Wernher Von Braun

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Wernher von Braun was born March 23, 1912 in Wirsitz, Posen, Germany. He died June 16, 1977 in Alexandria, Va, USA.

Braun's mother gave him a telescope upon Lutheran confirmation. His interest in astronomy and the realm of space motivated him all his life. When Wirsitz was "given' to Poland in 1920, due to the Versailles Treaty, his family, like many other German families, had to leave their homeland. The von Brauns found a new life in Berlin, Brandenburg. Having lost his homeland and starting anew was difficult for him in school. He did not do well in physics and mathematics until he acquired a copy of the book "Die Rakete zu den Planetenraeumen" ('The Rocket into Interplanetary Space') by rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth. From then on he applied himself at school in order to understand mathematics, until he excelled.

In 1930 he attended the Berlin Institute of Technology. He also joined the German Society for Space Travel and assisted Hermann Oberth in liquid-fueled rocket motor tests. He received a B.S. degree and entered Berlin University.

Under Capt. Walter R. Dornberger a research grant from the Ordnance Department was arranged for von Braun, who then researched adjacent to Dornberger's existing solid-fuel rocket test site at Kummersdorf. Von Braun received a Ph.D. in physics 2 years later. By the end of 1934, Braun's group had successfully launched two rockets that rose to more than 2,4 kilometres or 1,5 miles. At that time however there was no German rocket society, rocket tests had been forbidden by the new regime. Only military development was possible and a larger facility was erected at the village of Peenemuende in northeastern Germany on the Baltic Sea. Dornberger became military commander and von Braun was technical director. They undertook successful liquid-fueled aircraft and jet-assisted takeoffs. They developed the long-range ballistic missile A-4 and supersonic anti-aircraft missile named Wasserfall.

After WW II Wernher von Braun, his younger brother Magnus, Dornberger and the entire German rocket developement team surrendered to U.S. troops. Within a short time over 100 members of his group were set up at the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps test site at White Sands, N.M.