Is NASA giving its early rocket engineers who were extracted from Germany after their country was defeated in World War II one last salute before they’re all gone? That’s what some are implying as it fires up the New Horizons spacecraft to ready it for a visit to Ultima Thule – a peanut-shaped space rock (or possibly rocks) named after the mythical homeland of the Aryan race and popularized by a favorite book of Heinrich Himmler. Should the spaceship be renamed Nazi Horizon?
Remember New Horizon? That’s the tiny space probe which visited Pluto in July 2015 and sent back dazzling photos of the dwarf who is still ap planet to many. After the flyby ended in October 2015, New Horizon became the fifth manmade probe to leave the solar system on its way to its next mission – a rendezvous with Kuiper belt object (486958) 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.
However, in this age of cigar-shaped intergalactic asteroids that might be space ships, 2014 MU69 is far too boring of a name, so NASA held a nicknaming contest and the winner was “Ultima Thule” (pronounced ultima thoo-lee). The press release explained that: “Thule was a mythical, far-northern island in medieval literature and cartography. Ultima Thule means "beyond Thule"– beyond the borders of the known world—symbolizing the exploration of the distant Kuiper Belt and Kuiper Belt objects that New Horizons is performing, something never before done.”
Apparently, they didn’t go far enough into the Wikipedia page to read that “extreme right occultists believed in a historical Thule, or Hyperborea, as the ancient origin of the "Aryan race."” This was spread by the Thule Society, which promoted its close ties links to the Nazi party and its origin story, which came from the Oera Linda Book, which was allegedly discovered in the 1800s and, after being translated into German, became a favorite of Himmler. While too late to stop the Nazis, the book was discredited by experts as “a temporary hoax to fool some nationalist Frisians and orthodox Christians and as an experiential exemplary exercise in reading the Holy Bible in a non-fundamentalist, symbolical way."
How did NASA miss this? The nicknaming contest, which ended on December 6 after a 5-day extension due to its massive popularity, received 115,000 submissions of 34.000 names which were narrowed down to 29 (plus 8 from NASA) before Ultima Thule was chosen.
“We are grateful to those who proposed such an interesting and inspirational nickname.”
Interesting and inspirational? To whom? Operation Paperclip secretly brought over 1.600 German rocket and space scientists, including Wernher von Braun and other former members and leaders of the Nazi Party, to work on the U.S. space program. There is no question their contributions were significant and, despite their backgrounds, they were recognized for them. However, Georg von Tiesenhausen, considered to be the last one, died in June 2018 at the age of 104.
Is the naming of the space rock Ultima Thule really an innocent choice? What about the Thule Air Base in Greenland where a meteor recently exploded and the U.S. Air Force was strangely silent? Is there a sinister connection?
How far out do you want to go? What’s the real story behind the Ultima Thule space rock? Is it the home of the long-rumored Nazi space base? Is it a hint about something else? Will we ever find out?