Von Braun envisaged these expeditions as very large-scale undertakings, with a total of 50 astronauts travelling in three huge spacecraft (two for crew, one primarily for cargo), each 49 m long and 33 m in diameter and driven by a rectangular array of 30 jet propulsion engines. Upon arrival, astronauts would establish a permanent lunar base in the Sinus Roris region by using the emptied cargo holds of their craft as shelters, and would explore their surroundings for eight weeks. This would include a 400 km expedition in pressurized rovers to the Harpalus crater and the Mare Imbrium foothills.
At this time von Braun also worked out preliminary concepts for a manned Mars mission that would use two spacecraft and an aerodynamic lander.
In the hope that its involvement would bring about greater public interest in the future of the space program, von Braun also began working with the Disney studios as a technical director, initially for three television films about space exploration. The initial broadcast devoted to space exploration was Man in Space which first went on air on March 9, 1955.
Director Wernher von Braun shows President Kennedy around the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in 1963.
It was not until 1957 and the launch of Sputnik 1 that America realized how far it lagged behind the Soviet Union in the emerging Space Race. After the U.S. Navy's attempt at building a rocket to lift satellites into orbit resulted in the very unreliable Vanguard rocket, American authorities recognized they needed von Braun and his German team's experience, so they were quickly transferred to NASA.
Wernher von Braun, with the F-1 engines of the Saturn V first stage at the US Space and Rocket Center.
NASA was established by law on July 29, 1958. One day later, the 50th Redstone rocket was successfully launched from Johnston Atoll in the south Pacific as part of Operation Hardtack. Two years later, NASA opened the new Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and transferred von Braun and his development team there from the ABMA at Redstone Arsenal. Presiding from July 1960 to February 1970, von Braun became the center's first Director.
The Marshall Center's first major program was the development of Saturn rockets to carry heavy payloads into and beyond Earth orbit. Wernher von Braun's dream to help mankind set foot on the Moon became a reality on July 16, 1969 when a Marshall-developed Saturn V rocket launched the crew of Apollo 11 on its historic eight-day mission. Over the course of the Apollo program, Saturn V rockets enabled six teams of astronauts to reach the surface of the Moon. At the time of the first moon-landing, von Braun publicly expressed his optimism that the Saturn rocket would continue to be developed, advocating manned missions to Mars in the 1980s based on the Saturn V.
Still with his rocket models, von Braun is pictured in his new office at NASA headquarters in 1970.
During the late 1960s, von Braun played an instrumental role in the development of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. The desk from which he guided America's entry in the Space Race remains on display there.
In an internal memo dated January 16, 1969 von Braun confirmed to his staff that he would stay on as a Center Director at Huntsville to head the Apollo Applications Program. However, on March 1, 1970, von Braun and his family relocated to Washington, D.C., when he was assigned the post of NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Planning at NASA Headquarters. After a series of conflicts associated with the truncation of the Apollo program, von Braun retired from NASA on May 26, 1972, as it became evident that his and NASA's visions for future U.S. space flight projects were different.
Career after NASA
After leaving NASA, von Braun became a vice-president of Fairchild Industries in Germantown, Maryland on July 1, 1972. He helped establish and promote the National Space Institute, a precursor of the present-day National Space Society.
In 1973 a routine health check uncovered a kidney cancer which during the following years could not be controlled by surgery. Von Braun continued his work to the degree possible, which included accepting invitations to speak at colleges and universities as he was eager to cultivate interest in human spaceflight and rocketry, particularly with students and a new generation of engineers. On one such visit in the spring of 1974 to Allegheny College, a small liberal arts college in Meadville, Pennsylvania, von Braun revealed a more personal, down-to-earth side of himself as a man in his early 60's, beyond the public persona most saw, including an all-too-human allergy to feather pillows and a subtle, if not humorous disdain for some rock music of the era.
In 1976, von Braun became scientific consultant to Lutz Kayser, the CEO of OTRAG, and a member of the Daimler-Benz board of directors. However, his deteriorating condition forced him to retire from Fairchild on December 31, 1976. When the 1975 National Medal of Science was awarded to him in early 1977 he was hospitalized, and unable to attend the White House ceremony. On June 16, 1977, Wernher von Braun died in Alexandria, Virginia at the age of 65. He is buried there in the Ivy Hill Cemetery.
" National Medal of Science in 1975
" Apollo space program director Sam Phillips was quoted as saying that he did not think that America would have reached the moon as quickly as it did without von Braun's help. Later, after discussing it with colleagues, he amended this to say that he did not believe America would have reached the moon at all.
" The von Braun crater on the moon was so named by the IAU in recognition of von Braun's contribution to space exploration and technology.
" The Von Braun Civic Center (built 1975) is named in von Braun's honor.
On film and television
Wernher von Braun has been featured in a number of movies and television shows or series about the Space Race:
" I Aim at the Stars (1960), also titled Wernher von Braun and Ich greife nach den Sternen ("I reach for the stars"): von Braun played by Curd J?rgens). Satirist Mort Sahl suggested the subtitle "(But Sometimes I Hit London)".
" Back to the Future Part III (1990) Doc in 1955 says when the Browns first came to Hill Valley they were known as the "Von Brauns."
" Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964): Dr Strangelove isusually held to be based at least partly on von Braun.
" Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare) (1977): Director and star Kidlat Tahimik is president of a Wernher von Braun