STDr. Wernher von Broun, the German-born space scientist whose rocketry enabled the United States to make the first manned landing on the moon, died of cancer early Thursday at Alexandria Hospital. He was 65.
A public announcement of his dealth was not made until yesterday at the request of the family. By then private services had been held, attended by the family and a few close friends.
Dr. von Braun had undergone surgery for cancer in August, 1975, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He was admitted to Alexandria Hospital in May, 1976, and spent long periods there. His final stay there began last October.
In a statement issued at the White House, President Carter said:
"To millions of Americqns, Wernher won Braun's name was inextricably linked to our exploration of space and to the creative application of technology. He was not only a skillful engineer, but also a man of bold vision; mobilize and maintain the effort we needed to reach the moon and beyond.
"Not just the people of our nation, but all the people of the world have profited from his work. We will continue to profit from his example."
Dr. von Braun was called "one of the world's outstanding pioneers in the field of space exploration" by Dr. Alan Lovelace, acting director of the National Aeronautice and Space Ad [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
"In the tradition of Newton and Eistein, he was a dreamer pursuing visions, and at the same time a creative genius," Lovelace said. "He was a 20th century Colimbus who pushed back the new frontiers of outer space with efforts that enabled his adopted country to achieve a pre-eminence in space exploration."
Dr. von Braun's life spanned the Space Age, and his namle was associated with some of its greatest achievements as well as with some of its most terrible weapons. Despite the military applications of space technology, he was convinced throughout his life that knowledge gained from exploring space would be the salvation of the world.
"We are now coming into an era of space research that one might call the humanitarian era in which man will use the tools and capabilities of space," he said recently.
"It will be an era when we will set out to solve many of the problems that we haven't been able to solve any other way. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich," he said.
The dramatic and technical climax of Dr. von Braun's life occured July 20, 1969, when American astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin Jr. landed their Apollo spacecraft on the moon. He wept on the occasion.
Dr. von Braun headed the team of scientists who developed the Saturn rocket that carried the Apollo into space.
Almost three decades earlier, he headed the German effort that culminated in the notorious U-2 rocket bombs sent against Britain by Hitler in the final year of World War II. More than 1,000 of the weapons - the "V" stood for "Vengeance" - landed on London and its suburbs.
At the end of the war, Dr. von Braun and a group of his associates from the German rocket center at Peenemuende on the Baltic Sea surrendered to the Americans, after fleeing to southern Germany to avoid capture by the Russians.
The group, which numbered 120 scientists, was hired by the U.S. Army to work on rocketry in the United States. The move was called Operation Paperclip.
On Jan. 31, 1958, the United States launched Explorer I, its first satellite. It was put into orbit by a Jupiter-C rocket developed by the von Braun group at Huntsville, Ava.
The successful launching of Explorer I was a major development in the Cold War, in which psychology played as much of a part as technology. The Soviets had launched Sputnik I, the first earth satellite, Oct 4, 1957, and there was a great need for the United states to show it could match the feat.
If Dr. von Braun was primarily an engineer, he also was many other things. Rolf Engel, an associate who first met him in 1928, said of him shortly after the Explorer I success:
"He is a human leader whose eyes and thoughts have always been turned toward the stars. It would be foolish to assign rocketry success to one person totally. Components must necessarily be the work of many minds. So must successive stages of development."But because Wernher von Braun joins technical ability, passionate optimism, immense experience and uncanny organizing ability in the elusive power to create a team, he is the greatest human element behind today's rocketry success."
He was, in addition, a deeply religious man, a student of history and literature, a family man who valued his privacy, and an outdoorsman and athlete who enjoyed such challenging sports as sailing and sail planing, mountain climbing, fishing and hunting. He was an ardent traveler.
He felt that science and art should balance each other.
"We would have dead souls if we had no esthetic values," he once said in a lecture. "I am a technical man, and I would conclude by telling you that I have a Rubens print in my home and that in my youth I played the cello."
Dr, von Braun also was a wit who would sum up his view of the world in these words:
"We are all on a spaceship and that spaceship is earth. Four billion passengers - and no skipper."
his extraordinary service to Nazi Germany was a source of considerable inner turmoil after World War II. Thus, he was constantly seeking uses for space technology that he hoped would make the world a less dangerous place. He saw these uses in weather and communications satellites, the development of the computer industry and other spin-offs from space.
Asked about his war service by a television interviewer in 1972, he replied:
"I came to this country's shores after a war, a grim and bitter war, as an enemy alien. And it took me quite a while to get accepted in this country. And I ask you, where in the world would a man be given this chance except in America? Now I look on America as my home, and the home where my three children were born."
Wernher von Braun was born in Wirisitz, East Prussia, on March 23, 1912. His family had been part of the East Prussian nobility for centuries, and one of his ancestors is said to have fought the Mongols at the battle of Liegnitz in 1245. His father was Baron Magnus von Braun, a minister of agriculture in the Weimar Republic.
Dr. von Braun attributed his early interest in space to his mother, an amateur astronomer. She gave him a telescope at the time of his confirmation in the Lutheran Church.
He began experimenting with rockets while still a boy. His interest was further whetted by reading "The Rocket to the Interplanetary Spaces" by Hermann Oberth, one of the earliest pioneers in the field and later a colleague of Dr. von Braun in the United States.
Finding that the book consisted largely of mathematical equations he did not understand, the young von Braun set about learning mathematics, a subject in which he previously had shown little interest.
He studied at the technical institutes in Zurich and Berlin and became an assistant to Prof. Oberth in 1930. He helped Oberth conduct various experiments with small, liquid fueled rocket motors.
During this period, Germany was still under the strictures of the Versailles Treaty concerning armaments Hitler had not yet come to power and set those strictures aside, and the German army was seeking new weapons, including rockets, that were not on the prohibited list.
In 1932, Dr. von Braun, then a graduate student at the University of Berlin from which he received his Ph.D. in 1934, went to work for the German ordnance department at Kummersdorf in a forest south of Berlin.
The Kummersdorf operation was commanded by Capt. Walter Dornberger, later a general and a colleague and friend until Dr. von Braun's death. In 1937, Dr. von Braun's and Dornberger moved their experiments to Peenemuende on the Baltic. Dr. von Braun was head of research there until the German collapse in 1945.
The V-2 rocket was first tested successfully at Peenemuende on Oct. 3, 1974.
Dornberger reportedly said, "Do you realize what we accomplished today?" Dr. von Braun is said to have replied, "Today the spaceship was born."
As the war drew toward its close, Dr. von Braun and his associates left Peenemuende for Bavaria, where they eventually surrendered to American forces.
The Operation Paperclip group was taken first to Ft. Bliss, Texas, and the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. There its members continued work on V-2 rockets, but there was little interest then in American military and congressional circles in space explorations.
This attitude changed with the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950.
Dr. von Braun and his group were moved to Huntsville, Ala., and given the assignment of designing an intermediate range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Dr. von Braun spent the next 20 years at Huntsville.
His first major success was the Redstone missile, named after the Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville. The Redstone was first launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in 1953.
By the time the Soviets put the first Sputnik in orbit in the autumn of 1957, Dr. von Braun was working on the Jupiter-C series of rockets. He intended from the first to use the Jupiter-C to put a satellite into orbit.
The government had other plans. The Jupiter-C was an Army project, and it was decided that the Navy's Vanguard missile - as yet untried - would be used to launch the first American satellite in connected with the 1957-58 Geophysical Year.
On the night that the Russians announced their success with Sputnik, Dr. von Braun was having dinner in Huntsville with Neil McElroy, who had just been designated by President Eisenhower as secretary of defense.
Confident that the Jupiter would perform, Dr. von Braun told McElroy that "we can fire a satellite into orbit 60 days from the moment you give us the green light."
In fact, it was decided that 90 days would be more realistic, and the von Braun crew put Explorer I into orbit 84 days after receiving the go-ahead.
In addition to demonstrating that American rockets had the power to put up a satellite, Explorer I carried instruments that led to the discovery by Dr. JamesA. Van Allen of a phenomenon that helps protect the earth. The Van Allen Belt, as it is called, is similar to the earth's magnetic field and traps particles of matter in space.These filter out various cosmic rays and solar radiation that otherwise would hit the earth.
But what was important at the time of the lauching - from a political point of view, among others - was the fact of the successful orbiting itself. For Explorer I followed a major U.S. space failure.
This was the attempt on Dec. 6, 1957, to use the Navy's Vanguard to put up a satellite. Before a national television audience, the giant rocket rose a few feet from its launching pad, turned sideways, and crashed in billowing smoke and flames.
Subsequently, the Vanguard was used successfully to orbit three satellites,the last of which went up Sept. 18, 1959.By then, other rockets were being designed and the Vanguard was abandoned.
As the space race gained momentum amid pressure from the Cold war and later from a desire to be first on the moon, Dr. von Braun went from success to success. But even while the Apollo moon flight program was under way, other national priorities loomed, and many thought that for the space program could be better spent on domestic programs.
In 1970, Dr. von Braum left Hunstville to become deputy associate administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Washington.
"I feel a littlelike a Navy officer giving up his beloved battleship for a desk in the Pentagon," he said at the time. But he was also sensitive to other national needs and was at pains to demonstrate that space exploration was an enterprise that could benefit everybody.
In 1972, he left his $36,000-a-year government job to become vice president for engineering and development of Fairchild Industries. By that time, the space budget had been reduced to $3 billion a year and no new major adventures were planned.
"I would like to devote my time to help implement some space projects I feel are of particular importance," Dr. von Braun said in a statement when he left government. "I think I can do this best in private industry where the tools of progress are being made."
He retired from Fairchild last Dec. 31.
In July, 1975, Dr. von Braun started the National Space Institute here and was its president until March, 1976, when he became chairman of the board, a position he held until his death.
Over the years, he was awarded more than a score of honarary degrees from colleges and universities in this country and abroad. He was author or coauthor of a dozen books and the recipient of numerous awards from the government and professional organizations.
"His was a career that many of us would envy because he was one of the very few who are privileged to start an idea, essentially from scratch, and to live to see it brought to fruition," said Dr. Fred Singer, a professor at the University of Virginia and a friend and former colleague of Dr. von Braun.
"He was able to make the most important and significant contributions to getting the idea realized. We (in the scientific community) both envy him for it and congratulate him on it," Singer said.
In 1947, Dr. von Braun married the former Maria von Quistrop, who survives him. Also surviving are two daughters, Iris and Margrit, and a son, Peter. The von Brauns made their home in Alexandria after moving to the Washington area.