Birthday: March 23, 1912
Died At Age: 65
Sun Sign: Aries
Born Country: Poland
Born in: Wyrzysk
Quotes By Wernher Von Braun
Spouse/Ex-: Maria von Braun
father: Magnus Freiherr von Braun
mother: Emmy von Quistorp
siblings: Magnus Freiherr von Braun, Sigismund von Braun
children: Iris Careen von Braun, Margrit Cécile von Braun, Peter Constantine von Braun
Died on: June 16, 1977
place of death: Alexandria
awards: 1944 - Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross
1943 - War Merit Cross First Class with Swords
Who was Wernher Von Braun?
Wernher von Braun was one of most important figures who earned unparalleled achievements in the field of rocketry, and has been hailed as the ‘Father of Rocket Science’. In his childhood, he was not particularly good at mathematics and physics but after he was gifted a telescope, by his mother his interest in astronomy was stimulated. He eventually topped his class and went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Soon, he received a research grant for his scientific works, and later received a doctorate in Physics. He experimented on liquid-fueled rocket aircrafts and developed V-2 ballistic missiles, which the German forces deployed against Britain without his approval. Due to his disapproval of military use of his rockets, he was arrested on fake espionage charges by the Gestapo, the ‘Secret State Police’ of Nazi Germany. Towards the end of WWII, his team surrendered to American forces, where he and his team began designing US ballistic missiles and later, he became the Director of NASA’s new Marshall Space Flight Centre. He is regarded as one of the greatest German weapon specialists and is hailed as one of the most prominent figures of space exploration. Scroll further to learn more about his life and career.
Childhood & Early Life
Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun, was the second of the three sons born in a wealthy aristocratic family in Wirsitz, Germany. His father Magnus Freiherr von Braun, served as a Minister of Agriculture in the Federal Cabinet during the Weimar Republic. His mother, Emmy von Quistorp could trace her lineage to medieval European royalty
In 1925, he moved with his family to Berlin, where he began reading Hermann Oberth’s ‘The Rocket into Interplanetary Space’, which incited his interest in science and mathematics.
In 1930, he enrolled to the Berlin Institute of Technology and during this time, he joined the German Society for Space Travel, where he engaged himself in liquid-fuelled rocket tests in his spare time.
In 1932, he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, after which, he joined the University of Berlin to study Physics.
Captain Walter R.Dornberger, who was in charge of solid-fuel rocket research, helped this young rocket scientist to obtain a research grant from the Ordnance Department in Germany. Captain Walter was convinced of the young scientist’s competence and the underlying military potential of liquid-fuel rockets.
In 1934, after a brief research on liquid-fuel rockets, he received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Berlin.
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In 1934, his team successfully launched two liquid-fuel rockets that rose to a height of 2.2 and 3.5 km, respectively.
In the early 1940s, he and his team worked with Captain Dornberger at Peenemunde, Germany, and developed the long range ballistic missile, A-4, which later came to be known as the V-2.
In 1945, Braun and his entire team surrendered to the American troops willingly and were at the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps test site at White Sands, where they reworked on the captured V-2s for ‘high altitude’ research studies.
In 1952, he was made the technical head of the U.S. Army Ordnance Guided Missile Project in Alabama, where his team successfully launched Jupiter-C, Redstone, Pershing and Juno missiles.
In January 1958, Braun and his team launched the first American artificial earth satellite, ‘Explorer I’.
In 1960, he became the first Director of the Marshall Space Flight Centre that was opened by NASA. He occupied this position till 1970.
He became the chief architect of ‘Saturn V’ launch vehicle, which successfully launched the ‘Apollo spacecraft’ to the Moon.
In 1969, he came to limelight for his development of the ‘Saturn V booster rocket’ that helped land the first men on the Moon.
On July 1, 1972, he left NASA and became the vice-president of an aerospace company, Fairchild Industries, in Germantown.
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In 1975, he established a ‘space advocacy group’ called ‘National Space Institute’ and became its first president and chairman. In 1987, this institute merged with L5 society, another space society, to form the ‘National Space Society’.
On December 31, 1976, he retired from Fairchild Companies due to health problems.
He also authored several books like ‘Conquest of the Moon-1953’ and ‘Space Travel-A History-1985’.
Braun’s name is synonymous with the V-2 rocket. In the 1940s, he worked With Captain Walter R.Dornberger and they successfully launched missiles which included the A-4. Later, it came to be known as the V-2 which means ‘Vengeance Weapon-2’. In 1944, the V-2 bomb was deployed by German forces against the Britain troops as Adolf Hitler was keen on using it for military purposes.
Awards & Achievements
In 1943 and 1944, he was honored with the ‘War Merit Cross’, First Class with Swords and the ‘Knights Cross of War Merit Cross’, respectively.
In 1975, he received the prestigious ‘National Medal of Science’.
In 2007, he was inducted into US Space Camp Hall of Fame.
Personal Life & Legacy
On March 1, 1947, he married his maternal cousin in a Lutheran Church in Germany. The couple had three children.
On April 15, 1955, he received his naturalized American citizenship.
At the age of 65, Wernher von Braun died of pancreatic cancer in Alexandria, Virginia. He was buried at the ‘Ivy Hill Cemetery’ in Virginia.
He featured in various TV shows and movies like ‘Man in Space’ and ‘Wernher von Braun- Rocket Man for War and Peace’. He has also been mentioned in various songs like ‘Oh Carolina’ and ‘Progress vs. Pettiness’.
His name has also appeared in several literary works like ‘Space by James Michener’ and ‘Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon’.
This German rocket scientist collaborated with Walt Disney and was made technical director at Disney studios for three television films on space exploration.