Wernher von Braun (1912-1977)
Born to a Prussian baron in Wirsitz, Germany in 1912, von Braun developed a love for rocketry at an early age. As a child he read the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. But it was from that time he read, The Rocket into Interplanetary Space by Hermann Oberth, that von Braun decided to take the fiction of space travel to reality. He received his PhD in Physics in 1934.
From his love and pioneering of rocket science, von Braun became the impetus and major driving force for space travel in the 20th century.
Wernher von Braun’s life is an enigma to many. He was a scientist and a Nazi officer developing V2 rocket weaponry during WWII. He began working on V2 rockets in 1932 and was selected to develop rocket weaponry for the German military. The first V2 rockets were launched in 1944.
Immediately after the war ended in 1945, within months, von Braun was in the United States of America testing and developing weaponry for their military using V2 rockets gathered and removed from German production plants. It’s reported that Hitler ordered the rocket scientists executed to prevent them from giving secrets to the enemy. He and his team had surrendered to the Americans at the conclusion of WWII.
von Bran’s name is connected with the practice of Germany’s use of concentration camp prisoners in mass production of the V2 rockets. His response was that he was not involved in the actual production but did visit the facility and admitted that the conditions and practices were vile.
By 1946, von Braun and many from his team of German scientists were building and testing V2 rockets in White Sands, N.M. From 1946 to 1952, sixty-four V2 rockets were launched from White Sands. Three years later, a first stage rocket was developed that could insert a satellite in orbit and by 1961, it could carry a man into sub orbital space flight.
In October of 1961, the giant moon rocket, Saturn took its first space flight. The Saturn was the first stage launch vehicle that launched the Apollo space program and assured its success. Ten unmanned flights were tested and researched before manned flights with Apollo spacecraft were initiated.
In 1960, von Braun became the director of NASA’s Marshall space center at Cape Canaveral, FL. (now Cape Kennedy) He and his team became the nucleus for the development of space travel.
After the success of the Apollo Space Program, von Braun and his team took on the job of developing the space shuttle that is currently used in the space program.
His achievements are stellar in the space programs. His dedication and hard work took the U.S. to a new level.
Wernher von Braun was a genius in his field of rocketry. Despite the occasional backlash from the public concerning his nazi days, he succeeded beyond our hopes in leading the way to space exploration.