Encyclopedia Astronautica
Ley



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Ley
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Ley
Ley, Willy (1906-1969) German-American writer. German-American writer, extremely effective populariser of the idea of space flight - first in Germany and then in the United States.

Willy Ley was an extremely effective populariser of the idea of space flight - first in Germany and then in the United States. Ley was born in Berlin. Fluent in German, English, Italian, French, and Russian, he studied astronomy, physics, zoology, and paleontology at the University of Berlin. He finally settled on journalism and received his degree from the University of Koenigsberg. Becoming fascinated by the idea of manned space travel as the result of Oberth's books, he was a founding member of the VfR (Society for Spaceship Travel) in 1927. He published several books promoting spaceflight as well as editing the VfR's journal, Die Rakete. Finding the Nazi regime not to his liking, and the opportunity for further private rocket development barred, Ley left Germany in 1935.

In America, he immediately began participating in further rocket experiments with the American Rocket Society, but found that the American public believed the idea of rocket flight was science fiction. So Ley wrote articles and books that dealt with the potential of rocket technology to achieve manned spaceflight within the lifetime of the readers. He was able to explain the basic physics and principles of space travel and rocket technology with unusual clarity and simplicity. He became an American citizen in 1944, and at the same time published one of his most influential works - Rockets: the Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere. This went through numerous updates, the final version being Rockets Missiles and Men in Space in 1968. Ley was involved with the most significant efforts to poularise spaceflight in the 1950's: the Collier's magazine and subsequent book series that portrayed man's conquest of space as illustrated by Chesely Bonestell; and the Walt Disney Tomorrowland television series. Ley was everywhere, churning out articles for science fiction and mass market magazines; serving as technical advisor for the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet television series; and designing passenger rockets for plastic model companies. Ley was also one of the leading writers of popular science and science history books, including marvelous accounts of the history of paleontology, astronomy (Watchers of the Skies, and cryptozoology.

Having done more than anyone to convince the American public of the potential for manned spaceflight, Ley died just weeks before the Apollo landing on the moon in 1969. He was survived by his wife, Olga. Generations of his readers were motivated to enter careers not just in rocketry, but in many other fields of science as well.

Birth Place: Berlin.


Born: 1906.10.02.
Died: 1969.05.24.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
Bibliography
  • Ley, Willy, Rockets Missiles and Men in Space, Viking Press, New York, 1968.
  • Launius, Roger D, NASA Chief Historian, NASA History Office Home Page, Web Address when accessed: here.

Ley Chronology


1928 - . Launch Vehicle: Valier-Oberth Moon Gun.
  • Von Pirquet Moon Gun - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Valier; Ley; Oberth. Further improvements to the Valier-Oberth gun were suggested by Willy Ley and Baron Guido von Pirquet of Vienna. To achieve the necessary muzzle velocity, it would be necessary to construct the gun with angled lateral chambers. These design concepts would be put to military use in the V-3 Hochdruckpumpe cannon of World War II.

December 1929 - . Launch Vehicle: Mirak; Oberth.
  • VfR regroups - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Oberth; Nebel; Winkler; Ley; Riedel, Klaus. Winkler had resigned as president. Oberth is back in Berlin, and a meeting is held, with Nebel, Wurm, Oberth, Klaus Riedel, Winkler, and Willy Ley in attendance. It was decided to try and get the Oberth rocket materials back from Ufa and press on to demonstrate flight of a liquid propellant rocket. For this purpose the Oberth rocket was much too ambitious and probably wouldn't work anyway. Nebel proposes building a new 'Minimum Rakete' or 'Mirak' to demonstrate that it could be done. Work begins to obtain funds to ground test and perfect Oberth's 'Kegelduese' conical rocket motor.

1930 July 23 - . Launch Vehicle: Mirak.
  • VfR demonstrates rocket motor to German government officials - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Nebel; Ley; von Braun; Oberth; Riedel, Klaus. The VfR fires its 'Kegelduese' liquid oxygen and gasoline-fueled rocket motor in a demonstration for the Director of the Chemisch-Technische Reichsanstalt in an attempt to secure financial support. Nebel had arranged the demonstration and runs the Kegelduese for 90 seconds. It generates 7 kgf and consumes 6 kg of liquid oxygen and 1 kg of gasoline in that time (specific impulse 90 seconds). Participating are Oberth, Nebel, Riedel, Ley, and Von Braun. Nebel's Mirak is not yet ready to test.

End 1933 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende.
  • The VfR rocket team unravels. - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Ley; Nebel. Summary: Willy Ley decides to leave for America in the face of increased Nazi domination of German society. Most of the VfR experimenters end up at Peenemuende, working on development of the V-2. Some, such as Nebel, remain private citizens..

1936 February 23 - . Launch Vehicle: ARS.
  • US rocket mail test. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Ley. Apogee: 0.20 km (0.12 mi). Range: 0.30 km (0.19 mi). Summary: F. W. Kessler, W. Ley, and N. Carver launched two mail-carrying "rocket airplanes" at Greenwood Lake, N.Y., which traveled about 1,000 feet..

1949-1952 - .
  • Awakening public interest in the United States and in Europe in manned spaceflight. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun; Ley; Clarke; Whipple; Haber. Spacecraft: Von Braun Station. Awakening public interest in the United States and in Europe was manifested by publication in September 1949 of The Conquest of Space by Willy Ley. Ley featured detailed descriptions of orbital space stations and manned flights to the Moon and back as part of man's quest to conquer the frontier of space. The First Symposium on Space Flight was held 12 October 1951 at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Papers read at the Symposium were published in March 1952 by Collier's magazine under the title 'Man Will Conquer Space Soon.' Contributors were Wernher von Braun, Joseph Kaplan, Heinz Haber, Willy Ley, Oscar Schachter, and Fred L. Whipple. Topics ranged from manned orbiting space station) and orbiting astronomical observatories to problems of human survival in space, lunar space ventures, and questions of international law and sovereignty in space. Finally, Arthur C. Clarke's The Exploration of Space, first published in England in 1951 and a Book of the Month Club selection in America the following year, persuasively argued the case for orbital space stations and manned lunar and planetary space expeditions, popularizing the notion of space flight in general.

1950 October 12 - . Launch Vehicle: Von Braun 1948.
  • First Symposium on Space Flight - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun; Ley; Haber. The First Symposium on Space Flight was held at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Participants included Wernher von Braun, Joseph Kaplan, Heinz Haber, Willy Ley, Oscar Schachter, and Fred L. Whipple. Among the topics discussed were an orbiting astronomical observatory, problems of survival in space, circumlunar flight, a manned orbiting space station, and the question of sovereignty in outer space.

1951 October 12 - .
  • First Symposium on Space Flight at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun; Ley. Spacecraft: Von Braun Station. Summary: The Von Braun rocket, space station, and lunar lander designs presented were popularised in the series in Colliers magazine, illustrated with gorgeous Chesley Bonestell paintings, in 1953..

1952 February 11 - . Launch Vehicle: Von Braun 1952.
  • Collier's Man Will Conquer Space Soon - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun; Ley. Summary: Collier's magazine published papers from First Symposium on Space Flight, under the title "Man Will Conquer Space Soon.". This was an important step in the popularization of the idea of manned space flight..

1969 May 24 - .
  • Death of Willy Ley - . Nation: Germany; USA. Related Persons: Ley. Summary: German-American writer. German-American writer, extremely effective populariser of the idea of space flight - first in Germany and then in the United States..

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