rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket
technology in Nazi Germany
during World War II
and in the United States
A former member of the Nazi party, commissioned Sturmbannführer
of the paramilitary
SS and decorated Nazi war hero
, von Braun would later be regarded as the preeminent rocket engineer of the 20th century in his role with the United States
civilian space agency NASA
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket
technology in Nazi Germany
during World War II
and in the United States
A former member of the Nazi party, commissioned Sturmbannführer
of the paramilitary
SS and decorated Nazi war hero
, von Braun would later be regarded as the preeminent rocket engineer of the 20th century in his role with the United States
civilian space agency NASA
. In his 20s and early 30s, von Braun was the central figure in Germany's rocket development program, 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 U.S. as part of the then-secret Operation Paperclip
. Von Braun worked on the US Army intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) program before his group was assimilated by NASA, under which he served as director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center
and as the chief architect of the Saturn V
launch vehicle, the superbooster that propelled the Apollo spacecraft
to the Moon. According to one NASA source, 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." In 1975 he received the National Medal of Science
Early lifeWernher von Braun was born in Wirsitz
), Province of Posen
, then a part of the German Empire
, and was the second of three sons. He belonged to an 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
, a descendant of Philip III of France
, Valdemar I of Denmark
, Robert III of Scotland
, and Edward III of England
. Von Braun had a younger brother, also named Magnus Freiherr von Braun
. After Wernher von Braun's Lutheran confirmation
, his mother gave him a telescope
, and he developed a passion for astronomy
. When Wyrzysk
was transferred 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, 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 Beethoven
from memory. 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 composer, Paul Hindemith
. The few pieces of von Braun’s youthful compositions that exist are reminiscent of Hindemith’s style.
Beginning in 1925, von Braun attended a boarding school
at Ettersburg Castle
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 Frisia
n North Sea
island of Spiekeroog
. There he acquired a copy of Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (1929) (By Rocket into Interplanetary Space) (in German) by rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth
. Space travel had always fascinated von Braun, and from then on he applied himself to physics
to pursue his interest in rocket engineering.
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
. He also studied at ETH Zurich
. Although he worked mainly on military rockets in his later years there, space travel remained his primary interest.
The following episode from the early 1930s is telling in this respect. At this time von Braun attended a presentation given by Auguste Piccard
. After the talk the young student approached the famous pioneer of high-altitude balloon flight, and stated to him: "You know, I plan on travelling to the Moon at some time." Piccard is said to have responded with encouraging words.
He was greatly influenced by Oberth, and he said of him:
The Prussian rocketeer and working under the Nazis
(NSDAP, or Nazi party) came to power in a coalition government in Germany; rocketry almost immediately became part of the national agenda. An artillery captain, Walter Dornberger
, arranged an Ordnance
Department research grant for Von Braun, who then worked next to Dornberger's existing solid-fuel rocket test site at Kummersdorf
. He was awarded a doctorate in physics (aerospace engineering
) on July 27, 1934 from the University of Berlin
for a thesis titled About Combustion Tests; his doctoral advisor was Erich Schumann
. 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. 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 rocket
s. The A-4 rocket is the well known V-2. 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." 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 he had invented, and inferred that his brainchild had been turned into a weapon.
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
. 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
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-StandartenführerStandartenführerStandartenführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was used in the so-called Nazi combat-organisations: SA, SS, NSKK and the NSFK...
(SS Colonel) Müller ... looked me up in my office at Peenemünde and told me that Reichsführer-SSReichsführer-SSwas a special SS rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945. Reichsführer-SS was a title from 1925 to 1933 and, after 1934, the highest rank of the German Schutzstaffel .-Definition:...
Heinrich HimmlerHeinrich HimmlerHeinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...
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.
(Second Lieutenant) and was promoted three times by Himmler, the last time in June 1943 to SS-Sturmbannführer
Major). Von Braun claimed this was a technical promotion received each year regularly by mail.
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 von Braun a professor shortly thereafter. In Germany at this time, this was an exceptional 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. 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.
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". However, satirist Mort Sahl
is often credited with mocking von Braun with the paraphrase "I aim at the stars, but sometimes I hit London". In fact that line appears in the film I Aim at the Stars
, a 1960 biopic on von Braun.
Experiments with rocket aircraftDuring 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 112
s 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. 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!”
(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.
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 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 engines used direct combustion and created fire, the Walter devices used hot vapours from a chemical reaction, but both created thrust and provided high speed. 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.
Slave laborSS 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. 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. He denied ever having visited the Mittelbau-Dora
concentration camp itself, where 20,000 died from illness, beatings, hangings and intolerable working conditions.
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".
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."
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.
Robert Cazabonne, another French prisoner, testified that von Braun stood by and watched as prisoners were hung by chains from hoists. Von Braun claimed he "never saw any kind of abuse or killing" and only "heard rumors...that some prisoners had been hanged in the underground galleries".
Arrest and release by the Nazi regimeAccording 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 gain control of all German armament programs, including the V-2 program at Peenemünde. 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
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. 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
The unsuspecting von Braun was detained on March 14 (or March 15), 1944 and was taken to a Gestapo cell in Stettin
(now Szczecin, Poland), where he was imprisoned for two weeks without even knowing the charges against him. It was only through the Abwehr
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. Quoting 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."
Surrender to the AmericansThe 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 the well known 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 to 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
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.
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.
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." 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.”
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 U.S. Army Ordnance Corps 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 (64.4 km) southwest to Witzenhausen
, a small town in the American Zone, the next day. 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. Initially he was recruited to the U.S. under a program called "Operation Overcast," subsequently known as Operation Paperclip
U.S. Army careerOn June 20, 1945, the U.S. Secretary of State
approved the transfer of von Braun and his specialists to America; however this was not announced to the public until October 1, 1945. Von Braun was among those scientists for whom the U.S. Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency created false employment histories and expunged Nazi Party memberships and regime affiliations from the public record. Once “bleached” of their Nazism, the US Government granted the scientists security clearance to work in the United States. "Paperclip," the project’s operational name, derived from the paperclips used to attach the scientists’ new political personæ to their “US Government Scientist” personnel files.
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
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
, a large Army installation just north of El Paso
. Von Braun would later write he found it hard to develop a "genuine emotional attachment" to his new surroundings. His chief design engineer Walther Reidel became the subject of a December 1946 article "German Scientist Says American Cooking Tasteless; Dislikes Rubberized Chicken,' exposing the presence of von Braun's team in the country and drawing criticism from Albert Einstein
and John Dingell
. Requests to improve their living conditions such as laying linoleum over their cracked wood flooring were rejected. Von Braun remarked that "...at Peenemünde we had been coddled, here you were counting pennies..." At the age of 26, von Braun had thousands of engineers who answered to him, but was now answering to "pimply" 26 year-old Major Jim Hamill who possessed an undergraduate degree in engineering. His loyal Germans still addressed him as Herr Professor, but Hamill addressed him as Wernher and never bothered to respond to von Braun's request for more materials, and every proposal for new rocket ideas were dismissed.
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."
In 1950, at the start of the Korean War
, von Braun and his team were transferred to Huntsville, Alabama
, his home for the next 20 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. This led to development of the first high-precision inertial guidance system on the Redstone rocket
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. 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 spaceRepeating 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). The space station 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. The ultimate purpose of the space station would be to provide an assembly platform for manned lunar
expeditions. The notion of a rotating wheel-shaped station
was introduced in 1929 by Herman Potočnik
in his book The Problem of Space Travel - The Rocket Motor. More than a decade later, the movie version of 2001: A Space Odyssey
would draw heavily on the design concept in its visualization of an orbital space station.
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. 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
that 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 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 orbit
s for its trips to Mars and back to Earth.
Before technically formalizing his thoughts on human spaceflight
, 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.
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, drawing 42 million viewers and unofficially the second-highest rated television show in American history.
Later (in 1959) von Braun published a short booklet -- 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.
Concepts for orbital warfareVon 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
NASA careerThe 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 belief 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, something von Braun had originally proposed in 1954 but had been denied.
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 I
. Two years later, NASA opened the Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, 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. Presiding from July 1960 to February 1970, von Braun became the center's first Director.
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. During Apollo, he worked closely with former Peenemünde teammate, Kurt H. Debus
, the first director of the Kennedy Space Center. 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 was instrumental 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. 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, 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.
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.
that would train children in fields of science and space technologies as well as help their mental development much the same way sports camps aim at improving physical development.
Career after NASAAfter 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 revealed kidney cancer
, which during the following years could not be controlled by surgery. 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 side, including an allergy to feather pillows and a 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 health 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.
Personal lifeDuring his stay at Fort Bliss, von Braun mailed a marriage proposal to 18-year-old Maria Luise von Quistorp (born June 10, 1928), 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, as well as 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.
DeathOn June 16, 1977, Wernher von Braun died of pancreatic cancer
, Virginia, at the age of 65. He was buried at the Ivy Hill Cemetery
- The proposed vertical take-off interceptor for climbing to 35,000 ft in 60 seconds was rejected by the Luftwaffe in the autumn of 1941 for the Me 163 Komet and never produced. (The differing Bachem Ba 349Bachem Ba 349The Bachem Ba 349 Natter was a World War II German point-defence rocket powered interceptor, which was to be used in a very similar way to a manned surface-to-air missile. After vertical take-off, which eliminated the need for airfields, the majority of the flight to the Allied bombers was to be...
was produced during the 1944 Emergency Fighter Program.)
- The proposed vertical take-off interceptor for climbing to 35,000 ft in 60 seconds was rejected by the Luftwaffe in the autumn of 1941 for the Me 163 Komet and never produced. (The differing Bachem Ba 349
- The Mars ProjectThe Mars ProjectThe Mars Project is a nonfiction science book by German rocket physicist, astronautics engineer and space architect, Wernher von Braun. It was translated from the original German by Henry J. White and first published in English by the University of Illinois Press in 1953.The Mars Project is a...
, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, (1953). With Henry J. White, translator.
- First Men to the Moon, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York (1958). Portions of work first appeared in This Week Magazine.
- History of Rocketry & Space Travel, New York, Crowell (1975). With Frederick I. Ordway III.
- 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 BonestellChesley BonestellChesley Bonestell was an American painter, designer and illustrator. His paintings were a major influence on science fiction art and illustration, and he helped inspire the American space program...
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
- 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.
- The crater von BraunVon Braun (crater)von Braun, named after the rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun, is a lunar crater located near the northwestern limb of the Moon. It lies along the western edge of the Oceanus Procellarum, to the northeast of the crater Lavoisier. The northeastern rim of this crater is on the edge of the Sinus Roris,...
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 BerlinTechnical University of BerlinThe Technische Universität Berlin is a research university located in Berlin, Germany. Translating the name into English is discouraged by the university, however paraphrasing as Berlin Institute of Technology is recommended by the university if necessary .The TU Berlin was founded...
from which he had graduated.
- Von Braun was responsible for the creation of the Research Institute at the University of Alabama in HuntsvilleUniversity of Alabama in HuntsvilleThe University of Alabama in Huntsville is a state-supported, public, coeducational research university, located in Huntsville, Alabama, United States, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees, and is organized in five...
. 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 (BonnBonnBonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located in the Cologne/Bonn Region, about 25 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999....
, Neu-IsenburgNeu-IsenburgThe “Huguenot Town” of Neu-Isenburg with its outlying centres of Gravenbruch and Zeppelinheim is found in the Offenbach district in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany, right near Frankfurt am Main...
, MannheimMannheimMannheim is a city in southwestern Germany. With about 315,000 inhabitants, Mannheim is the second-largest city in the Bundesland of Baden-Württemberg, following the capital city of Stuttgart....
, MainzMainzMainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...
), and dozens of smaller towns have named streets after Wernher von Braun.
- The Von Braun CenterVon Braun CenterThe Von Braun Center , known as the Von Braun Civic Center until 1997, is a multi-purpose indoor arena, meeting, and performing arts complex, with a maximum arena seating capacity of 10,000, located in Huntsville, Alabama...
(built 1975) in Huntsville 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 RudolphArthur RudolphArthur Louis Hugo Rudolph was a German rocket engineer and member of the Nazi party who played a key role in the development of the V-2 rocket. After World War II he was brought to the United States, subsequently becoming a pioneer of the United States space program. He worked for the U.S...
, 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.
- A science- and engineering-oriented GymnasiumGymnasium (school)A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...
in Friedberg, BavariaFriedberg, BavariaFriedberg is a city in the district Aichach-Friedberg, Bavaria, Germany, with some 30,000 inhabitants. It is located next to Augsburg at the Lech river...
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 IslandStaten IslandStaten Island is a borough of New York City, New York, United States, located in the southwest part of the city. Staten Island is separated from New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull, and from the rest of New York by New York Bay...
, New York was named for him in 1977.
- Von Braun's engineering approach was very conservative, building in additional strength to structure designs, a point of contention with other engineers who struggled to keep vehicle weight down. Von Braun's insistence on further tests after Mercury-Redstone 2Mercury-Redstone 2Mercury-Redstone 2 was an American space mission, launched at 16:55 UTC on January 31, 1961 from LC-5 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Mercury spacecraft No...
flew higher than planned, has been identified as contributing to the Soviet Union's success in launching the first human in spaceYuri GagarinYuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961....
Dates of rank
- SS-AnwärterAnwärterAnwärter is a German title which translates as “Candidate”. In modern day Germany, the title of Anwärter is typically used by those applying for employment and also as a designation for members of the Bundeswehr who are under consideration for a leadership assignment.During the Third Reich,...
: November 1, 1933 (received rank upon joining SS Riding School)
- SS-MannMann (military rank)Mann , was a paramilitary rank used by several Nazi Party paramilitary organizations between 1925 and 1945. The rank is most often associated with the SS, and also as a rank of the SA where Mann was the lowest enlisted rank and was the equivalent of a Private.In 1938, with the rise of the...
: July 1934
(left SS after graduation from the school; commissioned in 1940 with date of entry backdated to 1934)
- SS-UntersturmführerUntersturmführerUntersturmführer was a paramilitary rank of the German Schutzstaffel first created in July 1934. The rank can trace its origins to the older SA rank of Sturmführer which had existed since the founding of the SA in 1921...
: May 1, 1940
- SS-ObersturmführerObersturmführerObersturmführer was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi party that was used by the SS and also as a rank of the SA. Translated as “Senior Assault Leader”, the rank of Obersturmführer was first created in 1932 as the result of an expansion of the Sturmabteilung and the need for an additional rank in...
: November 9, 1941
- SS-HauptsturmführerHauptsturmführerHauptsturmführer was a Nazi rank of the SS which was used between the years of 1934 and 1945. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was a mid-grade company level officer and was the equivalent of a Captain in the German Army and also the equivalent of captain in foreign armies...
: November 9, 1942
- SS-SturmbannführerSturmbannführerSturmbannführer was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party equivalent to major, used both in the Sturmabteilung and the Schutzstaffel...
: June 28, 1943
- War Merit Cross, First Class with Swords in 1943
- Knights Cross of the War Merit CrossWar Merit CrossThe War Merit Cross was a decoration of Nazi Germany during the Second World War, which could be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel...
- Elected Honorary Fellow of the British Interplanetary SocietyBritish Interplanetary SocietyThe British Interplanetary Society founded in 1933 by Philip E. Cleator, is the oldest space advocacy organisation in the world whose aim is exclusively to support and promote astronautics and space exploration.-Structure:...
- Deutsches BundesverdienstkreuzBundesverdienstkreuzThe Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany is the only general state decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has existed since 7 September 1951, and between 3,000 and 5,200 awards are given every year across all classes...
- SmithsonianSmithsonian InstitutionThe Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...
Langley Medal in 1967
- NASA Distinguished Service MedalNASA Distinguished Service MedalThe NASA Distinguished Service Medal is the highest award which may be bestowed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States...
- National Medal of ScienceNational Medal of ScienceThe National Medal of Science is an honor bestowed by the President of the United States to individuals in science and engineering who have made important contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the fields of behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and...
- Werner von Siemens RingWerner von Siemens RingThe Werner von Siemens Ring is considered to be among the highest ranking awards for technical sciences in Germany. It has been awarded from 1916 to 1941 and since 1952 about every three years by the foundation Stiftung Werner-von-Siemens-Ring...
- Civitan International World Citizenship Award in 1970
In popular cultureFilm and television
- Von Braun has been featured in a number of movies and television shows or series about the space raceSpace RaceThe Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national...
- I Aim at the StarsI Aim at the StarsI Aim at the Stars is a 1960 biographical film which tells the story of the life of Wernher von Braun. The film covers his life from his early days in Germany, through Peenemünde, up until his work with the U.S...
(1960), also titled Wernher von Braun and Ich greife nach den Sternen ("I Reach for the Stars"); von Braun played by Curd JürgensCurd JürgensCurd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jürgens was a German-Austrian stage and film actor. He was usually billed in English-speaking films as Curt Jurgens.-Early life:...
, his wife Maria played by Victoria Shaw. Satirist Mort SahlMort SahlMorton Lyon "Mort" Sahl is a Canadian-born American comedian and actor. He occasionally wrote jokes for speeches delivered by President John F. Kennedy. He was the first comedian to record a live album and the first to perform on college campuses...
suggested the subtitle "But Sometimes I Hit London".
- From the Earth to the Moon (TV, 1998): von Braun played by Norbert WeisserNorbert WeisserNorbert Weisser is a German-born American film and theatre actor, probably most known for his many roles in Albert Pyun-directed films ....
- October SkyOctober SkyOctober Sky is a 1999 American biographical film directed by Joe Johnston, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper and Laura Dern. It is based on the true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son who was inspired by the launch of Sputnik 1 to take up rocketry against his father's wishes, and who...
(1999): this film portrays U.S. rocket scientist Homer HickamHomer HickamHomer Hadley Hickam, Jr. is an American author, Vietnam veteran, and a former NASA engineer. His autobiographical novel Rocket Boys: A Memoir, was a #1 New York Times Best Seller, is studied in many American and international school systems, and was the basis for the popular film October Sky...
, who as a teenager admired von Braun (played by Joe Digaetano). The film's title, October Sky, is an anagramAnagramAn anagram is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once; e.g., orchestra = carthorse, A decimal point = I'm a dot in place, Tom Marvolo Riddle = I am Lord Voldemort. Someone who...
of the autobiography it was based on: Rocket BoysRocket BoysRocket Boys is the first memoir in a series of three, by Homer Hickam, Jr. It is a story of growing up in a mining town, and a boy's pursuit of amateur rocketry in a coal mining town. It won the in 1998, the year of its release. Today, it is one of the most often picked community/library reads in...
- Space RaceSpace Race (TV series)Space Race is a BBC docudrama series first shown in Britain on BBC2 between September and October 2005, chronicling the major events and characters in the American/Soviet space race up to the first landing of a man on the moon. It focuses on Sergei Korolev, the Soviet chief rocket designer, and...
(TV, BBCBBCThe British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...
co-production with NDRNorddeutscher RundfunkNorddeutscher Rundfunk is a public radio and television broadcaster, based in Hamburg. In addition to the city-state of Hamburg, NDR transmits for the German states of Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein...
(Germany), Channel One TV (Russia) and National GeographicNational Geographic SocietyThe National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...
TV (USA), 2005): von Braun played by Richard DillaneRichard DillaneRichard Dillane is an English actor. He appeared as Merv, the husband of Margaret Humphreys in Jim Loach's fact-based movie Oranges and Sunshine, as Wernher von Braun in the BBC television docudrama Space Race, as Nero in Howard Brenton's play Paul at the National Theatre of GB and as Stephen...
- The Lost Von Braun, a documentary by Aron Ranen. Interviews with Ernst Stuhlinger, Konrad Dannenberg, Karl Sendler, Alex Baum, Eli Rosenbaum (DOJ) and Von Braun's NASA secretary Bonnie Holmes.
- Wernher von Braun - Rocket Man for War and Peace A three part (part1, part 2, part 3) documentary - in English - from the German International channel DW-TV. Original German version Wernher von Braun - Der Mann für die Wunderwaffen by the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk.
- I Aim at the Stars
- Several fictional characters have been modeled on von Braun:
- The Right Stuff (1983): The Chief Scientist, played by Scott BeachScott BeachScott Beach was a popular actor, writer, and disc jockey.-Biography:Born Alvin Scott Beach, he appeared in numerous motion pictures, most notably as a German scientist patterned after Wernher von Braun in The Right Stuff.Beach's deep, resonant voice was often heard in films...
, was clearly modeled on von Braun.
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964): Dr Strangelove is usually held to be based at least partly on von Braun.
- Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965, directed by Jean-Luc GodardJean-Luc GodardJean-Luc Godard is a French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic. He is often identified with the 1960s French film movement, French Nouvelle Vague, or "New Wave"....
): Howard VernonHoward VernonHoward Vernon was a Swiss actor.Vernon was born Mario Lippert to a Swiss father and an American mother and was fluent in German, English, and French...
plays Professor von Braun (also known as Leonard Nosferatu), the inventor of the "Alpha 60" super-computer that rules Alphaville.
- In Diamonds Are ForeverDiamonds Are Forever (film)Diamonds Are Forever is the seventh spy film in the Eon Productions James Bond series, and the sixth and final Eon Productions film to star Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film is based on Ian Fleming's 1956 novel of the same name, and is the second of four James Bond films...
(1971), the seventh James BondJames BondJames Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...
film, the supervillain Ernst Stavro BlofeldErnst Stavro BlofeldErnst Stavro Blofeld is a fictional character and a supervillain from the James Bond series of novels and films, who was created by Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory. An evil genius with aspirations of world domination, he is the archenemy of the British Secret Service agent James Bond and is arguably...
employs a German scientist resembling von Braun, named Professor Dr. Metz, a pacifist who is duped by Blofeld's rhetoric, who works in a NASA-style research lab in the Nevada desert. The lab is ambiguously depicted as being involved in faking the moon landings (an apparent joking nod to conspiracy theorists, and which figures in some versions of their theories).
- The Right Stuff (1983): The Chief Scientist, played by Scott Beach
- There are other references to von Braun in film and on television:
- Mobile Suit GundamMobile Suit Gundamis a televised anime series, created by Sunrise. Created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, it premiered in Japan on Nagoya Broadcasting Network on April 7, 1979, and lasted until January 26, 1980, spanning 43 episodes...
(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 TahimikKidlat TahimikEric de Guia , better known as Kidlat Tahimik , is a film director, writer and actor whose films are commonly associated with the Third Cinema movement through their critiques of neocolonialism.One of the most prominent names in the Filipino film industry, he has garnered various...
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.
- PlanetesPlanetesis a Japanese hard science fiction manga by Makoto Yukimura. It was adapted as a 26-episode television anime by Sunrise, which was broadcast on NHK from October 2003 through April 2004...
(TV, 2004): There is an upcoming exploratory mission to Jupiter on a new fusion powered ship, the Von Braun.
- Alien PlanetAlien PlanetAlien Planet is a 94-minute docufiction, originally airing on the Discovery Channel, about two internationally built robot probes searching for alien life on the fictional planet Darwin IV. It was based on the book Expedition, by sci-fi/fantasy artist and writer Wayne Douglas Barlowe, who was also...
(TV, 2005): A spacecraft, named Von Braun, is named after him.
- Mobile Suit Gundam
- 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 EllisWarren EllisWarren Girard Ellis is an English author of comics, novels, and television, who is well-known for sociocultural commentary, both through his online presence and through his writing, which covers transhumanist themes...
' graphic novel Ministry of SpaceMinistry of SpaceMinistry of Space is a three-part alternate history mini-series written by Warren Ellis, published by Image Comics, starting in 2001. The book's art is by Chris Weston, and depicts retro technology in a believably 'British' style....
, 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 GermanThe Good GermanThe Good German is a 2006 feature film adaptation of the novel by Joseph Kanon. It was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire...
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.
- SpaceSpace (novel)Space is a novel by James A. Michener published in 1982. It is a fictionalized history of the United States space program, with a particular emphasis on manned spaceflight.Michener writes in a semi-documentary style...
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 RainbowGravity's RainbowGravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...
by Thomas Pynchon. The highly notable novel involved 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 HouseWelcome to the Monkey HouseWelcome to the Monkey House is an assortment of short stories written by Kurt Vonnegut, first published in August 1968. The stories range from war-time epics to futuristic thrillers, given with satire and Vonnegut's unique edge...
, notes Von Braun as one of the things an old dictionary does not mention.
- Mother NightMother NightMother Night is a novel by American author Kurt Vonnegut, first published in 1961. The title of the book is taken from Goethe's Faust....
, by Kurt VonnegutKurt VonnegutKurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle , Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.-Early...
, 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 referring to the Mittelbau-DoraMittelbau-DoraMittelbau-Dora was a Nazi Germany labour camp that provided workers for the Mittelwerk V-2 rocket factory in the Kohnstein, situated near Nordhausen, Germany....
V-2 slave labour camps, by Jean Michel and Louis Nucéra.
- Rocket BoysRocket BoysRocket Boys is the first memoir in a series of three, by Homer Hickam, Jr. It is a story of growing up in a mining town, and a boy's pursuit of amateur rocketry in a coal mining town. It won the in 1998, the year of its release. Today, it is one of the most often picked community/library reads in...
by Homer Hickam, Jr.Homer HickamHomer Hadley Hickam, Jr. is an American author, Vietnam veteran, and a former NASA engineer. His autobiographical novel Rocket Boys: A Memoir, was a #1 New York Times Best Seller, is studied in many American and international school systems, and was the basis for the popular film October Sky...
The movie October SkyOctober SkyOctober Sky is a 1999 American biographical film directed by Joe Johnston, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper and Laura Dern. It is based on the true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son who was inspired by the launch of Sputnik 1 to take up rocketry against his father's wishes, and who...
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 directly concerned with 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): A song written and performed by Tom LehrerTom LehrerThomas Andrew "Tom" Lehrer is an American singer-songwriter, satirist, pianist, mathematician and polymath. He has lectured on mathematics and musical theater...
for an episode of NBCNBCThe National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...
's American version of the BBC TV show That Was The Week That WasThat Was The Week That WasThat Was The Week That Was, also known as TW3, is a satirical television comedy programme that was shown on BBC Television in 1962 and 1963. It was devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin and presented by David Frost...
; the song was later included in Lehrer's album That Was The Year That WasThat Was the Year That WasThat Was the Year That Was is a live album recorded at the hungry i in San Francisco, containing performances by Tom Lehrer of satiric topical songs he originally wrote for the NBC television series That Was The Week That Was, known informally as TW3...
. 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 those claims in a 2003 interview.
- The Last Days of Pompeii (1991): A rock opera by Grant HartGrant HartGrant Hart is an American musician, best known as the drummer and co-songwriter for the influential alternative rock and hardcore punk band Hüsker Dü. After the band's breakup in 1987, Hart formed the alternative rock trio Nova Mob, where he moved to vocals and guitar...
's post-Hüsker DüHüsker DüHüsker Dü was an American rock band formed in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1979. The band's continual members were guitarist Bob Mould, bassist Greg Norton, and drummer Grant Hart....
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..."
- Oh CarolinaOh Carolina"Oh Carolina" is a song made famous by Shaggy, and released as the lead single from his debut album, Pure Pleasure. Written by John Folkes, produced by Prince Buster and performed by The Folkes Brothers in 1960, "Oh Carolina" was a landmark single in the development of reggae music, especially as a...
(aka Carolina) (1960): written by John Folkes and recorded by the Folkes BrothersFolkes BrothersThe Folkes Brothers were a Jamaican mento group, composed of John, Mico, and Junior Folkes. Their 1960 single "Oh Carolina" was the first hit record produced by Prince Buster, and is regarded as a landmark in the history of ska and reggae music....
and made famous by a cover from Jamaican born singer ShaggyShaggy (musician)Orville Richard Burrell , better known by his stage name Shaggy, is a Jamaican-American reggae singer and rapper. He is perhaps best known for his 1995 single "Boombastic" and 2000 single "It Wasn't Me"...
mentions Wernher von Braun without any context.
- John D. LoudermilkJohn D. LoudermilkJohn D. Loudermilk is an American singer and songwriter.-Biography:Born in Durham, North Carolina, Loudermilk grew up in a family who were members of the Salvation Army faith and was influenced by the church singing. His cousins Ira and Charlie Loudermilk were known professionally as the Louvin...
'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 ClutchClutch (band)Clutch is an American rock band from Germantown, Maryland, formed in 1990. The band's first release was an EP entitled Pitchfork, which debuted in October 1990. Their first studio album, Transnational Speedway League, was released three years later in 1993. To date, Clutch has released nine studio...
make reference to von Braun in the 2009 song "Struck Down" on the album Strange Cousins From The WestStrange Cousins from the WestStrange Cousins from the West is the ninth full-length studio album by rock band Clutch. The album was released on July 14, 2009. It was produced by J. Robbins who previously worked with the band on Robot Hive/Exodus.The album debuted at No...
- In the 1999 PCIBM PC compatibleIBM PC compatible computers are those generally similar to the original IBM PC, XT, and AT. Such computers used to be referred to as PC clones, or IBM clones since they almost exactly duplicated all the significant features of the PC architecture, facilitated by various manufacturers' ability to...
game System Shock 2System Shock 2System Shock 2 is a 1999 first-person action role-playing video game, designed by Ken Levine for Microsoft Windows. The title is a sequel to the 1994 PC game System Shock, and was co-developed by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios...
, the main starship is named the Von Braun.
- Aggregate 1
- German inventors and discoverersGerman inventors and discoverersThis is a list of German inventors and discoverers. The following list comprises people from Germany or German-speaking Europe, also of people of predominantly German heritage, in alphabetical order of the surname. The main section includes existing articles, indicated by blue links, and possibly...
- List of coupled cousins
- Robert H. GoddardRobert H. GoddardRobert Hutchings Goddard was an American professor, physicist and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world's first liquid-fueled rocket, which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926...
- Sergey KorolyovSergey KorolyovSergei Pavlovich Korolev ; died 14 January 1966 in Moscow, Russia) was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s...
- Pedro PauletPedro PauletPedro Paulet Mostajo was a Peruvian scientist who claimed he, in 1895, was the first person to build a liquid-fuel rocket engine and, in 1900, the first person to build a modern rocket propulsion system. Paulet is considered one of the "fathers of aeronautics"...
- Dr. Wernher von Braun – At the Redstone Arsenal Historical Information pages
- Wernher Von Braun – A Register of His Papers in the Library of Congress - Photos of Wernher von Braun's gravesite
- The capture of von Braun and his men – At the U.S. 44th Infantry Division website
- Dark Side of the Moon: Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race – review of biography
- Wernher von Braun page – Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) History Office
- "The Disney - von Braun Collaboration and its Influence on Space Exploration" – by Mike Wright, MSFC
- Coat-of-arms of Dr. Wernher von Braun
- Remembering Von Braun – by Anthony Young - The Space Review Monday, July 10, 2006
- The Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial
- "The old dreams, and the modern reality." Wernher von Braun interviewed by Jules BergmanJules BergmanJules Bergman , a broadcast writer and journalist, served as Science Editor for ABC News from 1961 until his death in 1987. He is most remembered for his coverage of the American space program....
- Article on von Braun, Huntsville, and German rocket scientists
- Audio commentary by Wernher von Braun about Flight Captain Erich Warsitz (world’s first jet pilot), Museum of Transport - Switzerland, “Planetarium”, August 30, 1971