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Racing to the Moon

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The Race Begins
Competitors in the Race
Vostok and Voskhod
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Hundreds of thousands of people in many organizations worked in the American and Soviet space programs. There were dreamers, brilliant engineers, and talented managers on both sides, but the careers of two individuals with important technical and managerial roles illustrate some of the differences. The American was a well-known personality in the highly publicized U.S. civilian space program. The Russian was known officially as the anonymous Chief Designer and was not publicly identified in the secretive Soviet system until after his death.


Shortly after NASA was created, the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency research group led by Wernher von Braun was transferred to the civilian space agency, and in 1960 it became the core of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Wernher von Braun
61 k jpeg

Until 1970 von Braun served as the first director of the Marshall Center, which was responsible for developing rocket engines and launch vehicles, including the American "Moon rocket," the giant Saturn V.

Von Braun was an avid proponent of space exploration. In the 1950s he collaborated on a series of popular magazine articles and television shows depicting future space travel.

Courtesy of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Von Braun Collection

Von Braun at NASM, 1976
Werner Von Braun at the National Air and Space Museum in 1976
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Pointer Information about von Braun's early career in rocketry in both Germany and the United States is presented with the V-2 missile.


While a manager and public figure, Wernher von Braun stayed close to the work of engineering and design, using this slide rule for calculations.

von Braun's slide rule
SI#: 97-16256-3

Manufacturer: Albert Nestler A.G., Germany

Lent by the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Von Braun Collection

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