The First Person to Sacrifice His Life for the Dream of Space Travel
A stubby-winged plane launches itself from an airport runway on the outskirts of Berlin. When it reaches an altitude of several miles, it fires its rocket engines, lifting itself high into the stratosphere. And then it coasts across the Atlantic Ocean. Its passengers, strapped into their cushioned, contoured chairs, are hopefully enjoying their first experience with weightlessness. If they don't like it, they can comfort themselves with the fact that free-fall will only last 20 minutes, after which the rocket will begin its descent back into the atmosphere. Barely half an hour after leaving Germany, the rocket touches down near New York City.
A scenario of the immediate future, as described by one of the entrepreneurs pushing for the commercialization of spaceflight? Certainly. But this is also a scenario proposed by the first space entrepreneur, more than 70 years ago. And if any of the current schemes for commercial spaceflight succeeds, they'll owe a huge debt to Max Valier, the first martyr to the development of space travel.