Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“Auf kühner Fahrt zum Mars,” a 1928 novelette by Austrian rocket scientist Max Valier

Here’s a dusty gem for fans of hard science SF: “Auf kühner Fahrt zum Mars,” a novelette penned by pioneering Austrian rocket scientist Max Valier. Originally published in 1928 in Die Rakete, the journal of the German Rocket Society, Valier’s story was translated into English and published as “A Daring Trip to Mars” in the July 1931 issue of Wonder Stories magazine. A tale about a doctor, an engineer and his wife who first land on the moon and then voyage to the Red Planet, here is Valier’s foreword to “A Daring Trip to Mars,” followed by the opening lines of his story:


THE following narrative offers as entertainment an introduction to the highly-interesting problems of the space flight plan. It is especially aimed at the reader who is not technically trained. The mathematical parts, however, are based on careful calculation. Of course, considerable time must still pass before we shall possess rocket ships so well constructed that we shall be able to venture a flight to a neighboring planet. The rocket ship will first have to stand its test on the earth. Yet it is well to keep the distant goal in sight, even if we are still just making a beginning toward it – Max Valier

Chapter One: The Rocket-Ship

TOM Sacket, chief correspondent of the Sunday Globe, had pulled out his pad of paper like lightning. But in his hand, his pen trembled a little.

Accustomed as he was to recording the most hair-raising sensational reports in almost impossible positions, without the twitching of an eyelash, his calmness had deserted him this time. It was only with difficulty that he overcame his excitement. Nevertheless his words were filled with a warm emotion, such as one feels toward dear people who are still standing before one in the abounding freshness of life, but who are to depart the next moment, perhaps forever. …

Sadly, Max Valier was killed in Berlin in May 1930 when one of his liquid oxygen-gasoline fueled rocket motors exploded on the test stand. He was just 35 years old.

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