The Nazis Planned to Use the Sun to Attack Their Enemies
Some of the Nazi super weapons were marvels of ingenuity, like the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter plane and the V-2 ballistic missile. There were also many that stretched the realm of what was possible. The later category became more prevalent during the last few years of World War II, as the Nazis were desperate to gain the upper hand any way they could.
Today we will be looking at a super weapon that even in modern times seems more fancy than fact.
A Super Weapon Revealed
Shortly after the end of World War II, Allied technical experts pored over captured German military projects. Among them, they discovered plans to build a sun gun. According to the July 23, 1945 issue of Life magazine, "In Germany last month, US Army technical experts came up with the astonishing fact that German scientist has seriously planned to build a "sun gun," a big mirror in space which would focus the sun's rays to a scorching point at the earth's surface. The Germans, the Army reported, hoped to use such a mirror to burn an enemy city to ashes or boil part of an ocean."
A Time magazine article from July 8, 1945 said, "At a research center in Hillersleben a group of them were solemnly laying plans for a "space station" 5,100 miles up, from which a "sun gun" would have the whole earth at its mercy. Assuming that at that height a floating structure would be beyond the pull of the earth's gravity, they proposed to build a platform for launching rockets into interstellar space and for harnessing the sun's heat." The Time article also stated that the weapon would be made out of "metallic sodium" and be able "make an ocean boil or to burn up a city in a flash". The mirror would need to be 3 and a half square miles in size.
The plan had been conceived by German scientist named Hermann Oberth. Oberth was a pioneer in the world of rocketry. [He originally planned]() to use the massive mirror to "supply the earth with sunshine anywhere on the globe". During the War, he proposed it as an offensive weapon. He said later, "My space mirror 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."
Oberth calculated that it would take 15 years to complete construction of the mirror. After the War, a German scientist told the Allies, "they were certain the thing could be done within 50 or 100 years". The idea might seem fanciful to us, but the Germans set a budget of three million Reichsmark for the project.
Would It Have Worked?
There was no way that the Nazi regime could have constructed the sun gun during World War II. First of all, they would have needed rockets capable of reaching into outer space, specifically 5,100 miles out. The V-2 missiles that they were using to pound England were only capable of sub-orbital flight. They were working on a multi-stage missile to reach the US when the War ended.
Second, they would have to discover everything about space flight. Once the Germans reached space, they would not have been able to start construction immediately. The would had to learn how to operate in space. There would have undoubtedly been several false starts as equipment and material failed to survive under conditions in space. The first real space stations were not created until the 1970s, and those were small compared to the proposed space mirror.
Never mind, there is also the question whether this idea would even work. Would the mirror be able to generate enough energy to pass though the atmosphere and burn and enemy? I'm not a scientist, but I doubt it. It sounds like science fiction to me.
Oberth may have based his idea on the ancient Greek Archimedes. According to legend, Archimedes used mirrors to burn the Roman fleet intent on capturing Syracuse. There are differing opinions on whether the story is true. There have also been multiple experiments that both proved and disproved the legend.
Wait, didn't Batman use satellites to unfreeze Gotham? How do you like that? They stole it from the Nazis.
Why is This Cool?
The story of sun gun (as truncated as it is) is one of those stories that helps build the mythos of the Nazi super weapons. Ever since World War II ended, people have speculated on what super weapons the Nazi has been working on and who got a hold of them after the war. There are as many movies and books about lost Nazi super weapons as there are about lost Nazi gold.
Honestly, who wouldn't want to build a giant mirror in space? It has everything a sci-fi nerd could love, but unfortunately it's impracticality means that we are all safe. At least from being melted by a space mirror.
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