The Fight for the Future Begins

This article remembers key events that have shaped Wall Street history.

The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945. The war for the future unofficially began on September 20. That day, seven top German scientists, led by Wernher von Braun, arrived in the United States to begin work on American rocketry programs. The knowledge they'd developed building V-2s in Nazi Germany would later be put to work in the Space Race, culminating in a successful moon landing in 1969.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) closed at 180.22 the day von Braun and his team landed in Delaware. It finally surged past its pre-Depression high in 1954, and went on to end its first day after Apollo 11 reached the lunar surface at 834.02, for a total gain of 363%.

Von Braun was a tireless advocate of manned space exploration. He published numerous treatises throughout the 1950s on the subject, and also lent his technical expertise to several episode of Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) anthology program in 1955. These popular episodes helped spread understanding of and support for manned spaceflight to millions of Americans.

Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , more than any other Dow component, was responsible for the construction of the Saturn V rockets that sent men to the moon. It eventually absorbed fellow Saturn V contractors North American Aviation and Douglas Aircraft, leaving only IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) as a distinct contracting entity. IBM was responsible for constructing the Saturn V's Instrument Unit, which contained an early digital computer for autopilot purposes.

G. Scott Hubbard, former director of the NASA Ames Research Center, estimated that for every dollar spent on the space program, the U.S. economy gains about $8 in economic benefits. That may underestimate the long-term value gained from Apollo's technological advancements.

For example, the guidance computer developed for Apollo's Lunar Module was one of the first to ever use an integrated circuit. It was only one small part of the Apollo program's $109 billion cost when adjusting for inflation. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , the world's largest dedicated manufacturer of integrated circuits today, is worth $5 billion more than that inflation-adjusted price tag. It's hardly the only Dow component to take advantage of the computer advancements first made during Apollo's development.

Intel could win its war for the future with the next generation of processors containing 3-D transistors. You can learn more about the cutting-edge technology Intel's got in store, and what it means for the computer industry, in The Motley Fool's premium research reports. You'll gain access to a year's worth of updates and analysis, so subscribe today to win your own war for future returns.

Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more news and insights.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney, Intel, and International Business Machines. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Intel and Walt Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic long position in International Business Machines. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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