Wernher von Braun



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Presented by Ed Buckbee

 “Late to bed early to rise, work like heck and advertise,” said rocket scientist Wernher von Braun

     History has embraced few uncommonly gifted scientists—think in the caliber of Galileo and Thomas Edition--as well as few uncommonly gifted managers.  History has rarely welcomed an individual who is equally gifted in both disciplines. Wernher von Braun, considered   by many to be one of the most   successful and effective managers of a U.S. peacetime technology program, was certainly such an individual.

    Ed Buckbee, former NASA public affairs official, spokesman and colleague of the famous rocket scientist, takes you behind the scenes with a close-up look at the father of America’s moon landing   program.  You meet the man that convinced   President John F.  Kennedy that we could beat the Russians in an all out race to the moon. That race would begin in Huntsville, Alabama, at von Braun’s rocket factory.

    Von Braun was a public relation man’s dream and the darling of the press corps covering the moon-landing program. His ability to sell his dreams and vision to the Americana public was unique. Congressmen and senators trusted him. They sought him out to answer their question, “can we beat the Russians to the moon?”

     Buckbee presents von Braun’s story with photography, interviews, and personal notes never before seen and experiences that only he can relate because--he was here. During the height of the Saturn- Apollo program, von Braun implemented a particularly effect management tool called the weekly notes. The notes were his direct personal channel with his laboratory directors and project managers providing insight to his management style, his personality and his hands-on approach to leadership.

    Buckbee takes you inside the   rocket factory where the Saturn V-- a rocket of immense size, power and accuracy-- was conceived, developed and tested.  It was to become the moon rocket. You see, hear and feel this mammoth rocket--man’s greatest space machine-- being tested prior to being launched on its journey to the moon with American astronauts aboard.

    Who was this man Wernher von Braun--rocket scientist, visionary, crusade for space? Learn more about America’s moon rocket man from Buckbee’s first-hand account.

Ed Buckbee, an alumnus of NASA public affairs, a lecturer, space advocate and author, presents a power point presentation with rarely seen visuals, personal notes, and interviews designed for all audiences. Founder of Space Camp and co-founder of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Buckbee authored with the late Wally Schirra, “The Real Space Cowboys,” and is the editor of  “50 Years of Rockets and Spacecraft.” 

Sep. 2009--  buckbee@air-space.com


To view Quest article by Ed Buckbee dated November 2011 click here


Ed Buckbee presented international award for his work in promoting space travel

Sunday, April 01, 2012
Mark McCarter, The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama --As Huntsville commemorated Wernher von Braun's 100th birthday, one of his close associates missed the party.

Ed Buckbee, a longtime public affairs specialist and the first director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp, was invited to Germany, representing the von Braun family as the keynote speaker at an anniversary celebration there.

Two days before he left, Buckbee received a surprise phone call. The trip to Germany had a two-fold purpose.

Buckbee was named as the winner of the Wernher von Braun gold medal, the highest honor presented by the Internationaler Forderkreis fur Raumfahart (IFR) Association. It is presented, according to IFR, "to important personalities for their performance in promoting space flight."


The association, an historic advocate for space flight, was founded by von Braun and another famed German rocket scientist, Hermann Oberth. Previous recipients include members of von Braun's team in Germany and later in Huntsville, Ernst Stuhlinger and Walter Haeussermann.

As a public relations specialist, "I was always sort of in the background with von Braun many times when he was the recipient of awards and honors. You don't ever expect to get one yourself," Buckbee said.

"It kind of choked me up when they did the presentation and everybody stood up in the auditorium and gave me a standing ovation. I had never had that in a public place.

"To be honored for the work I've done, collecting the von Braun papers, exhibiting the Saturn V and as the first director of the Space & Rocket Center, that means so much to me."

Considering the emotion of the moment, perhaps Buckbee was fortunate that his speech came before the award.

Speaking to a relatively young crowd, he talked "about von Braun's vision of space travel, about being able to pull together a team of Germans and Americans and create a group of can-do people who really took on a mission that had never been accomplished, that no one had ever attempted," Buckbee said.

"I reminded people that the von Braun team are the only people on the planet that have sent men out of Earth orbit, and no one's done it since," he said.

Buckbee told them about von Braun's "personality, his love from people, starting Space Camp, his vision. He was always on another page, always ahead of us. He was a man before his time."


Wernher von Braun, The Rocket Man, video documentary:

     President John F. Kennedy arrived in Huntsville, Alabama-- the Rocket City-- in 1961 to meet the people who were building the moon rocket. The young   president  had committed the nation  to an all out space race against the Russians—send  American  astronauts to the moon and  return them safely to the   Earth—and do it within the decade  of the 60’s.  The trip to the moon would begin in Huntsville, Alabama at Wernher von   Braun’s rocket factory, the Marshall Space Flight Center.

     During the  40th Anniversary of America’s first moon landing, July 20, 2009, the documentary entitled, “Wernher von Braun, The  Rocket Man” was premiered at the  Davidson  Center for  Space Exploration, U.S. Space &  Rocket  Center, Huntsville Alabama. The showing was followed by a panel discussion. 

    The documentary covers four decades of   von Braun’s career beginning in Germany and concluding at the   Marshall Center where he served as the first director from 1960-1970.  It contains rare footage of von Braun interviews recorded during the Saturn-Apollo era of the 60’s.

     Dorette Schlidt, a resident of Huntsville who worked with von Braun in Germany, tells of his early interest in rocketry and space travel. His secretary of twenty years at   the U.S.  Army and the Marshall Center, Bonnie Holmes, describes what it was like to work for the man who took us to the moon.  Ruth von Saurma, his international relations specialist, tells of his communications skills and his desire to fly in space himself.

    Frank Williams worked as a special assistant for many years for the rocket scientist. He describes von Braun’s management skills, passion and his superb leadership in keeping this unique team of rocketeers focused on the task of building the Saturn V moon rocket.

    Von Braun’s interest in the community is shown by his efforts to create and develop the Space & Rocket Center and the highly successful Space Camp, attended by over 500,000 students.  The center is the home of the largest collection of rockets and space vehicles on public display in the world. 

    Buckbee, a former Marshall Center public affairs official, produced a 1965 TV series, entitled, “Today In Space,” featuring von Braun.  Buckbee was selected by von Braun to be the first director of the Space & Rocket Center and became the curator of the   von Braun’s papers, which he has studied and interpreted for many years.


Buckbee (left) and von Braun view a live demonstration of the first exhibit for the Space & Rocket Center during a filming of “Today in Space” produced by Buckbee in 1970.

This video is now a part of the Rocket Man, Weekly Notes DVD.



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Last modified: May 01, 2014