The Surprising Origins of the Countdown to Launch

In a fascinating episode of the video series I Need More Space, narrator TJ Cooney explained the surprising origins of the standard countdown to blastoff. As it turns out, this specific action was first used in a 1929 Fritz Lang film Woman in the Moon. Lang had hired Hermann Oberth, a founding father of rocketry, to be a consultant on the film to make sure the story was being told correctly. The resulting film, including the now-standard countdown, was so realistic that it inspired Wernher von Braun a student of Oberth and developer of the Nazi rocket development program. After World War II, the countdown method became standard practice in the United States.

I was always curious about why we “count down” to rocket launches and where the concept came from. So I did some digging, and found it actually came from a 1929 German silent film and influenced some huge German rocket scientists! It eventually made its way to America and now is a standard in rocket launches.

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