Remembering Willie Ley


Week Three: Ninth Anniversary Fund-Raising Drive for Behind the Black
 

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Remembering Willie Ley. He never flew in space, and died just weeks before the Apollo 11 landing. Yet he probably did as much if not more to make it happen than any other man.

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  • Dwight Decker

    I was researching an article last year that touched on early concepts of spaceflight (as in hundreds of years ago, before anyone had any realistic idea on how it could be done), and of course quickly discovered that Willy Ley had already thoroughly mapped that territory. His book ROCKETS, MISSILES AND SAPCE TRAVEL covers the subject in detail. Not only that, Ley was a consultant for Disney’s MAN IN SPACE TV documentary (1955), he and (if I recall correctly) the above book appear on camera, and it’s pretty obvious that the amusing cartoons in the show depicting naive early ideas about space travel were based on what he had written in said selfsame above book. He also wrote a popular science column for the science-fiction magazine GALAXY, and the columns were later collected in book form. They cover a wide range of subjects, and with his European background, Ley could tap otherwise obscure references in strange languages that American writers would have missed. All these years later I still find his books informative and valuable, and behind the slightly Germanic prose I get a sense of a brilliant man eager to learn new things and just as eager to share what he found out with you. I don’t think there’s anyone quite like him around now…

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