Wernher von Braun was brought from Germany to the United States at the end of World War II, to develop missiles for the U.S. Army. In addition to working for the military, he helped to popularize the concept of spaceflight through magazine articles and appearances on the Disneyland television show. After NASA was created, he became the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Von Braun made many public appearances through the Mercury, Gemini, and start of the Apollo eras.

However, Von Braun seemed to have disappeared from public view once the manned Apollo missions began. (Perhaps NASA then wanted to portray the moon landings as a uniquely American accomplishment.) Indeed, because of his absence, I had mistakenly thought until only recently that von Braun had died before the moon landings. (He actually saw the moon landings, retired from NASA in 1972, and died in 1977.)

Did NASA try to keep von Braun out of the public eye during the moon landings? Please support your answer with quotes on the matter from von Braun, astronauts, other NASA employees, or politicians who would know the answer. The presence or absence of on-line videos are not acceptable evidence for an answer.

  • $\begingroup$ "The presence or absence of on-line videos are not acceptable evidence for an answer." -- is this because they don't bear on whether NASA tried to keep him out of the public eye, or for some other reason? $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jul 17 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove: The question is about the reasons why he seemed to disappear. Finding a video of him does not answer the why question. A lesser concern is that answers would become an exercise of finding von Braun videos. $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon Jul 17 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know the real answer, but I read that enabling manned, interplanetary space flight was von Braun's life-long passion. I can imagine some interesting political fallout if any rumor got started that the idea to "send a man to the Moon and return him safely back to Earth" had originated with some former Nazi scientist, instead of our red-blooded, all-American, young president. $\endgroup$ – Solomon Slow Jul 17 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ Von Braun wrote in Time Magazine, published on July 25, 1969. I'm not a Time subscriber, but it doesn't look as though NASA "muzzled" Von Braun's hope that man would reach Mars in the early 80's. $\endgroup$ – Snow Jul 18 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ Walter Cronkite interviewed him on national TV just before the launch of Apollo 17. He had left NASA a few months before that and was working for Fairchild Republic though. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jul 22 at 17:19

It seems like it had to do more with overall politics, funding, goals of human space program than with his German/Nazi background. NASA transferred him to HQ to be responsible for "Planning" in March 1970 and he retired from NASA shortly thereafter i 1972 "after a series of conflicts associated with the truncation of the Apollo program" according to his Wikipedia article.

See also an article by George Mueller here with similar implications. Mueller states that "Despite Dr. von Braun's continuing efforts to build a foundation for public understanding of the importance of the space program, however, public and congressional support was declining. So, too, was NASA's budget. Seeking new challenges, Dr. von Braun resigned from the Agency in 1972 and joined an aerospace company, Fairchild Industries."

So more than an actual keeping him from the public eye, it seems more like a gradual disengagement on the part of both parties due to a difference in the future trajectory of the program. And of course once he went into private industry a whole new set of rules would apply. I'm guessing you will never get a verifiable answer due to the political nature of the question.


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