Wernher von Braun

views updated

3 Wernher von Braun

"Man on the Moon: The Journey"

Originally published in Collier's, October 18, 1952; reprinted from Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program, Volume I: Organizing for Exploration, published in 1995

On March 22, 1952, Collier's magazine began a series of issues that outlined, in impressive detail, how humans could and would explore space, land on the Moon, and visit the planet Mars. By the time the final issue reached newsstands in April 1954, the popular imagination had been changed forever. Exploring the outer reaches of space no longer seemed a fantastical dream, but an inevitable reality. The German-born physicist Wernher von Braun (1912–1977) was a central figure in ushering in this change.

When von Braun was approached by Collier's magazine to contribute to their series concerning space exploration, he was already an accomplished rocket scientist who dreamed of traveling to the stars. After the conclusion of World War II (1939–45), von Braun moved from his native Germany to the United States. He brought with him 112 German engineers and scientists and one hundred V-2 rockets they had designed and developed for the Nazi military during the war. They also possessed technical data concerning rockets and detailed plans for trips to the Moon, orbiting satellites, and space stations. The U.S. government, recognizing von Braun's brilliance, provided him a research station at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas. He and his team of former German scientists used their expertise to advance the developing U.S. rocket program, Project Paperclip.

Von Braun was truly ahead of his time. While conducting his research for the U.S. rocket program, he photographed Earth from high altitudes and performed medical experiments with animals in space. He also wrote The Mars Project, in which he outlined the steps for launching a successful mission to Mars. Von Braun completed the book in 1948, but he was unable to find a publisher until much later. Consequently, long before Collier's editors even dreamed of publishing their groundbreaking series, von Braun had already completed an entire study on future exploration of Mars.

On March 22, 1952, Collier's released the first installment of its space series. Von Braun wrote the featured article, "Crossing the Last Frontier," in which he provided intricate details regarding the materials, construction design and cost, and manpower necessary for building a 24-story space station. The issue immediately captured the imagination of Americans and made von Braun a household name. Seven months later, on October 18, Collier's published "Man on the Moon: The Journey."

Things to remember while reading "Man on the Moon: The Journey":

  • The scientists who contributed to the Collier's series were told to write their articles in a straightforward, readable style. Although the following excerpt sometimes reads like a science-fiction story, von Braun supports his ideas with sound scientific research.

Von Braun's Nazi Connections

Wernher von Braun's prominence in American space flight efforts often overshadows his responsibility in the suffering and loss of life associated with the German V-2 rocket. By the end of the war in June 1945, approximately six thousand rockets were manufactured at an underground production site named Mittelwerk. The factory used the slave labor of concentration-camp inmates and prisoners of war. Although von Braun always gave credit to his team for the technical success of the V-2, he clearly played a key role in the development of the missile. He and his army superior, General Walter Dornberger (1895–1980), were also successful in obtaining funding and other support for development of the rocket. Von Braun had no direct responsibility for the production, yet he was aware of the dreadful conditions in concentration camps. Moreover, he joined the Nazi Party on May 1, 1937, and in 1940 he became an officer in the elite SS (an abbreviation of Schutzstaffel, German for "Protective Corps"). The SS started as a corps of bodyguards who protected the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler (1889–1945). Under Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945) the SS came to control military police activities, Nazi intelligence, and the administration and maintenance of the concentration camps.

While historians note that more research is needed on this subject, available American records support von Braun's claim that he was forced to join both the Nazi Party and the SS to avoid abandoning his rocketry work. He further stated that his motivation in building army missiles was their ultimate use in space travel and scientific endeavors. He said he was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 because he was not interested in using the V-2 as a weapon.

  • When writing his article, von Braun considered nearly every possible situation that could arise during a trip to the Moon. He packs tremendous detail into a few relatively short pages—everything from eating in space to sleeping arrangements to landing on the Moon.
  • Each Collier's article was accompanied by the color illustrations of Chesley Bonestell (1888–1986), Fred Freeman (1906–1988), and Rolf Klep (1904–1981). Their artwork helped bring alive the scientists's vision and impress upon the reader the awesome scope of the missions.

"Man on the Moon: The Journey"

For five days, the expectation speeds through space on its historic voyage—50 men on threeungainly craft, bound for the great unknown.

Here is how we shall go to the moon. The pioneer expedition, 50 scientists and technicians, will take off from the space station's orbit in three clumsy-looking but highly efficient rocket ships. They won't be streamlined: all travel will be in space, where there is no air to impede motion. Two will be loaded with propellant for the five day, 239,000-mile trip and the return journey. The third, which will not return, will carry only enough propellant for a one-way trip; the extra room will be filled with supplies and equipment for the scientists' six-week stay.

On the outward journey, the rocket ships will hit a top speed of 19,500 miles per hour about 33 minutes after departure. Then the motors will be stopped and the ships will fall the rest of the way to the moon.

Such a trip takes a great deal of planning. For a beginning we must decide what flight path to follow, how to construct the ships and where to land. But the project could be completed within the next 25 years. There are no problems involved which we don't have the answers—or the ability to find them—right now.

First, where should we land? We may have a wide choice, once we have had a close look at the moon. We'll get that look on a preliminary survey flight. A small rocket ship taking off from the space station will take us to within 50 miles of the moon to get a picture of its meteor-pitted surface—including the "back" part never visible from earth.

We'll study the photographs for a suitable site. Several considerations limit our selection. Because the Moon's surface has 146,000,000 square miles—about one thirteenth that of the earth—we won't be able to explore more than a small area in detail, perhaps part of a section 500 miles in diameter. Our scientists want to see as many kinds of lunar features as possible, so we'll pick a spot of particular interest. We want radio contact with the earth, so that means we'll have to stick to the moon's "face," for radio waves won't reach across space to any point the eye won't reach.

We can't land at the moon's equator because its noonday temperatures reach an unbearable 220-degrees Fahrenheit, more than hot enough to boil water. We can't land where the surface is too rugged because we need a flat place to set down. Yet the site can't be too flat either—grain sized meteors constantly bombard the moon at speeds several miles per second; we have to set camp in a crevice where we have protection from these bullets.

There's one section of the moon that meets all of our requirements, and unless something better turns up on closer inspection that's where we land. It's an area called Sinus Roris, or "Dewy Bay" on the northern branch of a plain known as Oceanus Procellarum,or "Stormy Ocean" (so called by early astronomers who thought the moon's plains were great seas). Dr. Fred L. Whipple [1906–2004], chairman of Harvard University astronomy department, says Sinus Rolis is ideal for our purposes—about 650 miles from the lunar north pole where the daylight temperature averages a reasonably pleasant 40 degrees and the terrain is flat enough to land on, yet irregular enough to hide in. With a satisfactory site located we start detailed planning.

To save fuel and time, we want to take the shortest practical course. The moon moves around the earth in anelliptical path once every 27⅓ days. The space station, our point of departure, circles the earth every two hours. Every two weeks their paths are such that a rocket ship from the space station will intercept the moon in just five days. The best conditions for the return trip will occur two weeks later, and again two weeks after that. With their stay limited to multiples of two weeks, our scientists have set themselves a six week limit for the first exploration of the moon—long enough to accomplish some constructive research, but not long enough to require aprohibitive supply of essentials like liquid oxygen, water and food.

Six months before our scheduled take-off, we begin piling up construction materials, supplies and equipment at the space station. This operation is a massive, impressive one, involving huge shuttling cargo rocket ships, scores of hard working handlers, and tremendous amounts of equipment. Twice a day pairs of sleek rocket transports from the earth sweep into thesatellite 's orbit and swarms of workers unload the 36 tons of cargo each carries. With the arrival of the first shipment of material, work on the first of the three moon-going space craft gets underway, picking up intensity as more and more equipment arrives.

The supplies are not stacked inside the space station; they are just left floating in space. They don't have to be secured and here's why: the satellite is traveling around the earth at 15,840 miles per hour; at that speed, it can't be affected by the earth's gravity, so it doesn't fall, and it never slows down because there's no air resistance. The same applies to any other object brought into the orbit at the same speed: to park beside the space station a rocket ship merely adjusts its speed to 15,840 miles per hour: and it, too, becomes a satellite. Crates moved out of its hold are traveling at the same speed in relation to the earth, so they also are weightless satellites.

As the weeks pass and the unloading of cargo continues, the construction area covers several littered square miles. Tons of equipment lie about—aluminumgirders, collapsed nylon-and-plastic fuel tanks,rocket motor units,turbopumps, bundles of thin aluminum plates [and] a great many nylon bags containing smaller parts. It's a bewildering scene, but not to the moon-ship builders. All construction parts are color-coded—with blue tipped cross braces fitting into blue sockets, red joining members keyed to others of the same color and so forth. Work proceeds swiftly.

In fact, the workers accomplish wonders, considering the obstacles confronting the man forced to struggle with unwieldy objects in space. The men move clumsily, hampered by bulky pressurized suits equipped with such necessities of space-life as air conditioning, oxygen tanks, walkie-talkie radios and tiny rocket motors for propulsion. The work is laborious, for although objects are weightless they still haveinertia. A man who shoves a one-ton girder makes it move all right but he makes himself move too. As his inertia is less than the girders he shoots backward much farther than he pushes the big piece of metal forward.

The small personal rocket motors help the workers move some of the construction parts; the big stuff is hitched to space taxis, tiny pressurized rocket vehicles used for short trips outside the space station.

As the framework of the new rocket ship takes form; big, folded nylon-and-plastic bundles are brought over. They're the personal cabins; pumped full of air, they become spherical, and plasticastrodomes are fitted to the top of sides of each. Other stacks are pumped full of propellant and balloon into the shapes of globes and cylinders. Soon the three moon-going ships begin to emerge in their final form. The two round-trip ships resemble an arrangement of hourglasses inside a metal framework; the one-way cargo carrier has much the same framework, but instead of hourglasses it has a central structure which looks like a greatsilo.

Dimensions of the Rocket Ship

Each ship is 160 feet long (nine feet more than the height of the Statue of Liberty) and about 110 feet wide. Each has at its base a battery of 30 rocket motors, and each is topped by the sphere which houses the crew members, scientists and technicians on five floors. Under the sphere are two long arms set on a circular track which enables them to rotate almost a full 360 degrees. These light booms, which fold against the vehicles during take-off and landing to avoid damage, carry two vital pieces of equipment: a radio antenna dish for short-wave communication and a solar mirror [for] generating power.

The solar mirror is a curved sheet of highly polished metal which concentrates the sun's rays on a mercury-filled pipe. The intense heat vaporizes the mercury, and the vapor drives a turbo-generator, producing 35 kilowatts of electric power—enough to run a small factory. Its work done, the vapor cools, returns to its liquid state, and starts the cycle all over again.

Under the radio and mirror booms of the passenger ships hangs 18 propellant tanks carrying nearly 800,000 gallons of ammonia likehydrazine (our fuel) and oxygen-rich nitric acid (the combustionagent). Four of the 18 tanks are outsized spheres, more than 33 feet in diameter. They are attached to light frames on the outside of the rocket ship's structure. More than half our propellant supply—580,000 gallons—is in these large balls: that's the amount needed for take-off. As soon as it's exhausted, the big tanks will bejettisoned. Four other large tanks carry propellant for the landing. They will be left on the moon.

We also carry a supply ofhydrogen peroxide to run the turbopumps which also force the propellant into the rocket motors. Besides the 14 cylindrical propellant tanks and the four spherical ones, eight small helium containers are strung throughout the framework. The lighter-than-air helium will be pumped into partly emptied fuel tanks to keep their shape under acceleration and to create pressure for the turbopumps.

The cost of the propellant required for the first trip to the moon, the bulk of it used for the supply ships during the build-up period, is enormous—about $300,000,000, roughly 60 percent of the half-billion-dollar cost of the entire operation. (That doesn't count the $4,000,000,000 cost of erecting the space station, whose main purpose is strategic rather than scientific.)

The cargo ship carries only enough fuel for a one-way trip, so it has fewer tanks; four discardable spheres like those on the passenger craft, and four cylindrical containers with 162,000 gallons of propellant for the moon landing.

In one respect, the cargo carrier is the most interesting of the space vehicles. Its big silo-like storage cabin, 75 feet long and 36 feet wide, was built to serve a double purpose. Once we reach the moon and the big cranes folded against the framework have swung out and unloaded the 285 tons of supplies in a cylinder, the silo will be detached from the rest of the rocket ship. The winch -driven cables slung from the cranes will then raise half of the cylinder, in sections, which it will deposit on trailers drawn by tractors. The tractors will take them to a protective crevice on the moon's surface at the place chosen for our camp. Then the other lengthwise half will be similarly moved—giving us two ready-to-use Quonset huts.

Now that we have our space ships built and have provided ourselves with living quarters for our stay on the moon a couple of important items remain; we must protect ourselves against two of the principal hazards of space travel, flying meteors and extreme temperatures.

For Protection Against Meteors

To guard against meteors, all vital parts of the three craft—propellant tanks, personnel spheres, cargo cabin—are given a thin covering of sheet metal, set on studs which leave at least one inch of space between this outer shield and inside wall. The covering, called meteor bumper, will take the full impact of the flying particles (we don't expect to be struck by any meteors much larger than a grain of sand) and will cause them to disintegrate before they can do damage.

For protection against excessive heat, all parts of the three rocket ships are painted white because white absorbs little of the sun's radiation. Then, to guard against cold, small black patches are scattered over the tanks and personnel spheres. The patches are covered by white blinds, automatically controlled thermostats. When the blinds on the sunny side are open, the spots absorb heat and warm the cabins and tanks. When the blinds are closed, all the white surface is exposed to the sun, permitting little heat to enter. When the blinds on the shaded sides are open, the black spots radiate heat and the temperature drops.

Now we're ready to take off from the space station's orbit to the moon.

The bustle of our departure—hurrying space taxis, the nervous last-minute checks by engineers, the loading of late cargo and finally the take-off itself—will be watched by millions. Television cameras on the space station will transmit the scene to receivers all over the world. And people on earth's dark side will be able to turn from their screens to catch a fleeting glimpse of light—high in the heavens—the combined flash of 90 rocket motors, looking from the earth like the birth of a new short lived star.

Our departure is slow. The big rocket ships riseponderously, one after the other, green flames streaming from their batteries of rockets, and then they pick up speed. Actually, we don't need to gain much speed. The velocity required to get us to our destination is 19,500 miles an hour but we've had a running start, while "resting" in the space station's orbit, we are really streaking through space at 15,840 miles an hour. We need an additional 3,660 miles an hour.

Thirty-three minutes from take-off we have it. Now we cut our motors; momentum and the moon's gravity will do the rest.

The moon itself is visible to us as we coast through space, but it's so far off [to] one side that it's hard to believe we won't miss it. In the five days of the journey, though, it will travel a great distanceand so will we; at the end of that time we shall reach the farthest point, or apogee, of our elliptical course, and the moon shall be right in front of us.

The earth is visible, too—an enormous ball, most of it bulking pale black against the deeper black of space but with a wide crescent of day light where the sun strikes it. Within the crescent, the continents enjoying summer stand out as vast green terrain maps surrounded by the brilliant blue of the oceans. Patches of white cloud obscure some of the detail; white blobs are snow and ice on mountain ranges and polar areas.

Against the blackness of the earth's night side is a gleaming spot—the space station, reflecting the light of the sun.

Two hours and 54 minutes after departure we are 17,750 miles from the earth's surface. Our speed has dropped sharply to 10,500 miles [an] hour. Five hours and eight minutes en route, the earth is 32,950 miles away, and our speed is 8,000 miles an hour; after 20 hours, we're 132,000 miles from the earth traveling at 4,300 miles an hour.

On this first day, we discard the empty departure tanks. Engineers in protective suits step outside the cabin, stand for a moment in space, then make their way down the girders to the big spheres. They pump any remaining propellant into reserve tanks, disconnect the useless containers, and give them a gentle shove. For a while the tanks drift along beside us; soon they float out of sight. Eventually they will crash on the moon.

There is no hazard for the engineers in this operation. As a precaution they are secured to the ship by safety lines. But they could probably have done well without them. There is no air in space to blow them away.

That's just one of the peculiarities of space to which we must adapt ourselves. Lacking a natural sequence of night and day, we live by anarbitrary time schedule. Because nothing has weight[,] cooking and eating are special problems. Kitchen utensils have magnetic strips or clamps so they won't float away. The heating of food is done on electric ranges. They have many advantages; they're clean, easy to operate, and their short-wave rays don't burn up precious oxygen.

Difficulties Dining in Space

We have no knives, spoons or forks. All solid food is precut; all liquids are served in plastic bottles and forced directly into the mouthby squeezing. Our mess kits [have] spring operated covers; our only eating utensils are tongue like devices; if we open the covers carefully, we can grab a mouthful of food without getting it all over the cabin.

From the start of the trip, the ship's crew has been maintaining a round-the-clock schedule, standing eight hour watches. Captains, navigators and radio men spend most of their time checking and rechecking our flight track, ready to start up the rockets for a change in course if an error turns up. Technicians back up this operation with reports from the complex and delicate "electronic brains"—computers,gyroscopes, switchboards and other instruments—on the control deck. Other specialists keep watch over the air conditioning, temperature, pressure and oxygen systems.

But the busiest crew members are the maintenance engineers and their assistants, tireless men who [have] been bustling back and forth between ships shortly after the voyage started, anxiously checking propellant tanks, tubing, rocket motors, turbopumps and all other vital equipment. Excessive heat could cause dangerous hairline cracks in the rocket motors; unexpectedly large meteors could smash through the thin bumpers surrounding the propellant tanks; fittings could come loose. The engineers have to be careful.

We are still slowing down. At the start of the fourth day, our speed has dropped to 800 miles an hour, only slightly more than the speed of a conventional jet fighter. Ahead, the harsh surface features of the moon are clearly outlined. Behind, the blue-green ball of the earth appears to be barely a yard in diameter.

Our fleet of unpowered rocket ships is now passing the neutral point between the gravitational fields of earth and the moon. Our momentum has dripped off to almost nothing—yet we're about to pick up speed. For now we must begin falling toward the moon, about 23,600 miles away. With no atmosphere to slow us we'll smash into the moon at 6,000 miles an hour unless we do something about it.

Rotating the Moon Ship

This is what we do: aboard each ship, near its center of gravity, is a positioning device consisting of three fly-wheels set at right angles to one another and operated by electric motors. One of the wheel heads is in the same direction as our flight path—in other words; along thelongitudinal axis of the vehicle, like the rear wheels of a car. Another parallels thelatitudinal axis like the steering wheel of an ocean vessel. The third lies along the horizontal axis like the rear steering wheel of a hook and ladder truck. If we start any one of thewheels spinning, it causes our rocket ship to turn slowly in the other direction (pilots know this "torque" effect; as increased power causes a plane's propeller to spin more rapidly in one direction, the pilot has to fight his controls to keep the plane rolling in the other direction).

The captain of our space ship orders the longitudinal flywheel set in motion. Slowly our craft begins to cartwheel; when it has turned a revolution, it stops. We are going toward the moon tail-end-first, a position which will enable us to brake our fall with our rocket motors when the right time comes.

Tension increases aboard the three ships. The landing is tricky—so tricky that it will be done entirely by automatic pilot to diminish the possibility of human error. Our scientists compute the rate of descent, the spot at which we expect to strike; the speed and direction of the moon (it's traveling at 2,280 miles an hour at right angles to our path). These and other essential statistics are fed into a tape. The tape, based on the same principle as theplayer-piano roll and theautomatic business-card machine, will control the automatic pilot. (Actually, a number of tapes intended to provide for all the eventualities will be fixed up along before the flight, but last minute-checks are necessary to see which tape to use and to see whether a manual correction of our course is required before the autopilot takes over.)

Now we lower part of our landing gear—four spider like legs, hinged to the square rocket assembly, which have been folded against the framework.

As we near the end of our trip, the gravity of the moon, which is still to one side of us, begins to pull us off our elliptical course, and we turn the ship to conform to this change of direction. At an altitude of 550 miles the rocket motors begin firing; we feel the shock of their blasts inside the personnel sphere and suddenly our weight returns. Objects which have not been secured beforehand tumble to the floor. The force of the rocket motors is such that we have about one third our normal earth weight.

The final 10 minutes are especially tense. The tape-guided automatic pilots are now in full control. We fall more and more slowly, floating over the landing area like descending helicopters as we approach, the fifth leg of our landing gear—a big telescoping shock absorber which has been housed in the center of the rocket assembly is lowered through the fiery blast of the motors. The long green rocket flames begin to slash against the baked lunar surface. Swirling clouds of brown-gray dust are thrown out sideways; they settle immediately instead of hanging in air, as they would on the earth.

The broad round shoe of the telescopic landing leg digs into the soft volcanic ground. If it strikes too hard an electronic mechanism inside it immediately calls on the rocket motors for more power to cushion the blow. For a few seconds, we balance on the single leg[,] then the four outrigger legs slide out to help support the weight of the ship, and are locked into position. The whirring of machinery dies away. There is absolute silence. We have reached the moon.

Now we shall explore it.

What happened next …

The Collier's series was immensely popular. Von Braun continued his work with the U.S. military. Between April 1950 and February 1956 he and his team developed the Redstone rocket. Von Braun wanted to launch a satellite (a man-made object that orbits space) before the former Soviet Union, but military officials continually denied his requests. After the Soviets launched the Sputnik 1 satellite in 1957 (see First Satellite entry), von Braun immediately received authorization from the U.S. government to develop and launch a satellite. Utilizing the technology of the Redstone rocket, von Braun and his team, in cooperation with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, developed the Explorer 1 satellite. Explorer 1 was launched on January 31, 1958.

Later in 1958, the United States formed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In 1960 von Braun was appointed director of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, a NASA agency at Huntsville, Alabama. Von Braun was instrumental in the launching of the Saturn rockets and of Apollo 8, the first spacecraft to travel to the Moon.

Von Braun retired from NASA in 1972 to take a post in a private engineering firm. He became an advocate for space travel and wrote a number of articles and books promoting the benefits of a well-funded and publicly supported space agency. Historians agree, however, that nothing did more to energize the American public and excite them about space travel than the articles he had published in Collier's magazine. Von Braun died of cancer at a hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, on June 16, 1977.

Did you know …

  • Von Braun's first article in the Collier's series was about a manned space station, which required the use of rockets. Only fifteen years after writing this article, he helped design the Saturn 5 rocket, which was instrumental in the success of Apollo 8.
  • In the late 1990s the U.S. government released documents showing that, prior to the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61) had deliberately delayed the launch of a U.S. satellite. He wanted to use Sputnik 1 as an excuse for gaining public support for deploying a spy satellite against the Soviets. Eisenhower's ploy was successful, but von Braun had been unaware of the plan.
  • Part of von Braun's book on Mars, originally titled Das Marsproject, appeared as the last installment of the Collier's series. The entire book was published in German in 1952 and translated into English in 1953. Von Braun envisioned the Mars expedition requiring three "landing boats" and seven cargo or transport ships.

Consider the following …

  • Von Braun's articles helped impress upon the American people the importance of space travel. Do you think space exploration is important today?
  • NASA, in cooperation with Russian cosmonauts and scientists, has conducted research on Mars, although no human being has yet traveled to the red planet. Do you think a human being will ever walk on Mars? If you walked on Mars, what types of things would you look for?

For More Information


Hunt, Linda. Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Von Braun, Wernher. "Man on the Moon: The Journey." In Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program, Volume I: Organizing for Exploration. Edited by John M. Logsdon. Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1995.

Ward, Bob. Mr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Press, 2004.


Cowan, Robert C. "Declassified Papers Show U.S. Won Space Race After All." Christian Science Monitor (October 23, 1999): p. 15.

"Previously Unpublished von Braun Drawings." Ad Astra (July/August 2000): pp. 46–47.

Von Braun, Wernher. "Man on the Moon—The Journey." Collier's (October 18, 1952): pp. 52–60.

Von Braun, Wernher, with Cornelius Ryan. "Baby Space Station." Collier's (June 27, 1953): pp. 33–40.

Von Braun, Wernher, with Cornelius Ryan. "Can We Get to Mars?" Collier's (April 30, 1954): pp. 22–28.

Web Sites

Graham, John F. "A Biography of Wernher von Braun." Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA.http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/academy/history/VonBraun/VonBraun.html (accessed on July 19, 2004).

"Wernher von Braun." Spartacus Educational.http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAbraun.htm (accessed on July 19, 2004).

Ungainly: Awkward or clumsy.

Elliptical: Oval or curved.

Prohibitive: Excessive; unreasonable.

Satellite: An object orbiting Earth, the Moon, or another celestial body.

Girders: Support structures, such as joists or beams.

Turbopumps: Pumps driven by a turbine, a kind of rotary engine.

Inertia: A property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force.

Astrodomes: Transparent observation domes.

Silo: A tall cylinder sealed to keep air out.

Hydrazine: A colorless, fuming corrosive used especially in fuels for rocket and jet engines.

Jettisoned: Discarded.

Hydrogen peroxide: A compound used as an oxidizing (mixed with oxygen) and bleaching agent, an antiseptic, and a propellant.

Winch: Hoist.

Ponderously: Slowly and clumsily because of weight or size.

Arbitrary: Random.

Gyroscopes: Wheels or disks mounted to spin rapidly about an axis.

Longitudinal: Running lengthwise.

Latitudinal: Distance from side to side; width.

Player-piano roll: The replaceable paper cylinder, attached to a mechanism that plays a piano automatically, that tells the piano what notes to play.

Automatic business-card machine: A machine with a keyboard used to punch holes in cards to represent information to be fed into a computer.

About this article

Wernher von Braun

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article