Was the American space program built in… Yugoslavia?

When most Americans think of Yugoslavia technology, this is probably the first thing that comes to mind (at least for those of us who remember the ’80s):

But if the trailer to the upcoming documentary Houston, We Have a Problem! is to be believed, the former Yugoslavia has a pretty rad space program back in the day. So rad, in fact, that the United States bought the whole thing from Marshal Josip Broz Tito in March of 1961.

Then, just two months later, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech before Congress announcing America’s ambitious plan to land a man on the moon. In September 1961 he gave a speech at Rice University that included the now-famous quote, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”

Herman Potočnik

Herman Potočnik

It’s certainly an interesting proposition, and one which the team of researcher/writer Boštjan Virc and co-writer/director Žiga Virc claim will contain other evidence showing that Yugoslavia’s space program was at one time the most advanced in the world.

The film credits Herman Potočnik and his 1928 book Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums – der Raketen-Motor (The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor) with inspiring, among others, Wernher von Braun, one of the fathers of both German rocketry and the American space program.

I certainly have no idea how accurate any of these claims are but it sure looks like a fascinating documentary. Houston, We Have a Problem! is set for a Spring 2013 release, and here’s that trailer I mentioned. God I miss the Cold War.

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