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Braun, Wernher Magnus Maximilian von

rocket war american space

[brown] (1912–77) German–US rocket engineer: a pioneer of rockets and space travel.

The son of a baron and a former Government minister, von Braun was educated at the Zürich and Berlin Institutes of Technology. In 1932 he started working on rocket design for the German military, developing his first successful liquid-fuel rocket 2 years later. By 1938 he was technical head of the rocket research establishment at Peenemünde, where he was responsible for the V-2 supersonic ballistic missile used in the Second World War. At the end of the war he took his entire development team to surrender to the American army. He subsequently became a major figure in the American space programme, designing the Jupiter rocket that put America’s first satellite, Explorer I, into orbit in 1958 and being influential in the Saturn rocket that put the first man on the Moon in 1969. Von Braun resigned from NASA in 1972, feeling that the American government was no longer strongly committed to space exploration.

It is probable that in 1945 he would have been charged as a war criminal but for his valuable expertise. There is evidence that he was active in the brutal treatment of slave labourers at the V-2 launch sites.

Braunfels, Walter [next] [back] Braun

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