In the May 3 issue, O. Glenn Smith talks about the problems of reliability issues of spaceflight [“Human Spaceflight is a Tough Business,” Commentary, page 19]. This brought back memories of a lunch conversation I had with Wernher von Braun shortly before he died. The space program was having its problems, and I asked, “Wernher, what did we really accomplish?”
“Hugo,” he said, “more than anything else, we taught industry the concept of reliability. You know, you take a color television, which is a very complicated device. You take it out of the box, and it works! And it keeps on working. Your automobile, which used to be for repair frequently, almost never sees the shop now. We taught reliability!”
It is interesting that von Braun thought that reliability was one of the great lasting achievements of the space program.