Wernher von Braun: Wikis


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Wernher von Braun

Von Braun standing at his desk at Marshall Space Flight Center in May 1964, with models of rockets developed and in progress.
Born March 23, 1912(1912-03-23)
Wirsitz, German Empire
Died June 16, 1977 (aged 65)
Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Cause of death pancreatic cancer
Nationality German, American
Alma mater Technical University of Berlin
Occupation Rocket engineer and designer
Spouse(s) Maria Luise von Quistorp (m. 1947–1977) «start: (1947)–end+1: (1978)»"Marriage: Maria Luise von Quistorp to Wernher von Braun" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun)

Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr[1] von Braun (March 23, 1912 – June 16, 1977) was a German-American rocket scientist, astronautics engineer and space architect, becoming one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Germany and the United States. He was a member of the Nazi party and a commissioned SS officer. Wernher von Braun was said to be the preeminent rocket engineer of the 20th century.[2]

In his 20s and early 30s, von Braun was the central figure in Germany's pre-war rocket development programme, responsible for the design and realization of the deadly V-2 combat rocket during World War II. After the war, he and some of his rocket team were taken to the United States as part of the then-secret Operation Paperclip. In 1955, ten years after entering the country, von Braun became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Von Braun worked on the American intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) program before joining NASA, where he served as director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the superbooster that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon.[3] In the words of NASA, he is "without doubt, the greatest rocket scientist in history. His crowning achievement ... was to lead the development of the Saturn V booster rocket that helped land the first men on the Moon in July 1969."[4] He received the 1975 National Medal of Science.


Early life

Wernher von Braun was born in Wirsitz (Wyrzysk), Province of Posen, then a part of the German Empire, and was the second of three sons. He belonged to a minor aristocratic family, inheriting the German title of Freiherr (equivalent to Baron). His father, conservative civil servant Magnus Freiherr von Braun (1878–1972), served as a Minister of Agriculture in the Federal Cabinet during the Weimar Republic. His mother, Emmy von Quistorp (1886–1959), could trace her ancestry through both parents to medieval European royalty. Von Braun had a younger brother, also named Magnus Freiherr von Braun.[5] After Wernher von Braun's Lutheran confirmation, his mother gave him a telescope, and he developed a passion for astronomy. When Wyrzysk returned to Poland at the end of World War I, his family, like many other German families, moved to Germany. They settled in Berlin, where 12-year-old von Braun, inspired by speed records established by Max Valier and Fritz von Opel in rocket-propelled cars,[6] caused a major disruption in a crowded street by detonating a toy wagon to which he had attached a number of fireworks. He was taken into custody by the local police until his father came to collect him.

Von Braun was an accomplished amateur musician who could play from memory Beethoven and Bach. Von Braun learned to play the cello and the piano at an early age and originally wanted to become a composer. He took lessons from Paul Hindemith, the famous composer. The few pieces of von Braun’s youthful compositions that exist are reminiscent of Hindemith’s style.[7]

Beginning in 1925, von Braun attended a boarding school at Ettersburg Castle near Weimar where he did not do well in physics and mathematics. In 1928 his parents moved him to the Hermann-Lietz-Internat (also a residential school) on the East Frisian North Sea island of Spiekeroog. There he acquired a copy of Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (1929) (By Rocket into Interplanetary Space) (in German) OCLC 6026491 by rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth. Space travel had always fascinated von Braun, and from then on he applied himself to physics and mathematics to pursue his interest in rocketry.

In 1930 he attended the Technical University of Berlin, where he joined the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR, the "Spaceflight Society") and assisted Willy Ley in his liquid-fueled rocket motor tests in conjunction with Hermann Oberth[8]. He also studied at ETH Zurich. Although he worked mainly on military rockets in his later years there, space travel remained his primary interest.

He was greatly influenced by Oberth, and he said of him:

Hermann Oberth was the first, who when thinking about the possibility of spaceships grabbed a slide-rule and presented mathematically analyzed concepts and designs.... I, myself, owe to him not only the guiding-star of my life, but also my first contact with the theoretical and practical aspects of rocketry and space travel. A place of honor should be reserved in the history of science and technology for his ground-breaking contributions in the field of astronautics.[9]

Wernher von Braun
March 23, 1912(1912-03-23) – June 16, 1977 (aged 65)
Place of birth Wirsitz, German Empire (now Poland)
Place of death Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Place of burial Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Years of service 1937 to 1945
Rank Sturmbannführer, SS
Battles/wars World War II
Awards War Merit Cross, Knight's Cross First Class with Swords
Other work Rocket engineer, NASA, Built the Saturn V rocket of the Apollo manned moon missions

German career

The Prussian rocketeer and working under the Nazis

Walter Dornberger, Friedrich Olbricht, Wilhelm von Leeb, and von Braun at Peenemünde, 1941

Von Braun was working on his creative doctorate when the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, or Nazi party) was elected to power in Germany, and rocketry almost immediately became a national agenda. An artillery captain, Walter Dornberger, arranged an Ordnance Department research grant for him, and von Braun then worked next to Dornberger's existing solid-fuel rocket test site at Kummersdorf. He was awarded a doctorate in physics[10] (aerospace engineering) on July 27, 1934 from the University of Berlin for a thesis titled About Combustion Tests; his doctoral advisor was Erich Schumann.[11] However, this thesis was only the public part of von Braun's work. His actual full thesis, Construction, Theoretical, and Experimental Solution to the Problem of the Liquid Propellant Rocket (dated April 16, 1934) was kept classified by the army, and was not published until 1960.[12] By the end of 1934, his group had successfully launched two rockets that rose to heights of 2.2 and 3.5 kilometers.

At the time, Germany was highly interested in American physicist Robert H. Goddard's research. Before 1939, German scientists occasionally contacted Goddard directly with technical questions. Wernher von Braun used Goddard's plans from various journals and incorporated them into the building of the Aggregat (A) series of rockets. The A-4 rocket is the well known V-2.[13] In 1963, von Braun reflected on the history of rocketry, and said of Goddard's work: "His rockets ... may have been rather crude by present-day standards, but they blazed the trail and incorporated many features used in our most modern rockets and space vehicles."[6] Goddard confirmed his work was used by von Braun in 1944, shortly before the Nazis began firing V-2s at England. A V2 crashed in Sweden and some parts were sent to an Annapolis lab where Goddard was doing research for the Navy. If this was the so-called Bäckebo Bomb, it had been procured by the British in exchange for Spitfires; Annapolis would have received some parts from them. Goddard is reported to have recognized components which he had invented and inferred that his brain child had been turned into a weapon.[14]

There were no German rocket societies after the collapse of the VFR, and civilian rocket tests were forbidden by the new Nazi regime. Only military development was allowed and to this end, a larger facility was erected at the village of Peenemünde in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea. This location was chosen partly on the recommendation of von Braun's mother, who recalled her father's duck-hunting expeditions there. Dornberger became the military commander at Peenemünde, with von Braun as technical director. In collaboration with the Luftwaffe, the Peenemünde group developed liquid-fuel rocket engines for aircraft and jet-assisted takeoffs. They also developed the long-range A-4 ballistic missile and the supersonic Wasserfall anti-aircraft missile.

In November 1937 (other sources: December 1, 1932), von Braun joined the National Socialist German Workers Party. An Office of Military Government, United States document dated April 23, 1947, states that von Braun joined the Waffen-SS (Schutzstaffel) horseback riding school in 1933, then the National Socialist Party on May 1, 1937, and became an officer in the Waffen-SS from May 1940 until the end of the war.

Amongst his comments about his NSDAP membership von Braun has said:

I was officially demanded to join the National Socialist Party. At this time (1937) I was already technical director of the Army Rocket Center at Peenemünde ... My refusal to join the party would have meant that I would have to abandon the work of my life. Therefore, I decided to join. My membership in the party did not involve any political activities ... in Spring 1940, one SS-Standartenführer (SS Colonel) Müller ... looked me up in my office at Peenemünde and told me that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had sent him with the order to urge me to join the SS. I called immediately on my military superior ... Major-General W. Dornberger. He informed me that ... if I wanted to continue our mutual work, I had no alternative but to join.[15]

Schematic of the A4/V2

That claim has been often disputed because in 1940, the Waffen-SS had shown no interest in Peenemünde yet[16]. Also, the assertion that persons in von Braun's position were pressured to join the Nazi party, let alone the SS, has been disputed.[17] When shown a picture of him behind Himmler, Braun claimed to have worn the SS uniform only that time, but in 2002 a former SS officer at Peenemünde told the BBC that von Braun had regularly worn the SS uniform to official meetings but that it was a mandatory requirement[18] He began as an Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) and was promoted three times by Himmler, the last time in June 1943 to SS-Sturmbannführer (Wehrmacht Major). Von Braun claimed this was a technical promotion received each year regularly by mail.[19]

On December 22, 1942, Adolf Hitler signed the order approving the production of the A-4 as a "vengeance weapon" and the group developed it to target London. Following von Braun's July 7, 1943 presentation of a color movie showing an A-4 taking off, Hitler was so enthusiastic that he personally made him a professor shortly thereafter.[20] In Germany and at this time, this was an absolutely unusual promotion for an engineer who was only 31 years old.

By that time the British and Soviet intelligence agencies were aware of the rocket program and von Braun's team at Peenemünde. Over the nights of 17 and 18 August 1943 RAF Bomber Command's Operation Hydra dispatched raids on the Peenemünde camp consisting of 596 aircraft and dropping 1,800 tons of explosives.[21] The facility was salvaged and most of the science team remained unharmed, however the raids killed von Braun's engine designer Walter Thiel and Chief Engineer Walther, and the rocket program was delayed.[22][23]

The first combat A-4, renamed the V-2 (Vergeltungswaffe 2 "Retaliation/Vengeance Weapon 2") for propaganda purposes, was launched toward England on September 7, 1944, only 21 months after the project had been officially commissioned. Von Braun's interest in rockets was specifically for the application of space travel, which led him to say on hearing the news from London: "The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet." He described it as his "darkest day".[citation needed]

Experiments with rocket aircraft

During 1936 von Braun's rocketry team working at Kummersdorf investigated installing liquid-fuelled rockets in aircraft. Ernst Heinkel enthusiastically supported their efforts, supplying a He 72 and later two He 112s for the experiments. Late in 1936 Erich Warsitz was seconded by the RLM to Wernher von Braun and Ernst Heinkel, because he had been recognized as one of the most experienced test-pilots of the time, and because he also had an extraordinary fund of technical knowledge.[24] After von Braun familiarized Warsitz with a test-stand run, showing him the corresponding apparatus in the aircraft, he asked:

“Are you with us and will you test the rocket in the air? Then, Warsitz, you will be a famous man. And later we will fly to the moon – with you at the helm!”[25]

A regular He 112

In June 1937, at Neuhardenberg (a large field about 70 kilometres east of Berlin, listed as a reserve airfield in the event of war), one of these latter aircraft was flown with its piston engine shut down during flight by test pilot Erich Warsitz, at which time it was propelled by von Braun’s rocket power alone. Despite the wheels-up landing and having the fuselage on fire, it proved to official circles that an aircraft could be flown satisfactorily with a back-thrust system through the rear.[26]

At the same time, Hellmuth Walter's experiments into Hydrogen peroxide-based rockets were leading towards light and simple rockets that appeared well-suited for aircraft installation. Also the firm of Hellmuth Walter at Kiel had been commissioned by the RLM to build a rocket engine for the He 112, so there were two different new rocket motor designs at Neuhardenberg: whereas the von Braun’s engines were powered by alcohol and liquid oxygen, Walter engines had hydrogen peroxide and calcium permanganate as a catalyst. Von Braun’s engine used direct combustion and created fire, the Walter devices hot vapours from a chemical reaction, but both created thrust and provided high speed.[27] The subsequent flights with the He 112 used the Walter-rocket instead of von Braun's; it was more reliable, simpler to operate and the dangers to test-pilot Erich Warsitz and machine were less.[28]

Slave labour

SS General Hans Kammler, who as an engineer had constructed several concentration camps including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality and had originated the idea of using concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the rocket program. Arthur Rudolph, chief engineer of the V-2 rocket factory at Peenemünde, endorsed this idea in April 1943 when a labor shortage developed. More people died building the V-2 rockets than were killed by it as a weapon.[29] Von Braun admitted visiting the plant at Mittelwerk on many occasions, and called conditions at the plant "repulsive", but claimed never to have witnessed any deaths or beatings, although it had become clear to him by 1944 that deaths had occurred.[30] He denied ever having visited the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp itself, where 20,000 died from illness, beatings, hangings and intolerable working conditions.[31]

On August 15, 1944, von Braun wrote a letter to Albin Sawatzki, manager of the V-2 production, admitting that he personally picked labor slaves from the Buchenwald concentration camp, who, he admitted 25 years later in an interview, had been in a "pitiful shape".[3]

In Wernher von Braun: Crusader for Space, numerous statements by von Braun show he was aware of the conditions but felt completely unable to change them. A friend quotes von Braun speaking of a visit to Mittelwerk:

It is hellish. My spontaneous reaction was to talk to one of the SS guards, only to be told with unmistakable harshness that I should mind my own business, or find myself in the same striped fatigues!... I realized that any attempt of reasoning on humane grounds would be utterly futile. (Page 44)

When asked if von Braun could have protested against the brutal treatment of the slave laborers, von Braun team member Konrad Dannenberg told The Huntsville Times, "If he had done it, in my opinion, he would have been shot on the spot."[32]

Others claim von Braun engaged in brutal treatment or approved of it. Guy Morand, a French resistance fighter who was a prisoner in Dora, testified in 1995 that after an apparent sabotage attempt:

Without even listening to my explanations, [von Braun] ordered the Meister to have me given 25 strokes...Then, judging that the strokes weren't sufficiently hard, he ordered I be flogged more vigorously...von Braun made me translate that I deserved much more, that in fact I deserved to be hanged...I would say his cruelty, of which I was personally a victim, are, I would say, an eloquent testimony to his Nazi fanaticism.[33]

Robert Cazabonne, another French prisoner, testified that von Braun stood by and watched as prisoners were hung by chains from hoists.[34] Von Braun claimed he "never saw any kind of abuse or killing" and only "heard rumors...that some prisoners had been hung in the underground galleries".[35]

Arrest and release by the Nazi regime

According to André Sellier, a French historian and survivor of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, Himmler had von Braun come to his Hochwald HQ in East Prussia in February 1944. To increase his power-base within the Nazi régime, Heinrich Himmler was conspiring to use Kammler to wrest control of all German armament programs, including the V-2 program at Peenemünde.[36] He therefore recommended that von Braun work more closely with Kammler to solve the problems of the V-2, but von Braun claimed to have replied that the problems were merely technical and he was confident that they would be solved with Dornberger's assistance.

Apparently von Braun had been under SD surveillance since October 1943. A report stated that he and his colleagues Riedel and Gröttrup were said to have expressed regret at an engineer's house one evening that they were not working on a spaceship and that they felt the war was not going well; this was considered a "defeatist" attitude. A young female dentist who was an SS spy reported their comments.[36] Combined with Himmler's false charges that von Braun was a communist sympathizer and had attempted to sabotage the V-2 program, and considering that von Braun was a qualified pilot who regularly piloted his government-provided airplane that might allow him to escape to England, this led to his arrest by the Gestapo.[36]

The unsuspecting von Braun was detained on March 14 (or March 15),[37] 1944 and was taken to a Gestapo cell in Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland),[36] where he was imprisoned for two weeks without even knowing the charges against him. It was only through the Abwehr in Berlin that Dornberger was able to obtain von Braun's conditional release and Albert Speer, Reichsminister for Munitions and War Production, convinced Hitler to reinstate von Braun so that the V-2 program could continue.[36] Citing from the "Führerprotokoll" (the minutes of Hitler's meetings) dated May 13, 1944 in his memoirs, Speer later relayed what Hitler had finally conceded: "In the matter concerning B. I will guarantee you that he will be exempt from persecution as long as he is indispensable for you, in spite of the difficult general consequences this will have."

Von Braun (with armcast) immediately after his surrender

Surrender to the Americans

The Soviet Army was about 160 km from Peenemünde in the spring of 1945 when von Braun assembled his planning staff and asked them to decide how and to whom they should surrender. Afraid of Soviet cruelty to prisoners of war, von Braun and his staff decided to try to surrender to the Americans. Kammler had ordered relocation of von Braun's team into central Germany; however, a conflicting order from an army chief ordered them to join the army and fight. Deciding that Kammler's order was their best bet to defect to the Americans, von Braun fabricated documents and transported 500 of his affiliates to the area around Mittelwerk, where they resumed their work. For fear of their documents being destroyed by the SS, von Braun ordered the blueprints to be hidden in an abandoned mine shaft in the Harz mountain range.[38]

While on an official trip in March, von Braun suffered a complicated fracture of his left arm and shoulder after his driver fell asleep at the wheel. His injuries were serious, but he insisted that his arm be set in a cast so he could leave the hospital. Due to this neglect of the injury he had to be hospitalized again a month later where his bones had to be re-broken and re-aligned.[38]

In April, as the Allied forces advanced deeper into Germany, Kammler ordered the science team to be moved by train into the town of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps where they were closely guarded by the SS with orders to execute the team if they were about to fall into enemy hands. However, von Braun managed to convince SS Major Kummer to order the dispersion of the group into nearby villages so that they would not be an easy target for U.S. bombers.[38]

On May 2, 1945, upon finding an American private from the U.S. 44th Infantry Division, von Braun's brother and fellow rocket engineer, Magnus, approached the soldier on a bicycle, calling out in broken English: "My name is Magnus von Braun. My brother invented the V-2. We want to surrender."[5][39] After the surrender, von Braun spoke to the press:

"We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else. We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.”[40]

The American high command was well aware of how important their catch was: von Braun had been at the top of the Black List, the code name for the list of German scientists and engineers targeted for immediate interrogation by U.S. military experts. On June 19, 1945, two days before the scheduled handover of the area to the Soviets, US Army Major Robert B. Staver, Chief of the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Intelligence Branch of the US Army Ordnance in London, and Lt Col R. L. Williams took von Braun and his department chiefs by jeep from Garmisch to Munich. The group was flown to Nordhausen, and was evacuated 40 miles (64 km) southwest to Witzenhausen, a small town in the American Zone, the next day.[41] Von Braun was briefly detained at the "Dustbin" interrogation center at Kransberg Castle where the elite of the Third Reich's economy, science and technology were debriefed by U.S. and British intelligence officials.[42] Subsequently he was recruited to the U.S. under Operation Overcast.

American career

U.S. Army career

On June 20, 1945, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull approved the transfer of von Braun and his specialists to America; however this was not announced to the public until October 1, 1945.[43] Since the paperwork of those Germans selected for transfer to the United States was indicated by paperclips, the transfer of von Braun and his colleagues became known as Operation Paperclip, an operation that resulted in the employment of many German scientists by the U.S. Army.[44]

Von Braun, 1 February 1956.
Maria von Braun, wife of Wernher von Braun

The first seven technicians arrived in the United States at New Castle Army Air Field, just south of Wilmington, Delaware, on September 20, 1945. They were then flown to Boston and taken by boat to the Army Intelligence Service post at Fort Strong in Boston Harbor. Later, with the exception of von Braun, the men were transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland to sort out the Peenemünde documents, enabling the scientists to continue their rocketry experiments.

Finally, von Braun and his remaining Peenemünde staff (see List of German rocket scientists in the United States) were transferred to their new home at Fort Bliss, Texas, a large Army installation just north of El Paso. While there, they trained military, industrial and university personnel in the intricacies of rockets and guided missiles. As part of the Hermes project they helped to refurbish, assemble and launch a number of V-2s that had been shipped from Germany to the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. They also continued to study the future potential of rockets for military and research applications. Since they were not permitted to leave Fort Bliss without military escort, von Braun and his colleagues began to refer to themselves only half-jokingly as "PoPs," "Prisoners of Peace."

During his stay at Fort Bliss, von Braun mailed a marriage proposal to 18-year-old Maria Luise von Quistorp, his cousin on his mother's side. On March 1, 1947, having received permission to go back to Germany and return with his bride, he married her in a Lutheran church in Landshut, Germany. He and his bride and his father and mother returned to New York on March 26, 1947. On 9 December 1948, the von Brauns' first daughter, Iris Careen, was born at Fort Bliss Army Hospital. The von Brauns eventually had two more children, Margrit Cécile on May 8, 1952 and Peter Constantine on June 2, 1960. On April 15, 1955, von Braun became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

In 1950, at the start of the Korean War, von Braun and his team were transferred to Huntsville, Alabama, his home for the next twenty years. Between 1950 and 1956, von Braun led the Army's rocket development team at Redstone Arsenal, resulting in the Redstone rocket, which was used for the first live nuclear ballistic missile tests conducted by the United States.

As director of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA), von Braun, with his team, then developed the Jupiter-C, a modified Redstone rocket.[45] The Jupiter-C successfully launched the West's first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958. This event signaled the birth of America's space program.

Despite the work on the Redstone rocket, the twelve years from 1945 to 1957 were probably some of the most frustrating for von Braun and his colleagues. In the Soviet Union, Sergei Korolev and his team of scientists and engineers plowed ahead with several new rocket designs and the Sputnik program, while the American government was not very interested in von Braun's work or views and only embarked on a very modest rocket-building program. In the meantime, the press tended to dwell on von Braun's past as a member of the SS and the slave labor used to build his V-2 rockets.

Popular concepts for a human presence in space

Repeating the pattern he had established during his earlier career in Germany, von Braun – while directing military rocket development in the real world – continued to entertain his engineer-scientist's dream of a future world in which rockets would be used for space exploration. However, instead of risking being sacked, he now was increasingly in a position to popularize these ideas. The May 14, 1950 headline of The Huntsville Times ("Dr. von Braun Says Rocket Flights Possible to Moon") might have marked the beginning of these efforts. These disclosures rode a moonflight publicity wave that was created by the two 1950 U.S. science fiction films, Destination Moon and Rocketship X-M.

In 1952, von Braun first published his concept of a manned space station in a Collier's Weekly magazine series of articles entitled Man Will Conquer Space Soon! These articles were illustrated by the space artist Chesley Bonestell and were influential in spreading his ideas. Frequently von Braun worked with fellow German-born space advocate and science writer Willy Ley to publish his concepts which, unsurprisingly, were heavy on the engineering side and anticipated many technical aspects of space flight that later became reality.

The space station (to be constructed using rockets with recoverable and reusable ascent stages) would be a toroid structure, with a diameter of 250 feet (76 m), would spin around a central docking nave to provide artificial gravity, and would be assembled in a 1,075 mile (1,730 km) two-hour, high-inclination Earth orbit allowing observation of essentially every point on earth on at least a daily basis. (More than a decade later, the movie version of 2001: A Space Odyssey would draw heavily on this design concept in its visualization of the orbital space station.) The ultimate purpose of the space station would be to provide an assembly platform for manned lunar expeditions.

Von Braun envisaged these expeditions as very large-scale undertakings, with a total of 50 astronauts travelling in three huge spacecraft (two for crew, one primarily for cargo), each 49 m (160.76 ft) long and 33 m (108.27 ft) in diameter and driven by a rectangular array of 30 rocket propulsion engines.[46] Upon arrival, astronauts would establish a permanent lunar base in the Sinus Roris region by using the emptied cargo holds of their craft as shelters, and would explore their surroundings for eight weeks. This would include a 400 km expedition in pressurized rovers to the crater Harpalus and the Mare Imbrium foothills.

Walt Disney and Wernher von Braun, shown in this 1954 photo holding a model of his passenger ship, collaborated on a series of three educational films.

At this time von Braun also worked out preliminary concepts for a manned Mars mission which used the space station as a staging point. His initial plans, published in The Mars Project (1952), had envisaged a fleet of ten spacecraft (each with a mass of 3,720 metric tons), three of them unmanned and each carrying one 200-ton winged lander[47] in addition to cargo, and nine crew vehicles transporting a total of 70 astronauts. Gigantic as this mission plan was, its engineering and astronautical parameters were thoroughly calculated. A later project was much more modest, using only one purely orbital cargo ship and one crewed craft. In each case, the expedition would use minimum-energy Hohmann transfer orbits for its trips to Mars and back to Earth.

Before technically formalizing his thoughts on human spaceflight to Mars, von Braun had written a science fiction novel, set in 1980, on the subject. According to his biographer, Erik Bergaust, the manuscript was rejected by no less than 18 publishers. Von Braun later published small portions of this opus in magazines, to illustrate selected aspects of his Mars project popularizations. The complete manuscript, titled Project MARS: A Technical Tale, did not appear as a printed book until December 2006.[48]

In the hope that its involvement would bring about greater public interest in the future of the space program, von Braun also began working with Walt Disney and the Disney studios as a technical director, initially for three television films about space exploration. The initial broadcast devoted to space exploration was Man in Space, which first went on air on March 9, 1955.

Later (in 1959) von Braun published a short booklet[49] -- condensed from episodes that had appeared in This Week Magazine before—describing his updated concept of the first manned lunar landing. The scenario included only a single and relatively small spacecraft—a winged lander with a crew of only two experienced pilots who had already circumnavigated the moon on an earlier mission. The brute-force direct ascent flight schedule used a rocket design with five sequential stages, loosely based on the Nova designs that were under discussion at this time. After a night launch from a Pacific island the first three stages would bring the spacecraft (with the two remaining upper stages attached) to terrestrial escape velocity, with each burn creating an acceleration of 8-9 times standard gravity. Residual propellant in the third stage would be used for the deceleration intended to commence only a few hundred kilometers above the landing site in a crater near the lunar north pole. The fourth stage provided acceleration to lunar escape velocity while the fifth stage would be responsible for a deceleration during return to the Earth to a residual speed that allows aerocapture of the spacecraft ending in a runway landing, much in the way of the Space Shuttle. One remarkable feature of this technical tale is that the engineer Wernher von Braun anticipated a medical phenomenon that would become apparent only years later: being a veteran astronaut with no history of serious adverse reactions to weightlessness offers no protection against becoming unexpectedly and violently spacesick.

Wernher von Braun walking with President Kennedy at Redstone Arsenal in 1963
Wernher von Braun, with the F-1 engines of the Saturn V first stage at the US Space and Rocket Center
Still with his rocket models, von Braun is pictured in his new office at NASA headquarters in 1970

Concepts for orbital warfare

Von Braun developed and published his space station concept during the very "coldest" time of the Cold War, when the U.S. government for which he worked put the containment of the Soviet Union above everything else. The fact that his space station – if armed with missiles that could be easily adapted from those already available at this time – would give the United States space superiority in both orbital and orbit-to-ground warfare did not escape him. Although von Braun took care to qualify such military applications as "particularly dreadful" in his popular writings, he elaborated on them in several of his books and articles. This much less peaceful aspect of von Braun's "drive for space" has recently been reviewed by Michael J. Neufeld from the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.[50]

NASA career

The U.S. Navy had been tasked with building a rocket to lift satellites into orbit, but the resulting Vanguard rocket launch system was unreliable. In 1957, with the launch of Sputnik 1, there was a growing perception within the United States that America lagged behind the Soviet Union in the emerging Space Race. American authorities then chose to utilize von Braun and his German team's experience with missiles to create an orbital launch vehicle.

NASA was established by law on July 29, 1958. One day later, the 50th Redstone rocket was successfully launched from Johnston Atoll in the south Pacific as part of Operation Hardtack. Two years later, NASA opened the new Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, and the ABMA development team led by von Braun was transferred to NASA. In a face-to-face meeting with Herb York at the Pentagon, von Braun made it clear he would go to NASA only if development of the Saturn was allowed to continue.[51] Presiding from July 1960 to February 1970, von Braun became the center's first Director.

Von Braun, Charles W. Mathews, George Mueller, and Lt. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips relax in the Launch Control Center following the successful Apollo 11 liftoff on July 16, 1969.

The Marshall Center's first major program was the development of Saturn rockets to carry heavy payloads into and beyond Earth orbit. From this, the Apollo program for manned moon flights was developed. Wernher von Braun initially pushed for a flight engineering concept that called for an Earth orbit rendezvous technique (the approach he had argued for building his space station), but in 1962 he converted to the more risky lunar orbit rendezvous concept that was subsequently realized.[52] His dream to help mankind set foot on the Moon became a reality on July 16, 1969 when a Marshall-developed Saturn V rocket launched the crew of Apollo 11 on its historic eight-day mission. Over the course of the program, Saturn V rockets enabled six teams of astronauts to reach the surface of the Moon.

During the late 1960s, von Braun played an instrumental role in the development of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. The desk from which he guided America's entry in the Space Race remains on display there.

During the local summer of 1966/67, von Braun participated in a field trip to Antarctica, organized for him and several other members of top NASA management.[53] The goal of the field trip was to determine whether the experience gained by US scientific and technological community during the exploration of Antarctic wastelands would be useful for the manned exploration of space. Von Braun was mainly interested in management of the scientific effort on Antarctic research stations, logistics, habitation and life support, and in using the barren Antarctic terrain like the glacial dry valleys to test the equipment that one day would be used to look for signs of life on Mars and other worlds.

In an internal memo dated January 16, 1969,[54] von Braun had confirmed to his staff that he would stay on as a Center Director at Huntsville to head the Apollo Applications Program. A few months later, on occasion of the first moon-landing, he publicly expressed his optimism that the Saturn V carrier system would continue to be developed, advocating manned missions to Mars in the 1980s.[55]

However, on March 1, 1970, von Braun and his family relocated to Washington, D.C., when he was assigned the post of NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Planning at NASA Headquarters. After a series of conflicts associated with the truncation of the Apollo program, and facing severe budget constraints, von Braun retired from NASA on May 26, 1972. Not only had it become evident by this time that his and NASA's visions for future U.S. space flight projects were incompatible; it was perhaps even more frustrating for him to see popular support for a continued presence of man in space wane dramatically once the goal to reach the moon had been accomplished.

Wernher von Braun and William R. Lucas, the first and third Marshall Space Flight Center directors, viewing a Space Shuttle model, October 11, 1974

Career after NASA

After leaving NASA, von Braun became Vice President for Engineering and Development at the aerospace company, Fairchild Industries in Germantown, Maryland on July 1, 1972.

In 1973 a routine health check uncovered kidney cancer which during the following years could not be controlled by surgery.[56] Von Braun continued his work to the extent possible, which included accepting invitations to speak at colleges and universities as he was eager to cultivate interest in human spaceflight and rocketry, particularly with students and a new generation of engineers. On one such visit in the spring of 1974 to Allegheny College, von Braun revealed a more personal, down-to-earth side of himself as a man in his early 60s, beyond the public persona most saw, including an all-too-human allergy to feather pillows and a subtle, if not humorous disdain for some rock music of the era.

Von Braun helped establish and promote the National Space Institute, a precursor of the present-day National Space Society, in 1975, and became its first president and chairman. In 1976, he became scientific consultant to Lutz Kayser, the CEO of OTRAG, and a member of the Daimler-Benz board of directors. However, his deteriorating condition forced him to retire from Fairchild on December 31, 1976. When the 1975 National Medal of Science was awarded to him in early 1977 he was hospitalized, and unable to attend the White House ceremony.

Grave of Wernher von Braun in Ivy Hill Cemetery (Alexandria, Virginia)


On June 16, 1977, Wernher von Braun died of pancreatic cancer in Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of 65.[57][58] He was buried at the Ivy Hill Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia.[59]

Published works

  • Proposal for a Workable Fighter with Rocket Drive. July 6, 1939. 
    • The proposed vertical take-off interceptor[60] for climbing to 35,000 ft in 60 seconds was rejected by the Luftwaffe in the autumn of 1941[23]:258 for the Me 163 Komet[61] and never produced. (The differing Bachem Ba 349 was produced during the 1944 Emergency Fighter Program.)
  • 'Survey' of Previous Liquid Rocket Development in Germany and Future Prospects. May 1945. [62]
  • A Minimum Satellite Vehicle Based on Components Available from Developments of the Army Ordnance Corps. September 15, 1954. "It would be a blow to U.S. prestige if we did not [launch a satellite] first." [62]
  • The Mars Project, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, (1953). With Henry J. White, translator.
  • German Rocketry, The Coming of the Space Age. New York: Meredith Press. 1967. 
  • First Men to the Moon, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York (1958). Portions of work first appeared in This Week Magazine.
  • Daily Journals of Werner von Braun, May 1958-March 1970. March 1970. [62]
  • History of Rocketry & Space Travel, New York, Crowell (1975). With Frederick I. Ordway III.
    • 2nd Edition:, Estate of Wernher von Braun; Ordway III, Frederick I & Dooling, David Jr. (1985) [1975]. Space Travel: A History. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-181898-4. 
  • The Rocket's Red Glare, Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, (1976). With Frederick I. Ordway III.
  • Project Mars: A Technical Tale, Apogee Books, Toronto (2006). A previously unpublished science fiction story by von Braun. Accompanied by paintings from Chesley Bonestell and von Braun's own technical papers on the proposed project.
  • The Voice of Dr. Wernher von Braun, Apogee Books, Toronto (2007). A collection of speeches delivered by von Braun over the course of his career.
  • Wernher von Braun, Crusader for Space, A Biographical Memoir, Ernst Stuhlinger and Fredrick I. Ordway III, Krieger ISBN 0-89464-842-X. Two volumes on the life of von Braun,

Recognition and critique

In February 1970, Huntsville, Alabama, honored Wernher von Braun's years of service with a series of events including a plaque in his honor. Pictured (left to right), his daughter Iris, wife Maria, U.S. Senator John Sparkman, Alabama Governor Albert Brewer, von Braun, son Peter, and daughter Margrit.
  • Apollo space program director Sam Phillips was quoted as saying that he did not think that America would have reached the moon as quickly as it did without von Braun's help. Later, after discussing it with colleagues, he amended this to say that he did not believe America would have reached the moon at all.[citation needed]
  • The crater von Braun on the Moon is named after him.
  • Von Braun received a total of 12 honorary doctorates, among them, on January 8, 1963, one from the Technical University of Berlin from which he had graduated.
  • Von Braun was responsible for the creation of the Research Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. As a result of his vision, the university is one of the leading universities in the nation for NASA-sponsored research. The building housing the university's Research Institute was named in his honor, Von Braun Research Hall, in 2000.
  • Several German cities (Bonn, Neu-Isenburg, Mannheim, Mainz), and dozens of smaller towns have named streets after Wernher von Braun.
  • The Von Braun Center (built 1975) in Huntsville, Alabama is named in von Braun's honor.
  • Scrutiny of von Braun's use of forced labor at the Mittelwerk intensified again in 1984 when Arthur Rudolph, one of his top affiliates from the A-4/V2 through to the Apollo projects, left the United States and was forced to renounce his citizenship in place of the alternative of being tried for war crimes.[63]
  • A science- and engineering-oriented Gymnasium in Friedberg, Bavaria was named after Wernher von Braun in 1979. In response to rising criticism, a school committee decided in 1995, after lengthy deliberations, to keep the name but "to address von Braun's ambiguity in the advanced history classes."
  • An avenue in the Annadale section of Staten Island, New York was named for him in 1977.



Upon surrendering with his rocket team to the Americans in 1945: "We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else. We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured."[67]

"All of man's scientific and engineering efforts will be in vain unless they are performed and utilized within a framework of ethical standards commensurate with the magnitude of the scope of the technological revolution. The more technology advances, the more fateful will be its impact on humanity."

"You must accept one of two basic premises: Either we are alone in the universe, or we are not alone in the universe. And either way, the implications are staggering".

"If the world's ethical standards fail to rise with the advances of our technological revolution, the world will go to hell. Let us remember that in the horse-and-buggy days nobody got hurt if the coachman had a drink too many. In our times of high-powered automobiles, however, that same drink may be fatal...."[68]

On Adolf Hitler: "I began to see the shape of the man – his brilliance, the tremendous force of personality. It gripped you somehow. But also you could see his flaw — he was wholly without scruples, a godless man who thought himself the only god, the only authority he needed."[69]

"My experiences with science led me to God. They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun?"

In popular culture

Film and television
Von Braun has been featured in a number of movies and television shows or series about the space race:
Several fictional characters have been modeled on von Braun:
There are other references to von Braun in film and on television:
  • Mobile Suit Gundam (1979): The largest Lunar city in the Universal Century era is called 'Von Braun City'. The city is the home of Anaheim Electronics, is a strategic point in space, and is built around Neil Armstrong's footprint in the Apollo missions.
  • Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare) (1977): Director and star Kidlat Tahimik is president of a Wernher von Braun club and is fascinated with "First World" progress, particularly von Braun's efforts in the U.S. space program.
  • Planetes (TV, 2004): There is an upcoming exploratory mission to Jupiter on a new fusion powered ship, the Von Braun.
  • Alien Planet (TV, 2005): A spacecraft, named Von Braun, is named after him.
  • In Back to the Future Part III, character "Doc" Emmett Brown reveals a possible relation to von Braun by saying that his paternal side of the family arrived in Hill Valey, California in 1908 - "when they were still called von Braun!"
Print media
  • In an issue of Mad Magazine in the late 1950s, artist Wallace Wood depicted von Braun at the launch of a rocket, ready to listen to a radio transmitting the rocket's signals. Suddenly he says, "HIMMEL! Vas ist los?" and then explains, "Vat iss wrong is vit der RADIO! It iss AC...und der control room iss DC!"
  • In Warren Ellis' graphic novel Ministry of Space, Von Braun is a supporting character, settling in Britain after World War II, and being essential for the realization of the British Space Program.
  • The Good German by Joseph Kanon. Von Braun and other scientists are said to have been implicated in the use of slave labour at Peenemünde; their transfer to the US forms part of the narrative.
  • Space by James Michener. Von Braun and other German scientists are brought to the US and form a vital part of the US efforts to reach space.
  • Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. The plot involves British intelligence attempting to avert and predict V-2 rocket attacks. The work even includes a gyroscopic equation for the V2. The first portion of the novel, "Beyond The Zero", begins with a quote from Von Braun: "Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death."
  • "New Dictionary", a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in his collection Welcome to the Monkey House, notes Von Braun as one of the things an old dictionary doesn't mention.
  • Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut, has a scene in which a character reads a Life magazine with Von Braun on the cover.
  • DORA by Jean Michel. This is not a novel but a memoir.
  • Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, Jr. The movie October Sky was based on this memoir about a boy, Sonny (in the movie, he's called Homer) Hickam, who lives in a small West Virginia coal town and builds rockets and greatly admires von Braun. Although not about von Braun, it is a vivid picture of popular attitudes toward rocket science and von Braun during the early days of the U. S. space program.
  • Wernher von Braun (1965):[71] A song written and performed by Tom Lehrer for an episode of NBC's American version of the BBC TV show That Was The Week That Was; the song was later included in Lehrer's album That Was The Year That Was. It was a satire on what some saw as von Braun's cavalier attitude toward the consequences of his work in Nazi Germany: "'Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? / That's not my department', says Wernher von Braun." Contrary to popular belief, Wernher von Braun did not sue Tom Lehrer for defamation, nor has Lehrer been forced to relinquish all of his royalty income to Von Braun. Lehrer firmly denied these claims in a 2003 interview.[72]
  • The Last Days of Pompeii (1991): A rock opera by Grant Hart's post-Hüsker Dü alternative rock group Nova Mob, in which von Braun features as a character. The album includes a song called Wernher von Braun.
  • Progress vs. Pettiness (2005): A song about the Space Race written and performed by The Phenomenauts for their CD Re-Entry. The song begins: "In 1942 there was Wernher von Braun..."
  • John D. Loudermilk's song He's Just A Scientist (That's All) contains the lyric "Everybody's flippin' over Fabian or Frankie Avalon, but nobody ever seems to give a flip over Dr Werner Von Braun."
  • The song "Apollo XI/V1/V2/Aggregat 4" from German Electro band Welle:Erdball deals with his inventions.
  • Blues metal artists Clutch make reference to von Braun in the song 2009 "Struck Down" on the album Strange Cousins From The West.
Computer games

See also



  • Bergaust, Erik (1976), Wernher von Braun: The authoritative and definitive biographical profile of the father of modern space flight (Hardcover), National Space Institute (1976), ISBN 0917680014 
  • Biddle, Wayne (2009), Dark Side of the Moon: Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race (Hardcover), W.W. Norton (2009), ISBN 9780393059106 
  • Bilstein, Roger E. (2003), Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles (Paperback), University Press of Florida (July 2003), ISBN 0813026911 
  • Crouch, Tom D. (1999), Aiming for the Stars: The Dreamers and Doers of the Space Age (Hardcover), Smithsonian (September 17, 1999), ISBN 1560983868 
  • Dunar, Andrew J; Waring, Stephen P (1999), Power to Explore: a History of Marshall Space Flight Center, 1960–1990, Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, ISBN 0-16-058992-4, http://history.msfc.nasa.gov/book/toc.html 
  • Eisfeld, Rainer (2000), Mondsüchtig, Hamburg: Rohwolt, ISBN 3-499-60943-6 
  • Erlebnisbericht Adam Cabala, in: Fiedermann, Heß, Jaeger: Das KZ Mittelbau Dora. Ein historischer Abriss. Berlin 1993, S.100
  • Freeman, Marsha (1993), How we got to the Moon: The Story of the German Space Pioneers (Paperback), 31st Century Science Associates (October 1993), ISBN 0962813419 
  • Lasby, Clarence G (1971), Project Paperclip: German Scientists and the Cold War, New York, NY: Atheneum, ISBN B0006CKBHY 
  • Neufeld, Michael J (1994), The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era, New York: Free Press, ISBN 0-02-922895-6 
  • Neufeld, Michael J (2007), Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 978-0-307-26292-9 
  • Ordway, Frederick I., III (2003), The Rocket Team: Apogee Books Space Series 36 (Apogee Books Space Series) (Hardcover), Collector's Guide Publishing Inc; Har/DVD edition (September 1, 2003), ISBN 1894959000 
  • Sellier, André (2003), A History of the Dora Camp: The Untold Story of the Nazi Slave Labor Camp That Secretly Manufactured V-2 Rockets, Chicago, IL: Ivan R Dee, ISBN 1-56663-511-X 
  • Stuhlinger, Ernst (1996), Wernher von Braun: Crusader for Space, Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company, ISBN 0-89464-980-9 
  • Tompkins, Phillip K. (1993), Organizational Communication Imperatives: Lessons of the Space Program (Paperback), Roxbury Publishing Company (1993), ISBN 0935732403 
  • Ward, Bob (2005), Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, ISBN 1-59114-926-6 
  • Weisstein, Eric W., Robert Goddard at ScienceWorld.
  • Willhite, Irene E. (Editor) (2007), The Voice of Dr. Wernher von Braun: An Anthology (Apogee Books Space Series) (Paperback), Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc. (May 1, 2007), ISBN 1894959647 
  • Winterstein, William E., Sr. (2005), Secrets Of The Space Age: The Sacrifices and Struggles To Get To The Moon; The Aftermath: What Happened After Lunar Mission, Intrigue and United States Space Heroes Betrayed (Hardcover), Robert D. Reed Publishers (June 30, 2005), ISBN 1931741492 


  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a title, translated as Baron, not a first or middle name. The female forms are Freifrau and Freiin.
  2. ^ "From the SS to Citizenship to the Moon: von Braun's Odyssey" (PDF). The National Archives in the Regions. National Archives and Records Administration. January 2008. http://www.archives.gov/locations/calendar/08-january.pdf. "New opportunities abound to study the life and work of Wernher von Braun, the preeminent rocket engineer of the 20th century." 
  3. ^ a b "Biography of Wernher Von Braun". MSFC History Office. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. http://history.msfc.nasa.gov/vonbraun/bio.html. 
  4. ^ http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Library/Giants/vonBraun/
  5. ^ a b Spires, Shelby G. (2003-06-27). "Von Braun's brother dies; aided surrender". The Huntsville Times: p. 1A. "Magnus von Braun, the brother of rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun who worked in Huntsville from 1950-1955, died Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 84. Though not as famous as his older brother, who died in 1977, Magnus von Braun made the first contact with U.S. Army troops to arrange the German rocket team's surrender at the end of World War II." 
  6. ^ a b "Recollections of Childhood: Early Experiences in Rocketry as Told by Werner Von Braun 1963". MSFC History Office. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. http://history.msfc.nasa.gov/vonbraun/recollect-childhood.html. 
  7. ^ Ward, Bob. Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun (US Naval Institute Press , 2005) p. 11.
  8. ^ Various sources such as The Nazi Rocketeers (ISBN 0811733874 pp 5-8) list young Von Braun as joining the VfR as an apprentice to Willy Ley, one of the three founders. Later when Ley fled Germany because he was a Jew, Von Braun took over the leadership and changed its activity to military development.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ http://www.astronautix.com/astros/vonbraun.htm
  11. ^ Neufeld, Michael J. Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War (Knopf, 2007) p. 61.
  12. ^ Konstruktive, theoretische und experimentelle Beiträge zu dem Problem der Flüssigkeitsrakete. Raketentechnik und Raumfahrtforschung, Sonderheft 1 (1960), Stuttgart, Germany.
  13. ^ Weisstein, Eric W., Robert Goddard at ScienceWorld.
  14. ^ "The Man Who Opened the Door to Space". Popular Science May, 1959. http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2007/04/28/the-man-who-opened-the-door-to-space/. 
  15. ^ The Nazi Rocketeers, From Dreams of Space to Crimes of War pp 58. (See extensive bibliography)
  16. ^ Dr. Space, the Life of Wernher von Braun pp 35
  17. ^ pp 36
  18. ^ Mr. Space pp 35. "Wernher von Braun in SS uniform". The Reformation Online. http://www.reformation.org/wernher-von-braun.html. 
  19. ^ ibid
  20. ^ Speer, Albert (1969). Erinnerungen (p. 377). Verlag Ullstein GmbH, Frankfurt a.M. and Berlin, [ISBN 3-550-06074-2].
  21. ^ "Peenemunde, 17 and 18 August 1943". RAF History - Bomber Command. Royal Air Force. http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/peenemunde.html. Retrieved 2006-11-15. 
  22. ^ Middlebrook, Martin (1982). The Peenemünde Raid: The Night of 17–18 August 1943. New York: Bobs-Merrill. p. 222. 
  23. ^ a b Dornberger, Walter (1952 -- US translation V-2 Viking Press:New York, 1954). V2--Der Schuss ins Weltall. Esslingan: Bechtle Verlag. p. 164. 
  24. ^ Warsitz, 2009, p. 30.
  25. ^ Warsitz, Lutz: THE FIRST JET PILOT - The Story of German Test Pilot Erich Warsitz (p. 35), Pen and Sword Books Ltd., England, 2009, [ISBN 9781844158188].
  26. ^ Warsitz, 2009, p. 51.
  27. ^ Warsitz, 2009, p. 41.
  28. ^ Warsitz, 2009, p. 55.
  29. ^ Mittelbau Overview
  30. ^ "Excerpts from "Power to Explore"". MSFC History Office. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. http://history.msfc.nasa.gov/vonbraun/excerpts.html. 
  31. ^ Jaroff, Leon (2002-03-26). "The Rocket Man's Dark Side". Time. http://www.time.com/time/columnist/jaroff/article/0,9565,220201,00.html. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  32. ^ Roop, Lee (2002-10-04). "Aide says von Braun wasn't able to stop slave horrors; Objection would have gotten rocket pioneer shot, Dannenberg says". The Huntsville Times. 
  33. ^ Biddle, Wayne. Dark Side of the Moon (W.W. Norton, 2009) pp. 124-125.
  34. ^ Biddle, p. 125.
  35. ^ Biddle, pp. 123-124.
  36. ^ a b c d e Ward 2005, pp. 38–40.
  37. ^ "Highlights in German Rocket Development from 1927-1945". MSFC History Office. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. http://history.msfc.nasa.gov/vonbraun/highlights.html. 
  38. ^ a b c Cadbury, Deborah (2005). "Space Race". BBC Worldwide Limited. ISBN 0-00-721299-2. 
  39. ^ McDougall, Walter A. (1985). ...The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age. New York: Basic Books. p. 44. ISBN 0-465-02887-X. 
  40. ^ Arts & Entertainment, Biography (1959-1961 series). Mike Wallace, television biography of Wernher von Braun, video clip of the press statement.
  41. ^ McGovern, J (1964). Crossbow and Overcast. New York: W. Morrow. p. 182. 
  42. ^ Speer, Albert (2001). Schlie, Ulrich. ed. "Alles, was ich weiß". F.A. Herbig Verlagsbuchhandlung. ISBN 3-7766-2092-7. p. 12
  43. ^ "Outstanding German Scientists Being Brought to U.S.". War Department press release. V2Rocket.com. 1945-10-01. http://www.v2rocket.com/start/chapters/paperclip.gif.  Archived
  44. ^ "Operation Paperclip Casefile". Conspiracy Archive. 1997-08-08. http://www.conspiracyarchive.com/NWO/project_paperclip.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  45. ^ "Reach for the Stars". TIME Magazine. 1958-02-17. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,862899-1,00.html. 
  46. ^ Woodfill, Jerry. "Gallery of Wernher von Braun Moonship Sketches". The Space Educator's Handbook. NASA Johnson Space Center. http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/lunarlan.html.  Archived
  47. ^ Woodfill, Jerry. "Gallery of Wernher von Braun Mars Exploration Sketches". The Space Educator's Handbook. NASA Johnson Space Center. http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/vonlift.html.  Archived
  48. ^ von Braun, Wernher: Project MARS: A Technical Tale. ISBN 0973820330, ISBN 978-0973820331)
  49. ^ Wernher von Braun: First Men to the Moon. Reprint by Henry Holt & Co., Inc. (January 2000). ISBN 978-0030302954
  50. ^ Neufeld MJ: "Space superiority": Wernher von Braun's campaign for a nuclear-armed space station, 1946–1956. Space Policy 2006; 22:52–62.
  51. ^ "Stages to Saturn - The Saturn Building Blocks - THE ABMA TRANSFER". NASA. http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4206/ch2.htm. 
  52. ^ "Concluding Remarks by Dr. Wernher von Braun about Mode Selection for the Lunar Landing Program" (PDF). Lunar Orbit Rendezvous File. NASA Historical Reference Collection. 1962-06-07. http://history.nasa.gov/Apollomon/apollo6.pdf. 
  53. ^ Space Man's Look at Antarctica. Popular Science, Vol. 190, No. 5, May 1967, pp. 114-116.
  54. ^ von Braun, Wernher (1969-01-16). "Adjustment to Marshall Organization, Announcement #4". MSFC History Office. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. http://history.msfc.nasa.gov/vonbraun/announcement_4.pdf. 
  55. ^ "Next, Mars and Beyond". Time (magazine). July 25, 1969. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901107,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-21. "Even as man prepared to take his first tentative extraterrestrial steps, other celestial adventures beckoned him. The shape and scope of the post-Apollo manned space program remained hazy, and a great deal depends on the safe and successful outcome of Apollo 11. But well before the moon flight was launched, NASA was casting eyes on targets far beyond the moon. The most inviting: the earth's close, and probably most hospitable, planetary neighbor. Given the same energy and dedication that took them to the moon, says Wernher von Braun, Americans could land on Mars as early as 1982." 
  56. ^ German sources mostly specify the cancer as renal, while American biographies unanimously just mention cancer. The time when von Braun learned about the disease is generally given as between 1973 and 1976. The characteristics of renal cell carcinoma, which has a bad prognosis even today, do not rule out either time limit.
  57. ^ "Von Braun, Who Helped Put Men on Moon, Dies at 65: German-Born Scientist Succumbs to Pancreatic Cancer; Was Pioneer in Space Rocket Technology". Los Angeles Times: p. A2. 1977-06-17. 
  58. ^ "Wernher von Braun, Rocket Pioneer, Dies; Wernher von Braun, Pioneer in Space Travel and Rocketry, Dies at 65". New York Times. 1977-06-18. "Wernher von Braun, the master rocket builder and pioneer of space travel, died of cancer Thursday morning. He was 65 years old." 
  59. ^ "Dr. Wernher von Braun". Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Von+braun&GScid=50747&GRid=4323&. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  60. ^ Klee, Ernst; Merk, Otto (1963, English translation 1965). The Birth of the Missile:The Secrets of Peenemünde. Hamburg: Gerhard Stalling Verlag. pp. 89,95. 
  61. ^ Neufeld 2007, p 151
  62. ^ a b c Ordway, Frederick I, III; Sharpe, Mitchell R (1979). The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series 36. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. pp. 308,425,509. ISBN 1894959000. 
  63. ^ William E., Sr. Winterstein Secrets Of The Space Age: The Sacrifices and Struggles To Get To The Moon; The Aftermath: What Happened After Lunar Mission, Intrigue and United States Space Heroes Betrayed (Hardcover) Robert D. Reed Publishers June 30, 2005 ISBN 1931741492
  64. ^ "Prof Dr Wernher Von Braun". Journal of the British Interplanetary Society March 1950 vol 9 No.2. 1950. 
  65. ^ "Dr von Braun Honoured" (PDF). Flight International (Iliffe Transport Publications): p. 1030. 1967-07-22. http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1967/1967%20-%201054.html. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  66. ^ Armbrester, Margaret E. (1992). The Civitan Story. Birmingham, AL: Ebsco Media. pp. 95, 105. 
  67. ^ David Wolper, television series, Biography (1961-64), Wherner von Braun.
  68. ^ Eric Bergaust, Wernher von Braun (Washington, D.C.: National Space Institute, 1976), p. 166
  69. ^ Bergaust, ibid., p. 62.
  70. ^ Neufield, Von Braun, p. 406. Dr Strangelove was widely held to be a composite of Edward Teller, Herman Kahn, and von Braun; but only von Braun shared Strangelove's Nazi past.
  71. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTKn1aSOyOs
  72. ^ http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/02/28/1046407753895.html

Further reading

  • Neufeld, Michael J. (2007). Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-26292-9. 
  • Petersen, Michael B. (2009). Missiles for the Fatherland: Peenemuende, National Socialism and the V-2 missile (Cambridge Centennial of Flight. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521882705. 
  • Warsitz, Lutz (2009). THE FIRST JET PILOT - The Story of German Test Pilot Erich Warsitz (including von Braun’s experiments with rocket aircraft). Pen and Sword Books Ltd.. ISBN 978-1844158188. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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Don't tell me that man doesn't belong out there. Man belongs wherever he wants to go — and he'll do plenty well when he gets there.

Wernher von Braun (23 March 191216 June 1977) was a German rocket scientist and astronautics engineer who was one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Germany and the United States.


  • Don't tell me that man doesn't belong out there. Man belongs wherever he wants to go — and he'll do plenty well when he gets there.
    • Time magazine (17 February 1958)
  • Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death.
    • As quoted in Gravity's Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon; also quoted as: Everything science has taught me— and continues to teach me— strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.
  • For me, the idea of a creation is not conceivable without invoking the necessity of design. One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be design and purpose behind it all.
    • From a letter to the California State board of Education (14 September 1972)
  • My experiences with science led me to God. They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun?
    • From a letter to the California State board of Education (14 September 1972)
  • It is in scientific honesty that I endorse the presentation of alternative theories for the origin of the universe, life and man in the science classroom. It would be an error to overlook the possibility that the universe was planned rather than happening by chance.
    • From a letter to the California State board of Education (14 September 1972)
  • Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently.
    • Quoted in "Juan Yong Ying Yu Ming Yan‎" - Page 242 - by Xi-ya Ma - 2007

About Wernher von Braun

  • "Once the rockets are up
    who cares where they come down
    that's not my department,"
    says Wernher von Braun.

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Simple English

Dr. Wernher von Braun
File:Wernher von
Von Braun in his office at Marshall Space Flight Centre, Alabama in 1964
Born March 23, 1912(1912-03-23)
Wirsitz, German Empire
Died June 16, 1977 (aged 65)
Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Cause of death Colon Cancer
Nationality German, American
Occupation Rocket engineer and designer.
Spouse Maria Luise von Quistorp

Dr. Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun (23 March 1912 – 16 June 1977)[1] was a German engineer and scientist. He worked as a rocket designer between the 1930s and 1970s.[2] Some people say he was the most important rocket engineer of the 20th century.[3] He worked for the Nazis during World War II. After World War II, he went to the United States. There, he worked for the NASA. In 1955, ten years after entering the country, von Braun became a US citizen.

He was one of the developers of the V-2 rocket, the first rocket to penetrate space.[4] He also developed the Saturn V rocket, which took people to the moon in 1969.[1]


Early life

Von Braun was born in Wirsitz (today: Wyrzysk) in Poland on 23 March 1912. His father was the General director of an important bank. During the Weimar Republic, his father was the minister for food and agriculture, Magnus Freiherr von Braun.[5] Von Braun's mother was Emmy von Quistorp, the daughter of a member of the Prussian House of Lords.[6]

In 1920, he moved to Berlin. During the first school years, von Braun attended a French secondary school in Berlin.[5] At the age of 13, he got a telescope. This gift raised his interest in astronomy.[5] Because of bad marks, von Braun had to attend a boarding school near Weimar, in 1925. He bought with his extra money the book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (English: The Rocket Into Interplanetary Space), which is the basis of the modern rocket research.[5] In 1928, he attended the boarding school called Hermann-Lietz-Internat on the German island Spiekeroog. In 1930, he passed his final exams.

He started studying at the Technical University of Berlin in summer of 1930. Von Braun also studied at ETH Zurich, in 1931. At the end of September 1931, he went back to Berlin.[5]

German career

After the Nazis came to power, he joined the S.S..[1] On 27 July 1934, von Braun received a Ph.D. from the Technical University of Berlin.[2] "Max" and "Moritz", two rockets developed by him, went as high as 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) in December 1934.[7] The tests were made in a small village in Kummersdorf, Germany. In 1936, von Braun and his team developed the next generation of rockets, the A-3.[8] The test area in Kummersdorf was too small for this newly-developed rocket. Together with his team of about 90 people, he had to move to a bigger test area in Peenemünde.[5]

Von Braun worked in Peenemünde between 1937 and 1945. There, he started to develop a new rocket called A4 (Aggregat 4). After some tests, the rocket was renamed to V-2.[9] The "V" is for the German word "Vergeltung", which means revenge. This was the first long range ballistic missile to be used in war.[10] It was able to carry a one ton warhead up to 50 miles into the air, and travel hundreds of miles to a target.[10] In 1943, Germany started a mass production of this rocket using thousands of concentration camp prisoners as factory workers.[11] They fired thousands of these rockets at targets in Antwerp and Great Britain, especially London.[11] More than 1700 V-2 rockets landed on Antwerp, killing more than 3,700 people.[12] Von Braun and his team started to develop the new generations of these rockets, the V-9 and V-10, which were for targets in the US.[1]

American career

File:Dr. Wernher von Braun and Saturn
Von Braun in front of a rocket

Early years

Von Braun and about 100 other scientists were brought to America in 1945 after they surrendered.[13] They began to work for the United States Army at Fort Bliss, Texas, where they instructed American soldiers in launching captured V-2s. During the 1950s, von Braun tried to get support for an American space program. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the United States finally started a space program. At first, the Navy was in charge, but their first Vanguard satellite was destroyed when the rocket blew up on the launch pad in December 1957.[14] The satellite program was given to the army, and the more experienced von Braun was able to start work with the rest of his team.[13] The Redstone rocket put a satellite into orbit on January 31, 1958.[14]

Huntsville and NASA

Von Braun started work at the Army's new Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, which later became NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.[13] There, he and his team developed rockets such as the Jupiter C and Redstone. His final and most successful rocket was the Saturn V, which carried astronauts to the moon. However, after the moon landing in 1969, public support of the space program disappeared. In 1972, von Braun retired from NASA and went to work with Fairchild Industries, in Maryland.[13]

Later years

In 1972, von Braun left NASA. He started to work in the private sector. He retired from work in January 1977 because he was sick. That year, he died at age 65 of colon cancer.[15]

After his death

Von Braun's work was able to give humankind a wider view into the universe. His rockets helped people reach the moon and send out spacecraft like Voyager 1. NASA is using his ideas to make the Ares V rockets.[16]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Biography of Wernher von Braun in German" (in German). Deutsches Historisches Museum. http://www.dhm.de/lemo/html/biografien/BraunWernher/index.html. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Biography of Wernher von Braun". NASA. http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/braun.html. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  3. "From the SS to Citizenship to the Moon: von Braun's Odyssey" (PDF). The National Archives in the Regions. National Archives and Records Administration. http://www.archives.gov/locations/calendar/08-january.pdf. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  4. "Wernher von Braun, a biography" (in German). who's who.de. http://www.whoswho.de/templ/te_bio.php?PID=84&RID=1. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 "Wernher von Braun (1912–1977)". urbin.de. Archived from the original on 2007-10-14. http://web.archive.org/web/20071014111839/http://urbin.de/konstrukteure/braun.htm. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  6. Ward, Bob (2005-05-15). Dr. Space: the life of Wernher von Braun. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1591149262. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8jIeqqCkDHQC&pg=PA10&dq=braun+%22emmy+von+quistorp%22&hl=en&ei=8rrhTKTmN4WwhQff1qjSDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=braun%20%22emmy%20von%20quistorp%22&f=false. 
  7. Kunz, Martin (2008-06-16). "Der ewige Aufstieg des Raketen-Pioniers" (in German). http://www.focus.de/wissen/bildung/Geschichte/tid-10763/wernher-von-braun-der-ewige-aufstieg-des-raketen-pioniers_aid_311420.html. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  8. "A Brief History of Rocketry". NASA. http://www-pao.ksc.nasa.gov/history/rocket-history.htm. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  9. "The V-2 (A4) Ballistic Missile Technology". Centennial Of Flight. NASA. http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Evolution_of_Technology/V-2/Tech26.htm. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "V2ROCKET.COM - The A-4/V-2 Resource Site - The V-2 Rocket". v2rocket.com. http://www.v2rocket.com/. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "V1 and V2 Rockets - GHN: IEEE Global History Network". ieeeghn.org. http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/V1_and_V2_Rockets. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  12. "V2ROCKET.COM - Antwerp - City of Sudden Death". v2rocket.com. http://www.v2rocket.com/start/chapters/antwerp.html. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 "Biography of Wernher von Braun". NASA. http://history.msfc.nasa.gov/vonbraun/bio.html. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "From the Sea to the Stars: Chapter 1". history.navy.mil. http://www.history.navy.mil/books/space/Chapter1.htm. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  15. Noble Wilford, John (1977-06-18). "Wernher von Braun, Rocket Pioneer, Dies; Wernher von Braun, Pioneer in Space Travel and Rocketry, Dies at 65". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0A17FD3A5B167493CAA8178DD85F438785F9. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  16. Newton, Kim (2006-06-11). "NASA Engineer, Former Von Braun Team Member Phil Sumrall Leading Development of NASA's Future Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle". NASA. http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2006/06-127.html. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 

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