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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui

80538, Munich

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Valier's rocket-powered car at the Deutsches Museum

Dear ——–,

The Deutsches Museum, a science museum focusing on air and space, hosted the main events of the conference I was attending in Munich. We spent most of our time in a stately salon room next to sextants and other early scientific instruments and sweated through the 80-plus-degree heat. (Apparently few places in Munich have air conditioning and the weather was unseasonably warm.)  After the presentations Tuesday, we got a tour of the museum: tiny German cars, an original Wright Brothers plane, an exhibit on dark matter. At one point, the guide showed us some experimental rocket-propelled cars made by Max Valier, the godfather of Germany’s rocket scientists. Hitler himself had heard some of Valier’s lectures, the guide said. And when Valier died in a rocket-related accident, Valier’s widow convinced Hitler to take an interest in the rocket cars. Der Fuhrer himself donated them to the Deutsches Museum. Is it weird that the museum has special holdings given directly by Hitler? Clearly you can’t erase Hitler from German history or the technology development in the mid-20th century. I guess you could argue that whatever political figure in power would have probably supported the rocket program, but I have to admit it was an unsettling reminder that Hitler’s Germany had a huge impact on America’s space exploration development. Valier inspired Wernher von Braun, who was probably the pre-eminent rocket scientist of the 20th century and jumpstarted the American space program after the war.

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Author: postmarkhere

I'm a journalist based in Los Angeles who has always said that writing postcards for a living would be a dream job. The posts -- short enough to fit on an actual postcard -- chronicle recent travels near and far. I could blab on about being inspired by epistolary novels, the short poems of Emily Dickinson, and the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" pieces, but I'll just say that I'm aiming to give you a sense of flavor of a place without boring you to death. Wish you were here!

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