Wernher von Braun

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Dr. von Braun became Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center on July 1, 1960.

Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr[1] von Braun (March 23, 1912 – June 16, 1977) was a German rocket scientist, engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Germany and the United States during and after World War II. A former member of the NSDAP and a commissioned SS officer, 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.[2]

In his 20s and early 30s, von Braun was the central figure in Germany's rocket development programme, 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. In 1955, ten years after entering the country, von Braun became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

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.[3] 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."[4] He received the 1975 National Medal of Science.


  1. Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a title, translated as Baron, not a first or middle name. The female forms are Freifrau and Freiin.
  2. From the SS to Citizenship to the Moon: von Braun's Odyssey (PDF). The National Archives in the Regions. National Archives and Records Administration (January 2008). “New opportunities abound to study the life and work of Wernher von Braun, the preeminent rocket engineer of the 20th century.”
  3. Biography of Wernher Von Braun. MSFC History Office. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
  4. Wernher von Braun.
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