Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun (March 23, 1912 to June 16, 1977) was an American aerospace engineer. He is considered one of the Fathers of Rocket Science.” During World War II he was a member of the team that developed rockets for use as weapons by the German Army.
At the French Gymnasium, Wernher excelled in languages but failed physics and mathematics. He then attended the Hermann Lietz School at Ettersburg Castle, a school famous for its advanced teaching methods and emphasis on practical trades.
He soon developed an intense interest in astronomy. Fascination with the theories of space flight then prompted him to study mathematics and physics with renewed interest. Before he graduated, he was teaching mathematics and tutoring deficient students.
Von Braun enrolled in the Charlottenburg Institute of Technology in Berlin. He became an active member of the VfR (Verein für Raumschiffahrt, or Society for Space Travel) and an associate of Hermann Oberth, Willy Ley and other leading German rocket enthusiasts.
Wernher von Braun was a German engineer who worked on rocket technology, first for Germany and then for the United States. Wernher von Braun was one of the most important German weapons specialists to work on rocketry and jet propulsion in the U.S. after WWII.
He disapproved of military use of the rocket and surrendered willingly to American troops in 1945, eventually becoming technical director of the U.S. Army Ordnance Guided Missile Project in Alabama. He was also chiefly responsible for rocketry for the nation’s space program.
Let’s now explore more interesting facts about Wernher Von Braun:
1. Considered one of the world’s great scientists, von Braun was a profoundly religious man. On one occasion he remarked: “We should remember that science exists only because there are people, and its concepts exist only in the minds of men. Behind these concepts lies the reality which is being revealed to us, but only by the grace of God.”
2. The U.S. Army gave von Braun the job of developing the Redstone rocket, which was to play a significant role in America’s early space program. On April 15, 1955, von Braun and 40 of his associates became naturalized citizens.
3. For a time von Braun attended the Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. There he began the study of the physiological effects of space flight, conducting crude experiments with mice in a centrifuge.
The experiments convinced him that man could withstand the rapid acceleration and deceleration of space flight. He then returned to reenter Charlottenburg Institute and work at the rocket field.
4. His interest in space exploration rather than military application led to his arrest and imprisonment by the German secret police.
The Nazis released him only after they realized the implication of jailing their lead rocket scientist. The program lurched backward without his leadership. It disrupted Hitler’s timetable for the war.
5. Von Braun was always a firm believer in personal experience as a teacher, and often took part in experiments conducted to determine the physiological aspects of space flight. Long before the acceptance of the feasibility of space flight, he subjected himself to experiments in weightlessness and high acceleration.
6. Von Braun resigned from NASA in July, 1972, to become vice president for engineering and development with Fairchild Industries of Germantown, Maryland.
Besides his work for that aerospace firm, he continued his efforts to promote human space flight, helping to found the National Space Institute in 1975 and serving as its first president. On June 16, 1977, he died of cancer at a hospital in Alexandria, Virginia.
7. During interrogation by Allied intelligence officers, von Braun prepared a report on rocket development and applications in which he forecast trips to the moon, orbiting satellites and space stations.
Recognizing the scope of von Braun’s work, the U.S. Army authorized the transfer of von Braun, 112 of his engineers and scientists, 100 V-2 rockets and the rocket technical data to the United States.