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Wernher von Braun

Wernher von BraunWernher von Braun German engineer Wernher von Braun (1912–77) was one of the leading figures in the development of rockets. He designed and built the V-2 missile for Nazi Germany during World War II, before working on long-range missiles and the US space programme. He was inspired by the possibilities of space travel from reading the science fiction stories of Jules Verne and H.G Wells.

V-2 missile: on display (left), in diagram (right)V-2 missile: on display (left), in diagram (right)


The first long-range rocket was the V-2 missile, designed by von Braun during World War II. The 14-metre (45-feet), liquid-fuelled rocket became the first manmade object in space in October 1942. It could reach an altitude of 206 kilometres (128 miles) and was employed against targets in Europe from September 1944.

Saturn V lift-off, 1973Saturn V lift-off, 1973

Rocket launcher

After the war, von Braun worked in the United States, firstly on the design of long-range ballistic missiles and later on its space programme with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which was formed in 1958. He was responsible for the design of the Saturn V launch vehicle, which propelled the Apollo spacecraft and the first men to the Moon in July 1969.

In the 1950s, von Braun published his ideas for a manned space station. The station's purpose would be to provide an assembly platform for manned missions to the Moon and Mars.

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