Rocket scientistWalter Haeussermann

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Born in Germany in 1914, Haeussermann was working on his PhD when he was drafted into the German army for World War II, but because of his electrical engineering education (and interest in astronomy and science), he was pulled out of basic training for a special assignment: to help in rocket research with Wernher von Braun. “I was flabbergasted, because on the first day I was shown a rocket test,” he said decades later. “I was astonished that something like this was already existing.” His specialty was guidance and control, but after the war he missed the invitation to come to the U.S. with von Braun and his team. But he made his own way to the U.S. in 1947 (and became a citizen in 1954). He first worked on missiles, but when NASA was created in 1960, he was on the agency’s first roster, and worked on Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite, and was then put in charge of guidance, navigation, electrical and computer systems for the manned Saturn rocket series. During the moon landing missions, “I refused any congratulation before they were safely back,” he said. “Of course, we were very proud.” Dr. Haeussermann died December 8 after a fall. He was 96.

From This is True for 12 December 2010