"Wernher von Braun was a study of contrast: a visionary and a pragmatist, a technologist and a humanist."
This was the evaluation of Michael Collins, a former astronaut and now director of the National Space Museum, at a memorial service yesterday for the German-born rocket scientist whose research made manned moon landings possible.
Addressing the crowd in Washington Cathedral at Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, Collins said "Wernher was a leader with the versatility that a leader must possess."
German Ambassador Berndt von Staden read opening scriptures. Then Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, an associate of Mr. von Braun during development of the German V-2 rocket in World War II, commented on Mr. von Braun's energetic personality.
"He was a man of irresistible charm coupled with almost magic powers of persuasion," said Stuhlinger of his friend's ability to achieve goals. He also said that Mr. von Braun, a religious man, "saw no contradiction between scientific knowledge and religious faith," but felt the two to be intertwined.
Dr. James C. Fletcher, retired director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), described Mr. von Braun as a man who "clung to what seemed like impossible dreams despite politics, bureaucratic entanglements, war and personal criticisms."
Members of Mr. von Braun's family did not attend yesterday's services.