Mystery Object 370: Historic Hunk

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Can you believe there’s one of these in your phone?

Size: Grapefruit

Recorded: October 2015

Found: South Dakota, United States

Circa: 1940s

Made: Germany

Material: Metal, Wires

Status: Known

Thanks to Chip Taylor for submitting this item.

This object has a lot of history behind it. Many “firsts” were earned by its invention, and today we all benefit from them. In 2015, I saw a modern version in use for the benefit of Turkmenistan.

This was a key part in the second version of something, but it was so radically different from the first that it belongs in its own category. To be clear, this is just one part of a much larger device, but it was essential in making the whole thing work. Most people only remember the more obvious and flashy parts of the complete object, and these influenced science fiction movies throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s.

The first challenge is to identify what it is. The second is to know what makes this particular one so important.

Hint 1: 

Spoiler

Retribution.

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Hint 2:

Spoiler

It is better to give than receive.

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Answer:  

Spoiler

It’s a navigational gyroscope from a V-2 rocket. V stands for “vergeltung,”which is German for “retribution.” The V-2 was the successor to the “buzz bomb” that terrorized England and other countries, but the V-2 was completely different. Rather than “flying,” it entered the edge of space (first manmade object to do so) and navigated using this gyroscope to drop onto its target. The “up then down” approach made it harder to shoot down and much more accurate: thus we entered the age of the ballistic missile. This one was from a captured rocket, and it was used by the Air Force NASA to learn how to create better navigation for missions, among other things.

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Do you have a mystery object you’d like to share? Whether you know what it is or not, we’d like to hear from you! Drop us a line at jeff@collegeofcuriosity.com.

 

  Click for larger images

Valuable.

Valuable.

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4 Comments

  1. The first hint makes me think “Vergeltung”, which leads me to the V-1 and V-2. So I think this is the first inertial guidance system used in the V-2, or at least a part of it, one of the two gyroscopes.

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