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Germans planned to build 'sun gun' weapon

Posted on Tuesday, 2 April, 2013 | Comment icon 21 comments

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1945 it was revealed that German scientists had been planning to build a giant space mirror.

The claim originated with US army experts and was reported in an issue of Life magazine. According to the report, German scientists had devised plans to construct a huge mirror in space that could act as a devastating weapon by focusing the Sun's rays. Originally proposed by Hermann Oberth in 1923, the device could be ultimately used to attack enemy cities or to boil off areas of the ocean.

"My space mirror is like the hand mirrors that schoolboys use to flash circles of sunlight on the ceiling of their classroom," wrote Oberth. "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."

Despite the potential for such a weapon, the limited technology of the time meant that there was little hope of actually building it and the plan was ultimately scrapped.

"Back in 1945, Life magazine revealed 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’."

  View: Full article |  Source: io9.com

  Discuss: View comments (21)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by redhen on 3 April, 2013, 4:06
All this admiration of Third Reich technologies reminds me of a Werner von Braun quote; "We aimed for the stars, but sometimes we hit London."
Comment icon #13 Posted by skookum on 3 April, 2013, 8:05
I think it needs to be kept in perspective. We couldn't build that today, let alone in the 1930's/1940's when the V2 was the only rocket available. It mentions astronauts who I assume would be doing space walks, it would have need re-entry capsules and something capable of carrying the weight each launch. It is a lovely idea but as realistic with the technology of the time as building the Death Star with todays.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Zaphod222 on 3 April, 2013, 8:21
The Nazis sponsored all sorts of hare-brained schemes, nothing ever came of them. The few projects that actually produced useful weapons (like the ME262 jet fighter) were underfunded, delayed, and sometimes spoilt the Fuehrer himself with idiotic meddling.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Zaphod222 on 3 April, 2013, 8:24
And I am sure you would add lots of apostrophe`ssic to your giant magnifying glass, LOL
Comment icon #16 Posted by Mr Right Wing on 3 April, 2013, 14:27
How did they not win?
Comment icon #17 Posted by Atentutankh-pasheri on 3 April, 2013, 15:07
Because all these experiments came too late in the war and they were running out of various raw materials to continue production of even "old" technology. For instance, Tiger tanks often broke down because they did not have the right metals to construct final drive bearings capable of taking the strain of such a heavy tank. This brings to mind the old saying "For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost" etc etc. Besides, the vast majority of German equipment was not any better than that used by allies, and in some cases was worse, for insta... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by Collateral Damage on 3 April, 2013, 19:45
Don't confuse my acknowledgement for admiration; they're two very different things.
Comment icon #19 Posted by ChewiesArmy on 3 April, 2013, 21:10
You could also help the next time my yard gets infested with ants!
Comment icon #20 Posted by redhen on 4 April, 2013, 1:35
True, sometimes it hard to discern subtle nuances on forums. That said, I do admire the still being used today in the form of the German MG3 and the American M60. Meanwhile, as far I know, the BundesWehr still does not have winter boots, you'd think they would learn.
Comment icon #21 Posted by skookum on 4 April, 2013, 6:50
Because they focused on quality not fully understanding quantity needs. Although the M6 Sherman was no match for practically any German Panzer or Tiger the Americans could replace about 10 for every 1 lost. They also had no reliable fuel source, towards the end they were relying on petrol and diesel manufactured from coal which was complicated and didn't produce their requirements in quantity. They had opened up too many war fronts. Their equipment was pretty hopeless in Russian winters, over confidence led them to think they could finish off Russia before the weather set in. Probably th... [More]

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