the globe. As late as 1957, he was still convinced that his space mirror would become a reality, but also described it as the ‘ultimate weapon’.
In 1945, when the victorious Allies began sifting through captured Nazi war plans, it emerged the Nazis had updated Oberth’s proposals and begun looked into the possibility of the Third Reich building a mirror weapon in geosynchronous orbit 22,236 miles above the Earth - which was then reported in Life Magazine’s 23 July 1945 issue.
‘My space mirror,’ he wrote, ‘is like the hand mirrors that schoolboys use to flash circles of sunlight on the ceiling of their classroom. A sudden beam flashed on the teacher’s face may bring unpleasant reactions. I was a schoolteacher long enough to have collected certain data on the subject.’
Although there were no official details of the construction of the project, Life magazine believed it would we put into orbit in preassembled sections.
The entire surface of the mirror-front, back and edges-would be mirrored, ‘otherwise [the sun’s rays] would burn occupants of disk to death instantly,’ the magazine claimed.
The Life version of the mirror would also contain a manned space stations, with 30-foot holes in which supply rockets could dock, hydroponic gardens to provide oxygen and solar powered generators for electric power. Once in orbit, the ‘master rocket’ for the project would unreel six long cables, each only 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Spinning the rocket on its axis would extend the cables radially, allowing construction to begin. –DM