984: Space Launch System

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Space Launch System
The SLS head engineer plans to invite Shania Twain to stand under the completed prototype, then tell her, 'I don't expect you to date me just because I'm a rocket scientist, but you've gotta admit--this is pretty fucking impressive.'
Title text: The SLS head engineer plans to invite Shania Twain to stand under the completed prototype, then tell her, 'I don't expect you to date me just because I'm a rocket scientist, but you've gotta admit--this is pretty fucking impressive.'


SLS, which stands for Space Launch System, is the new launch program being designed by NASA to replace the retired Space Shuttle launch system. In the first frame, Cueball is showing Black Hat something about the SLS, possibly a video on his phone or other portable electronic device.

As usual with his appearances, Black Hat is causing trouble. Specifically he asks if Nazi scientists are going to build NASA's new SLS program. Specifically he mentions the former Nazi party member Wernher von Braun, who was one of the developers of the Saturn V launch vehicle, who came over to America (from Germany) as part of Operation Paperclip and helped develop NASA's space program. The unfortunate reality of Operation Paperclip, and one that Black Hat aims to make people uncomfortable with, is that a significant number of ex-German personnel were Nazi party true-believers, and their defection to America effectively granted them amnesty of any war crimes.

Black Hat extrapolates this sad reality into an obvious troll attempt: that putting actual Nazis in charge will get you results. This assumption is obviously a bridge too far (which is the comic's punchline), but he gets his desired reaction out of Cueball, who is hanging his head (or staring him down- Randall has left no details to distinguish). First he makes it clear that the lesson is that you should put the Nazis in charge (and we saw from World War Two what that could lead to). Then when Cueball states this is a terrible lesson, Black Hat puts salt in his wound by suggesting that the only way to find a better lesson is to ask a Nazi for a better one - a consistent move if you apply his lesson, but a logic bomb because he suggests to put a Nazi in charge of finding another lesson other than "put a Nazi in charge".

The title text is a reference to Shania Twain's song "That Don't Impress Me Much". Twain's lyrics include the line "Okay, so you're a rocket scientist / That don't impress me much". But, the title text argues that if she stood under the new SLS prototype, she would admit it was in fact, impressive. And it is thus the SLS head engineer (Garry Lyles) plans to invite Shania to do just that. Although he could still understand if she did not wish to date him, he would be surprised if she was still unimpressed.


[Cueball, is holding something up to show it to Black Hat. It is small and rectangular with a black line in the middle (possible a rocket).]
Cueball: Check out the SLS — 130 tons to orbit. Finally, rockets that improve on the ones we had 40 years ago.
Black Hat: Are we getting Nazis to build those ones, too?
[Text is written between two frames, with two smaller frames below. A line comes up to Cueballs first comment, showing that it is still the two from the first frame talking, but off-panel.]
Cueball (off-panel): What?
Black Hat (off-panel): When we first captured von Braun and his team, we had our engineers interview them, then we built the rockets.
Black Hat (off-panel): But our rockets kept exploding.
[First small panel below the above text: A soldier with helmet and a machine gun is guarding von Braun who is tied to a chair, while being interviewed by an almost bald scientist (hair along the back of his head), who takes notes on a piece of paper.]
[Second small panel below the above text: The same scientist standing with the paper, watches as a launching rocket explodes. The landscape behind shows a hill.]
[A black frame with white text above the white Saturn V rocket flying through space.]
Black Hat (off-panel): Eventually we gave up and had the German teams do it, and they built us the Saturn V Moon rocket.
[Cueball is looking down, his hand with the thing he showed to Black Hat in the first panel hanging down. Black Hat looks at Cueball.]
Cueball: I'm… not sure what lesson to take from that.
Black Hat: "If you want something done right, learning from the Nazis isn't enough. You have to actually put them in charge."
Cueball: That's a terrible lesson.
Black Hat: Then I guess you should get a Nazi to come up with a better one.

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But then we built a whole pile of rockets after that. Apollo, moon landing, mars rover, etc. Boo Black Hat.06:53, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

"Apollo, moon landing" -- that is, in fact, the Saturn V, built by von Braun, captured Nazi scientist, and his team, largely captured Nazi scientists. Yes, other rockets were built after the Saturn V, but as pointed out in the strip, none have been bigger or more powerful. "Finally, rockets that improve on the ones we had 40 years ago."
The first Mars lander (true, not a rover), Viking I, was launched on an Titan/Centaur. The Centaur was a co-creation of Krafft A. Ehricke, nazi scientist.
Mars Sojourner, a rover, part of the Mars Pathfinder mission, was launched on a Delta II rocket. The Delta family of rockets are based on the Thor ballistic missile. The Thor was originally co-developed by Dr. Adolph K. Thiel, Nazi scientist.
You see where this is going? -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Technically, von Braun wasn't captured. He voluntarily defected. He was wandering Germany because he had chosen to no longer support Hitler, so to stay at the concentration camp where he worked, or anywhere where a Nazi soldier could find him was suicide, so he escaped and was wandering out alone. He surrendered and defected to the first allied troops he saw, which just happened to be American. This is why he worked on the space programme instead of being shot on sight. By the time he was building American rockets, he hadn't been a Nazi for years. 14:40, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

You're way off the mark. He was never opposed to the Nazis per se, but did understandably start grumbling a bit when he realized this Endsieg thing wasn't really working out. He and his team left the base because they, again understandably, did not want to be prisoners of the Red Army and Soviet Russia. Then, when the Americans finally caught up with them, he surrendered himself, avoiding execution by guards at the same time. --Qwach (talk) 02:19, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
"He hadn't been a Nazi for years" -- really, this is begging the question of how you determine whether someone "is a Nazi" or not. Would you say that anyone who ever joined the Nazi party "is a Nazi," despite the fact that many of them probably did so for social expedience rather than because they actually agreed with Nazi philosophy? And would you then ignore the fact that many modern-day skinheads or neo-nazi's aren't formally registered with any national-socialist party? And, if you get around this problem by ignoring party registration altogether, and you simply say that someone "is a Nazi" if they hold views which concur with the views of the Nazi party, then how do you measure someone's views? How do you determine whether someone's views are sufficiently-similar to the Nazi party's to call them a Nazi? If someone were to say "sure, I hate Jews, but we probably shouldn't murder them all," would they be sufficiently Nazi-esque to "be a Nazi" or would their dissent make them "not a Nazi?" In conclusion, to say conclusively that von Braun "was a Nazi" or "wasn't a Nazi" at any particular point in time is probably nearly impossible, and not worth our time. 19:12, 9 March 2015 (UTC)

So he was one of the good guys? Not like the other guards and related personnel who didn't want anyone to know they were intimately involved in any of what they were so intimately involved with? Someone tell me how the USA isn't a working example of Nazi Germany. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 08:01, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

This may be quite late but I'd like to point out that von Braun was not just member of the NSDAP (the Nazi party) but of the SS as well which goes beyond simple opportunism or group pressure. And he actually visited concentration camps and even selected "workers" (for V2 production) personally, so there is no doubt that von Braun was a Nazi war criminal. He was just never convicted because he was too useful (which was unfortunately the rule rather than an exception at the time). -- 19:45, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

As of September, 2021 (10 years after the comic was published0, the first SLS launch still has not taken place. Nitpicking (talk) 14:29, 19 September 2021 (UTC)

Although it did take place on 16 Nov 2022, [barely] within 11 years of the comic being published! Mathmannix (talk) 16:11, 19 December 2023 (UTC)

Oh, this comic is one of the "more complex" ones. The time line (not the comic sequence) is starting with the US failures to archive space flight in the 1950's, then referring to Nazis, and by the end we are on the current US space policy, which is also highly questionable.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:51, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

Not sure what you mean by one of the "more complex" ones, it is actually pretty straightforward. Some nitpicking though: there was no US failure to achieve space flight in the 50s; both the US and the USSR did it within 4 months of each other at the end of 1957/beginning of 1958. A little history lesson:

    The Space Race didn't begin until July of 1955, when the US announced its intention to launch Earth-orbiting satellites sometime between July 1st 1957 and December 31st 1958. The USSR followed suit shortly afterwards, and by the end of August 1955 the Soviet Academy of Sciences created a commission (i.e. offered support and possibly some sort of incentive) for the sole purpose of beating the US into space - which they ended up doing with Sputnik 1 (10/04/57) and 2 (11/03/57). The creation of that commission is considered the start of the space race. The US launched its first successful satellite a few months after the Sputniks, the Explorer 1, on February 1, 1958, well within what most people would call the 1950s. 19:53, 31 July 2014 (UTC)

Which is not to say that Maria Cary is a rocket scientist or not, as the case may be. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 08:21, 22 January 2015 (UTC) Doh Shania Twain. (It's amazing what you can learn when you check your spelling.) I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 08:21, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

Amazing how Randall can take heinous ideas of which any rational person would be ashamed to even think, put them in the mouth of Blackhat, and it's not only fine, but hilarious. Bravo. 18:41, 3 August 2015 (UTC)

"Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department..." 04:40, 6 September 2015 (UTC)

Personally, I don't get why using Nazi scientists is considered abhorrent. The fuckers who gassed Jews just for the hell of it? Yes, they're despicable. But the rocket scientists who built spacecraft? Fact is, they knew what they were doing, and were good to further our technology. They're ability to advance science is a positive quality, which does not in any way diminish their horrible qualities. Like all human beings, they had a good part, even if their bad vastly overshadows it. HumaneEngineer (talk) 02:01, 27 September 2018 (UTC)

They knew of, or at least delibretly closed their eyes on the working condidents of the consturcuction sites of the V2 rockets, where between 16,000 and 20,000 slave workers died under horrible circumstances. Also they knew exaclty that their rockets where used as an offensive weapon against civilians. (talk) 15:05, 7 September 2022 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

To all the guys out there: If you find a girl who isn't impressed by rocket science, get rid of her. She doesn't have to be smart, but if she does not find rocket science impressive, there is something wrong with her. R3TRI8UTI0N (talk) 00:34, 27 March 2023 (UTC)