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Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun (US: / / VUR-nər von BROWN, German: [ˌvɛʁnheːɐ̯ fɔn ˈbʁaʊ̯n]; 23 March 1912 – 16 June 1977) was a German-American aerospace engineer and space architect. He was a member of the Nazi Party and Allgemeine SS, and the leading figure in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany and later a pioneer of rocket and space technology in the United States.
Wernher von Braun
Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun
(1912-03-23)23 March 1912
|16 June 1977(1977-06-16) (aged 65)
Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
|Ivy Hill Cemetery
|Rocket engineer and designer, aerospace project manager
|NASA engineering program manager; chief architect of the Apollo Saturn V rocket; development of the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany
|Nazi Party (1937–1945)
Maria Luise von Quistorp
|Years of service
|Konstruktive, theoretische und experimentelle Beiträge zu dem Problem der Flüssigkeitsrakete (1934)
As a young man, von Braun worked in Nazi Germany's rocket development program. He helped design and co-developed the V-2 rocket at Peenemünde during World War II. The V-2 became the first artificial object to travel into space on 20 June 1944. Following the war, he was secretly moved to the United States, along with about 1,600 other German scientists, engineers, and technicians, as part of Operation Paperclip. He worked for the United States Army on an intermediate-range ballistic missile program, and he developed the rockets that launched the United States' first space satellite Explorer 1 in 1958. He worked with Walt Disney on a series of films, which popularized the idea of human space travel in the U.S. and beyond from 1955 to 1957.
In 1960, his group was assimilated into NASA, where he served as director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center and as the chief architect of the Saturn V super heavy-lift launch vehicle that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. In 1967, von Braun was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, and in 1975, he received the National Medal of Science.
Von Braun is a highly controversial figure widely seen as escaping justice for his Nazi war crimes due to the Americans' desire to beat the Soviets in the Cold War. He is also sometimes described by others as the "father of space travel", the "father of rocket science", or the "father of the American lunar program". He advocated a human mission to Mars.
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