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The Sun Gun

There are all sorts of bizarre tales about the Nazi’s plans to win the Second World War. From working with the occult of outlandish contraptions that belong in science fiction the rumours are endless. What’s even stranger is that many of these strange yarns are actually true; all sorts of weird plans were proposed and even worked on by the Germans. One of the grandest of these peculiar propositions, reported in Life Magazine’s June 23 1945 issue under the headline ‘The German Space Mirror’, is the Sun Gun.

The Sun Gun was a theoretical weapon that consisted of a slightly concave mirror measuring roughly 1 mile wide, mounted onto a satellite situated approximately 5000 miles above the planet; the mirror would be used to concentrate rays from the sun into small areas of Earth. The heat produced would effectively be used to destroy its targets, namely the allied forces at the time. It’s hard not to think that this devastating concept was the inspiration for the iconic ‘Death Star’ used in the Star Wars film.

The article also shows a series of concepts for how the weapon would be operated, which features some incredible plans. First of all in order to produce enough oxygen for the stations inhabitants, thousands of pumpkin plants would be grown and maintained there. Magnetic boots would be worn to root the operators to the floor, solving the no gravity issue; of course a helmet would be mandatory in order to protect ones head should the boots not be on the wearer’s feet. These ideas may sound ridiculous now however it’s important to remember how advanced this idea actually was for its time. In fact when the group of scientists that worked on the project were questioned by the officers of the US Forces they claimed that the weapon could be completed within 50 to 100 years, so there’d certainly have been changes to the pumpkin method by then.

The project was the brainchild of the influential German rocket scientist Hermann Oberth. He came up with the concept of a “Space Mirror” in 1923 though it was never intended as a means of destruction but rather for peaceful means. His original concept was to use the satellite for things such as thawing frozen rivers or illuminating ports, like a sort of space lighthouse.

Once the war had ended Oberth began once again to promote the idea, this time to other countries once again promoting its peaceful applications and how they could benefit the world. During an interview with Lodi News-Sentinel in 1961 he talks about using it to control the earth’s weather, he also talks about using materials from the moon to construct it, saving costs and cutting out travel.

The idea was touched on once again during the Cold War, this time Wernher von Braun. He lobbied that the United States Military build a similar weapon in order to oppose the Russian forces. Once again the idea was dismissed and frankly I for one am glad it was. The potential for destruction is far too great, let us hope that we’ve seen the last of the Sun Gun. I’ve seen Star Wars, that should be enough of a warning for anybody.