It has been over 50 years since NASA's Apollo 11 mission took place. However, the secrets behind this success continue to be revealed. Finally, it was rumored that Wernher von Braun, the designer of the Saturn V rocket, used in the Apollo 11 mission, was a former Nazi.
In 1969, NASA performed an important task in terms of human history. On July 22, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to step on the surface of the Moon . This success, which was witnessed by millions of people from all over the world at that time, was one of the most important moments of the space race between the Soviet Union and the USA.
In the USA, who wanted to take the lead in the space race , which is a front of the Cold War between the two countries , John F. Kennedy announced that they would be able to land on the Moon at the end of their 10 years in 1961. As a result of an eight-year study following Kennedy's statement, NASA succeeded in landing people on the Moon.
One of the key figures of the Apollo 11 mission: Wernher von Braun
The Saturn V rocket used in the Apollo 11 mission was developed by Wernher von Braun. Although Von Braun is the name behind Saturn V , his story doesn't start with Apollo 11. Von Braun's story begins with the Nazis coming to power in Germany in the 1930s.
The Nazis began to work for combat vehicles after the power came. Wernher von Braun was also involved in experimental rocket studies that began in the 30s . Participating in rocket studies at the age of 22, von Braun soon became the head of rocket studies.
After a while, a facility was built for the work of von Braun in Peenemunde on the island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea . Von Braun has also chosen Germany's top engineers and physicists to be employed at this facility.
Von Braun's team developed the long-range V2 rocket in 1942. This rocket was developed with a larger budget than the atomic bomb dropped on Japan. V2 rockets were later used in attacks on London and Antwerp, and 9,000 people died with these missiles.
Von Braun, known as Baron after the Red Army approached Peenemunde in 1945, escaped from the facility with his team. After the success of the Red Army in Kursk and Stalingrad, von Braun surrendered to the US army with his team of 118 people .
Wernher von Braun has not been tried because the U.S. and its allies had previously decided to use scientists in studies rather than being judged . Along with Wernher von Braun, 1,600 scientists working with the Nazis were also taken to the USA. Von Braun, who was approved to go to the USA on June 20, 1945, was officially announced by the USA on October 1, 1945.
Speaking after surrendering to the U.S. army, von Braun claimed that the Nazis' involvement in the rocket program was only for scientific progress. Von Braun, who said that he felt helpless to change the situation in the camps he stayed in, said that direct torture and death decisions were made for the prisoners of war .
Participated in the establishment of NASA
After the Soviet Union sent Sputnik satellite to space in 1957, the USA rolled up its sleeves for space studies. Von Braun, the developer of the V2 rocket, was appointed head of the US ballistic missile program. Von Braun and his team developed a rocket within a year, and Explorer 1, the first satellite of the USA, was launched into space.
One year after Sputnik launched into space, the US space agency NASA was founded. Von Braun was appointed head of the development of the Saturn V rocket at NASA. The Saturn V rocket developed by von Braun and his team was used in the Apollo 11 mission, which was held in 1969.
It was known that Wernher von Braun played an important role in the space work of the USA and was an executive for many years . However, von Braun's life has just begun to be studied by historians. The history of von Braun, whose Nazi past was tried to be kept out of public sight, has been revealed again with new studies.
Wayne Biddle, who wrote a book on Wernher von Braun in 2009, says he doesn't care which side he is on as long as von Braun benefits. Speaking about von Braun in 2019, Biddle said, “ A person always has an option. Von Braun never made a choice to move him away from the Nazi regime . ”