Wernher von Braun was born in Wirsitz, Poland (was then Germany) in 1912. He was motivated by the primordial Chinese who invented fireworks, and developed an attraction to rockets. When he was 12, he took his interest a little too far and strapped six rockets to a small wagon and lit them up. He was fascinated by the show but police came and took him into custody for his actions. He was soon released.
Von Braun got moved from a normal school to a boarding school, where his grades improved. His mother bought him a telescope and he would inspect the stars every night. He soon became interested in astronomy. When he was 13, he bought a book called “The Rocket to the Interplanetary Spaces”. He spent an elongated time tying to understand it, but was unable to his dismay. He asked his teacher how he could comprehend the book, and the teacher advised him to study physics and mathematics. He did then, in fact, study these subjects and ended up graduating a year ahead of his class, emphasizing his fortitude to master the subjects.
Braun then worked in his spare time as an assistant for a professor whilst attending the Berlin Institute of Technology. He became part of a group which was testing whether liquid fuels offered the best solution to powering rockets compared to solid fuels. The professor he was assisting was forced to leave as he was unable to provide for his large family. One of the other assistants, Nebel, was able to find an excellent abandoned ammunition storage depot which they used as their grounds which included a laboratory and testing ground.
Braun studied for a semester at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, which caused his study at the Institute of Technology in Berlin to come to a halt. He returned to Berlin in time for successful (and not so successful) rocket launches by other scientists. Braun received a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1932, after graduating from the Berlin Institute of Technology. He then took an interest in flight and took flying lessons and attained a private pilot license. He gained a PhD in physics in 1934, after enrolling as a graduate student at the University of Berlin. He drew conclusions in his thesis about liquid fuels as a propellant. This idea of liquid propulsion was only new and only smaller motors had been tested with a liquid fuel.
Braun also did experimentation, after heavy funding by the German Army Ordnance Corps, to do hazardous experiments at the Kummersdorf Army Proving Ground. He furthered his work as an employee of the Army, and designed a rocked called the V-2, which was used in World War II against Britain with grand results.
In September 1945, “Operation Paperclip” brought him to the United States where he demonstrated his success with V-2 rockets to the U.S. Army. They under went high altitude launchings of the V-2 rockets at a missile range in New Mexico. Braun was the director of guided missile development in Texas. Braun and his team then worked on various ballistic rockets in Huntsville, where they moved from their original base of Fort Bliss. Braun’s rocket, named Jupiter-C, was used for the Explorer 1 and successfully put the Explorer in orbit in 1958. Another version was used in 1961.
In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration were established and Braun and his team were transferred to NASA. On July 1 1960, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center was dedicated and Braun became the director of the facility. The president of the time, George Kennedy, was very keen to have a man land on the moon within the next 10 years. They were able to do this with the Saturn V, and after the moon landings, Braun acted as Deputy Associate Administrator in NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C.
Public support in space activities had seen better days and in May 1972 Braun resigned to become vice president for a private engineering company. He left his position to be apart of the National Space Institute in 1975, which aimed to amplify public support for space discoveries. He remained there as President of the Institute until he discovered he had cancer and passed on June 16th, 1977.
Braun is without a doubt, the greatest rocket scientist in history. He has increased scientific understanding of rockets even in his early days on working on liquid propellants. They changed what was the accepted fuel of the time, a solid, to that of a liquid which was completely new and unthought-of . These days, this has become a standard in space rocketry, which is nothing but a direct result of the research Braun and his team undertook testing the concept. As head of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, he was able to develop a new type of booster rocket called the Saturn V, which helped land the first man on the moon in July 1969. This causes a large change in technology compared to Saturn V’s predecessors. Wernher von Braun has been the father of modern rockets and has made an extremely astronomical (pun intended) contribution to the development of space exploration.