The Rocket-Car Man Who Helped Put Us On The Moon

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He drove his rocket car 150 mph in the 1920s. He founded the rocketeering society whose members put America on the Moon. He died a rocketeer’s death. His name was Max Valier. This is his story.

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Valier was born in 1895 in the southwestern reaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the city of Bolzano, located in the mountains of modern Italy. He studied physics, served as an aerial observer in World War I, and was writing about science when, at the age of 28, he came across the book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (By Rocket Into Interplanetary Space). Rakete was the work of Hermann Oberth, an ethnic German from Transylvania, one of the founders of modern rocketry.

Inspired by Oberth’s work, Valier was one of the three men who founded Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel), an amateur society of rocketeers who would prove vastly more influential than their humble Berlin origins would suggest. VfR attracted the bright and adventurous young scientists and tinkerers of Germany, among them a certain Wernher von Braun.

Von Braun, a German-American rocket scientist, was the central engineer of Germany's pre-war rocket development and later, after immigrating to the United States, served as director of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Illustration for article titled The Rocket-Car Man Who Helped Put Us On The Moon

However, Valier had his sights on more earthbound targets than von Braun. He joined Rocket Fritz—company founder Adam Opel’s grandson Fritz von Opel—to build rocket cars for promoting Opel’s regular cars. Rockets would not prove to be very well suited for propelling cars, as Oberth would point out to Valier, but they reached speeds of 150 mph and looked awesome. How awesome? In the case of the Opel RAK.2, this awesome:

Following the association with Rocket Fritz, Valier went on to design his own rocket cars (pictured on top is the Valier RAK.6). In 1930, at the age of 35, he was

Illustration for article titled The Rocket-Car Man Who Helped Put Us On The Moon

experimenting with an alcohol-fueled rocket engine when it exploded on his test bench. The shrapnel severed his aorta, killing him instantly.


But Valier’s work lived on. A young 24-year-old apprentice took his engine, improved on it, and finished it in secrecy. His name was Arthur Rudolph, and in 1963—after a detour with the rest of the members of VfR—he used Valier's technology as the manager of the Saturn V project—the rocket that put America on the Moon.

Where astronauts drove moon buggies instead of rocket cars.

Illustration for article titled The Rocket-Car Man Who Helped Put Us On The Moon

Photo Credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv, Oldenbourg Verlagsgruppe, Opel, NASA (1, 2)


This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.


Why can't men just be men anymore? Get the fuck out of your crossover (a poor display to try and cover up the fact that you didn't want a minivan to bring the kids to soccer) and go be a fucking man, like your forefathers.

Man agenda for the weekend:

1. Get up in the morning, remember to take the k-bar out from under your pillow.

2. Eat a big breakfast, similar to the one shown above. Cholesterol be damned, no one lives forever and everything gives you cancer.

3. Light up a filterless lucky strike. Don't pussy out and be the lights either, because you may think they give you cancer slower. No, fuck that. Smoke, you pussy.

4. Don your suit and fedora. Have some class. You're a fucking man, after all (note: gators are only appropriate in certain situations, and you probably don't know what those situations are, so just avoid them alltogether.

5. Go into the garage, where your large collection of tools, both basic and powered, lies. Make something. Engineer, use the ingenuity that makes up human. Make a chainsaw-flamethrower-gatling-blending-routing-cutting-bending-sharpening do-hickey that someone will have an use for someday, or just build it because you're a man and have the capability.

6. If you need tools or supplies, go to the local hardware store, as opposed the the lowe's or home depot. Men talk to each other and build relationships with people in town, as opposed to dealing with 16-year-old schmuckey kids in an orange apron trying to sell you shitty paint.

7. Help your friend out. And none of this whole "help you move a chair bullshit", if your friend is a man, you'll most likely be cutting down a giant redwood that was taking space in his yard. Time to use that thing you made earlier.

8. Go home, eat dinner at the head of the table. Smoke while doing so. After listening to the kid's and wife's activities during the day. Finish dinner, and walk over the couch. Proceed to drink Wild Turkey straight until your liver tries to kill you, then back off on the drinking a little.

9. Make love to your wife, like a fucking man does. 8 hours of the best she's felt in her life (although you only needed 5 minutes to make that happen).

10. Go to sleep, getting ready for the next day of working a 12 hour shift at the steel mill.

Sorry for that rant guys. Reading about awesome old men makes me realize how un-man most of america has turned into. Except for that one guy they found in pakistan with a sword and a pistol last week, he's pretty badass.