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The Life of Wernher Von Braun By Georgia Cleworth. Introduction. Wernher Von Braun was one of the world's first rocket engineers and a leading expert on space travel. His will to expand man's knowledge through the exploration of space led to the development of: Explorer satellites,

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The Life of

Wernher Von Braun

By Georgia Cleworth


Wernher Von Braun was one of the world's first rocket engineers and a leading expert on space travel. His will to expand man's knowledge through the exploration of space led to the development of:

  • Explorer satellites,

  • the Jupiter and Jupiter-C rockets,

  • Pershing,

  • the Redstone rocket,

  • Saturn rockets and

  • Skylab, the world's first space station.

    Additionally, his determination to "go where no man has gone before" led to mankind setting foot on the moon.

Skip to working for hitler
Skip to Working for Hitler

  • During the WW II, Braun began working on a new secret weapon, the V2 Rocket. This 45 feet long, liquid-fuelled rocket carried a one ton warhead, and was capable of supersonic speed and could fly at an altitude of over 50 miles. As a result it could not be effectively stopped once launched.

  • In 1950, 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 development team at Redstone Arsenal, resulting in the Arsenal's namesake: the Redstone rocket.

Space exploration
Space Exploration

Still dreaming of a world in which rockets would be used for peaceful exploration, in 1952 Dr. von Braun published his concept of a space station in Collier's magazine. This station would have a diameter of 250 feet, orbit in a 1075 mile-high orbit, and spin to provide artificial gravity. In his vision, it would be the perfect jumping-off point for lunar expeditions.

Interesting fact
Interesting Fact

Dr. Von Braun also worked with Disney studios as a technical director for three television films about Space Exploration. Over the years von Braun continued his work with Disney, hoping that Disney's involvement would bring about greater public interest in the future of the space program.

Further work
Further Work

  • Director of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA)

  • Von Braun's team then developed the Jupiter-C, a modified Redstone rocket. The Jupiter-C successfully launched the western hemisphere's first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958.

  • Dr. von Braun was the Marshall Center's first Director, from July 1960 to February 1970. Its first major program was development of the Saturn rockets, capable of carrying astronauts to the moon.

  • Von Braun's 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. Over the course of the Apollo program, six teams of astronauts explored the surface of our moon.

  • After the Apollo program, the Saturn 1B, also developed at Marshall under von Braun's leadership, lifted the Skylab, the world's first space station, and its crews into orbit. The final use of the Saturn was during the historic Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft linked up with a Russian Soyuz craft.

The end
The End

At the peak of his activities, von Braun learned he had cancer. Despite surgery, the cancer progressed, forcing him to retire from Fairchild on December 31, 1976.

On June 16 1977, Wernher von Braun died.

A song about him
A Song About Him

ARTIST: Tom Lehrer

TITLE: Wernher Von Braun

Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun

A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience

Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown

"Ha, Nazi schmazi," says Wernher von Braun

Don't say that he's hypocritical Say rather that he's apolitical

"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down

That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun

Some have harsh words for this man of renown

But some think our attitude should be one of gratitude

Like the widows and cripples in old London town

Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun

You too may be a big hero

Once you've learned to count backwards to zero

"In German oder English I know how to count down

Und I'm learning Chinese," says Wernher von Braun