Dr. Wernher von Braun, as director of NASA Marshall Space Flight Centre, 1 May 1964
Von Braun is a man who splits opinion, to say the least. Having helped the Nazis develop the V-2 missile in World War II that was responsible for thousands of deaths, he went on to become a pivotal figure in America’s space programme – without him the manned missions to the Moon would likely not have been possible.
Some are willing to forgive him for his role in the war, a role he claimed he took only because of his love for science, while others are less well inclined. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, it’s hard to deny that von Braun was one of the most important figures in rocketry in the 20th Century.
Wernher von Braun was born on 23 March 1912 in the town of Wirsitz, then part of the German Empire. He was part of an aristocratic family, with his father serving as Minister of Agriculture during the Weimar Republic and his mother having ancestry across Europe. His mother gave him a telescope at a young age, which inspired his passion for astronomy, while his love of rocketry was ...