The Vergeltungswaffe-2 (German for “vengeance weapon”), or the simpler V-2, was designed during the later years of World War II, and became the first long-range missile to be used in warfare. During the war, roughly 5,000 V-2 rockets were developed and required a mere six minutes to reach its destination. Over 900 V-2’s were produced per month in Germany, however their effectiveness was not making an impact on the war effort and production was halted.
One plan that stands out was an initiative started by the Nazis to develop a means to launch V-2 rockets from U-boats in order to stage an attack on New York City. Although they did not have the capabilities or the resources to actually begin the project, it was a precursor to the ICBM launching submarines of the US and the USSR during the Cold War.
Post-war, the V-2 became incredibly important to the future space programs of the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1946, the U.S. used a V-2 rocket to take the first picture from space. The V-2 was also used to make several important discoveries, such as atmospheric readings at a height greater than 18 miles high, first detecting and then measuring solar X-rays, etc. In the USSR, the V-2 became the springboard for the Soviet space program. A copy of the V-2 was made at first, called the R-1. After that, a much larger version was built called the R-2; later on many others were designed and built up to the R-7. This “R” series of rockets was the beginning of the Soviet space program.
Many of the scientists that worked on the V-2 project, such as Wernher von Braun, would later go on to work for the United States and NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Von Braun was eventually a leading figure in the development of the Saturn V rocket that would send astronauts to the Moon on Apollo 11.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the development of the V-2, it would eventually be seen as a breakthrough in rocket science and missile development, influencing the space programs of both the United States and the Soviet Union.