(March 23, 1912 – June 16, 1977)
This is the greatest of all the rocket scientists. His early fascinations with projectiles helped steer him towards aeronautics. Wernher von Braun graduated as a mechanical engineer in the 1930s only to see his preoccupation with space travel relegated to the background, when the Nazis prioritized weaponry over leisure. He was stationed at the Peenemuende Research Center (in northern Germany), where he spearheaded the development of V-2 rockets. Brilliant and resourceful, he quickly established himself as the world’s leading rocket scientist: surpassing his childhood hero, Hermann Oberth. As Hitler’s wars expanded, huge allotments were allocated to the Peenemuende projects, enabling von Braun to explore new ballistic avenues. His fame and reputation were such that after the war the U.S. Army swiftly whisked him off to the U.S.A. Despite debriefing him, they did not exploit his full potentials until the U.S.S.R. took clear lead of the space-race. But with his leeway expanded, von Braun and his team quickly salvaged the American pride: by masterminding the rocket-programme which launched the first man on the moon. From the Juno 1 rocket which launched the Explorer 1 satellite in 1958 to the Saturn V which launched the Apollo 11 spacecraft in 1969, Wernher von Braun’s expertise dazzled the world. He was universally dubbed the “Father of Rocket Science”. And following other achievements, he became a multi-award-winning director and chief architect at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA: advocating for human missions to mars. Among numerous honors, the von Braun lunar impact crater was dedicated to him.