Remembring Wernher von Braun

On the hundredth anniversary of his birth:

For some he was a visionary who foresaw the potential of human spaceflight, but for others he was little more than an arms merchant who developed brutal weapons of mass destruction. In reality, he seems to have been something of both. In the 1960s, as the United States was involved in a race with Soviet Union to see who could land a human on the Moon first, political humorist Tom Lehrer wrote a song about von Braun’s pragmatic approach to serving whoever would let him build rockets regardless of their purpose. “Don’t say that he’s hypocritical, say rather that he’s apolitical,” Lehrer wrote. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun.” Lehrer’s biting satire captured well the von Braun’s divided legacy.