Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Wernher von Braun, fully Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun

German-American Rocket Scientist, Aerospace Engineer, Space Architect and Developer of Rocket Technology

"Part of human nature resents change, loves equilibrium, while another part welcomes novelty, loves the excitement of disequilibrium. There is no formula for the resolution of this tug-of-war, but it is obvious that absolute surrender to either of them invites disaster."

"Ethics alone will decide whether atomic energy will be an earthly blessing or the source of mankind’s utter destruction."

"A human being is the best computer available to place in a spacecraft. . . It is also the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor."

"Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing."

"Can a physicist visualize an electron? The electron is materially inconceivable and yet, it is so perfectly known through its effects that we use it to illuminate our cities, guide our airlines through the night skies and take the most accurate measurements. What strange rationale makes some physicists accept the inconceivable electrons as real while refusing to accept the reality of a Designer on the ground that they cannot conceive Him?"

"Crash programs fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month."

"Development of the space station is as inevitable as the rising of the sun; man has already poked his nose into space and he is not likely to pull it back. There can be no thought of finishing, for aiming at the stars—both literally and figuratively—is the work of generations, and no matter how much progress one makes, there is always the thrill of just beginning."

"Don't tell me that man doesn't belong out there. Man belongs wherever he wants to go - and he'll do plenty well when he gets there."

"For me, the idea of a creation is not conceivable without invoking the necessity of design. One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be design and purpose behind it all."

"For my confirmation, I didn't get a watch and my first pair of long pants, like most Lutheran boys. I got a telescope. My mother thought it would make the best gift."

"I believe in an immortal soul. Science has proved that nothing disintegrates into nothingness. Life and soul, therefore, cannot disintegrate into nothingness, and so are immortal."

"I have learned to use the word impossible with the greatest caution."

"I only hope that we shall not wait to adopt the program until after our astronomers have reported a new and unsuspected aster[oid] moving across their fields of vision with menacing speed. At that point it will be too late!"

"If our intention had been merely to bring back a handful of soil and rocks from the lunar gravel pit and then forget the whole thing, we would certainly be history's biggest fools. But that is not our intention now—it never will be. What we are seeking in tomorrow’s [Apollo 11] trip is indeed that key to our future on earth. We are expanding the mind of man. We are extending this God-given brain and these God-given hands to their outermost limits and in so doing all mankind will benefit. All mankind will reap the harvest…. What we will have attained when Neil Armstrong steps down upon the moon is a completely new step in the evolution of man."

"I'm convinced that before the year 2000 is over, the first child will have been born on the moon."

"In this age of space flight, when we use the modern tools of science to advance into new regions of human activity, the Bible ... this grandiose, stirring history of the gradual revelation and unfolding of the moral law ... remains in every way an up-to-date book. Our knowledge and use of the laws of nature that enable us to fly to the Moon also enable us to destroy our home planet with the atom bomb. Science itself does not address the question whether we should use the power at our disposal for good or for evil. The guidelines of what we ought to do are furnished in the moral law of God. It is no longer enough that we pray that God may be with us on our side. We must learn again that we may be on God's side."

"It [space travel] will free man from his remaining chains, the chains of gravity which still tie him to this planet. It will open to him the gates of heaven."

"It is in scientific honesty that I endorse the presentation of alternative theories for the origin of the universe, life and man in the science classroom. It would be an error to overlook the possibility that the universe was planned rather than happening by chance."

"Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft, and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor"

"My experiences with science led me to God. They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun?"

"My friends there was dancing here in the streets of Huntsville when our first satellite orbited the earth. There was dancing again when the first Americans landed on the moon. I'd like to ask you, don't hang up your dancing slippers."

"Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me—and continues to teach me—strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace."

"One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions."

"Our sun is one of 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Our galaxy is one of billions of galaxies populating the universe. It would be the height of presumption to think that we are the only living things in that enormous immensity."

"Our two greatest problems are gravity and paper work. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming."

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."

"Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently."

"The best computer is a man, and it's the only one that can be mass-produced by unskilled labor"

"The greatest gain from space travel consists in the extension of our knowledge. In a hundred years this newly won knowledge will pay huge and unexpected dividends."

"There is just one thing I can promise you about the outer-space program -- your tax-dollar will go further."

"Upon surrendering with his rocket team to the Americans in 1945: We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else. We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured."

"We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming."

"We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else. We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured."

"You can’t have a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."