A number of sources including Wikipedia state that when the first V-2 hit London, Wernher von Braun apparently said:

The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet.

This sounds entirely too dramatic and rehearsed. It doesn't help that Wikipedia does not provide a source for this quote. How true is this account? Presumably, the statement was made in German. What is the original quote?

  • 1
    This Die Welt story suggests the original quote may have been "Die V2 funktionierte perfekt, nur leider landete sie auf dem falschen Planeten", though that doesn't seem to get me anywhere as far as locating reliable sourcing. Another story suggests it was "Die Rakete" rather than "Die V2", but which is similarly unproductive. – Compro01 Aug 29 '13 at 19:53
  • 4
    For context, “Die Welt” isn’t exactly known for quality journalism. It’s more a tabloid for “respectable” people. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 30 '13 at 0:23
  • given that von Braun had planned his rockets for space flight rather than military use and the original plans for the A4 were to provide the next step towards that goal, he may well have felt that, but I seriously doubt he would have been careless enough to actually voice it in public. – jwenting Aug 30 '13 at 8:28
  • 9
    "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun. – Baarn Aug 30 '13 at 22:24
  • 3
    A similar quote/sentiment is attributed to a Japanese engineer: But one day, I heard that Horikoshi had once murmured, ‘All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.’ – ChrisW Sep 1 '13 at 22:23

Several German books (e.g. Ulli Kulke's "Weltraumstürmer", Johannes Weyer's "Wernher von Braun") say that von Braun's statement was made more than ten years after the fact, in 1956.

As far as I can judge, the source is von Braun's article "Reminiscences of German Rocketry" published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society which had a sub-heading: "Did we land on the wrong planet?"

The article itself says it is von Brauns's story "as told to Henry J. White", so that the wording might or might not not come from Brown himself. On the other hand, some imply that the article was "a heavily edited version" of von Braun's manuscript "Behind The Scenes Of Rocket Development In Germany 1928 through 1945".

You must log in to answer this question.