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Wernher von Braun

Pioneer Space Scientist

Born Wirsitz, Germany

March 23, 1912—June 16,1977

In the spring of 1930 Wernher von Braun enrolled at the Berlin Institute of Technology and in his spare time assisted Professor Hermann Oberth in his early liquid-fueled rocket engine tests.

In 1934, von Braun received his Doctorate in Physics at the University of Berlin. His university research led to full time employment as a rocket development engineer with the German Ordinance Department, which in 1934 performed two successful launches of liquid fueled rockets. In 1937, his inertial-guided A-3 climbed to an altitude of 15 miles with 100 pounds of payload. This program led to the establishment of the rocket center at Peenemunde in April 1937, which, during 1940-43 developed the V-2 long-range ballistic missile weapon system.

After emigrating to the U.S. in 1945, he directed research flights of V-2's at White Sands Missile Range and was promoted to Director of Guided Missile Development. In February 1956, Dr. von Braun was appointed Director of Development Operations at the Army Ballistic Missile Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Under his guidance, the Jupiter C rocket successfully launched the Western World's first satellite, Explorer.

In 1960, Dr. von Braun, along with the Marshall Flight Test Center team, was transferred to NASA where he led the development on the Redstone rocket that placed Alan Shepard in suborbital flight in May 1961. It was his personal leadership and genius at NASA that produced the great Saturn rockets that so successfully launched the U.S. manned flights to the Moon. In March 1970, Dr. von Braun became Deputy Associate Administrator at NASA headquarters.

He was a visionary whose advanced concepts will permit man to live and work in deep space.

Invested 1965 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

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Updated: March 12, 2004