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news 11 Jan 12

Hidden Yugoslav Technology 'Sent America to Space'

New documentary claims that late Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito built the biggest secret underground space centre in Europe.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

Tito and KennedyMore than fifty years after America announced its intention to go to the Moon in May 1961, a new docudrama presents a rather unusual twist to the Cold War space story.

The documentary, entitled "Houston, We Have a Problem" and directed by Slovenian Ziga Virc, shows that the CIA discovered in 1960 that Yugoslavia had a secret operational space-flight technology.

In the space race with the Soviet Union, America purchased the entire programme from Yugoslav President Tito in March 1961, the documentary claims. Only two months later, US President John F Kennedy announced that America would go to the Moon.

According to the documentary, Yugoslavia's space programme all started with the writings and work of Herman Potocnik, whose 1929 book Problem Voznje po Vesolju (The Problem of Space Travel) inspired ex-Nazi and architect of the American space programme Wernher von Braun. Tito's secret service found Potocnik's unpublished writings and drawings in 1947.

"Yugoslavs made rapid development based on the unknown diaries of Yugoslav space pioneer Herman Potocnik-Noordung after the Second World War," it says below the movie's trailer, released on YouTube.

A year later, following the Tito–Stalin split, a Yugoslav space programme was launched.

The movie trailer goes on to show how Yugoslavia's shift to the West following the sale of its space programme resulted in rapid economic development with generous American financial aid.

The most surprising revelation in the documentary is the claim that Tito built the biggest secret underground space centre in Europe at the army base Zeljava, under the code name "Object 505".

The underground centre was for decades a strictly guarded military base in Yugoslavia, situated on the border between Croatia and Bosnia. An air base was located in the underground mountain Pljesevica, with a radar set on top. Construction of the site began in 1954, and cost some $90 billion.

After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the dissolution of the JNA, the underground base was taken over by the Serbian Army. In August 1995, the airport was mined and almost completely destroyed.

The documentary is set to be released next year. 

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