Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Deceased--Konrad Dannenberg

Konrad Dannenberg
August 5th, 1912 to February 16th, 2009

"Dannenberg a true space ambassador"


Patricia C. McCarter

February 17th, 2009

The Huntsville Times

He helped create moon rocket, but was most proud of teaching kids

Yes, Konrad Dannenberg played a huge role in creating the rocket that took man to the moon.

But he served an equally important function in motivating future engineers and astronauts as a lecturer at Space Camp for years after his retirement from NASA.

Dannenberg, who died Monday morning at the age of 96, gave immediate credibility to the program at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center when he signed on as an educator. He didn't just stand in a classroom and give children lessons on propulsion.

"He'd lead them all over the center, explaining things to them and getting them so excited about the possibilities in space," said Ed Buckbee, a former NASA spokesman who was tapped by American space program patriarch Wernher von Braun to be the first director of the Space & Rocket Center.

Buckbee, who came to work for NASA in 1961, said he first got to know Dannenberg as the "smoke and fire guy" because he was instrumental in developing the Redstone, Jupiter and Saturn rockets. The Saturn was the one that put the first American astronaut on the moon.

"Konrad came to us as a lecturer and a mentor, and he personally engaged with thousands of young people, taking his time to share with them his experiences of flying people into space," Buckbee said.

"The great thing about Konrad is that he never quit thinking and he never quit dreaming. He was truly an ambassador for space."

In those teaching moments with space campers or in one-on-one conversations, Buckbee said Dannenberg always credited other members of the rocket team he worked with. Seeking glory wasn't the scientist's thing, Buckbee said. He just wanted to communicate the story of space travel.

Buckbee said Dannenberg took pride in the fact that he could explain the intricacies of propulsion and physics to anyone, no matter how new they were to the concept.

"He got that from von Braun, who was one of the best at speaking to your level," he said.

With Dannenberg's death, only a half dozen of the original 118 German scientists who came to Huntsville in 1950 with von Braun remain living.

"As mayor, and on behalf of the City of Huntsville, I'd like to express our sadness at the loss of a true pioneer," Mayor Tommy Battle said Monday. "Konrad Dannenberg's leadership and vision lifted our city, our state and our country to heights that had never before been achieved," he said.

"We will be forever reminded of his accomplishments every time we look to the sky and see the moon. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Walter Jacobi, 91, worked alongside Dannenberg as a design engineer during the development of the various rocket programs on Redstone Arsenal. He agreed with Buckbee that the rocket scientist put great value on his work at the Space & Rocket Center.

"He really did something excellent for those young people," said Jacobi, who still lives in Huntsville. "He worked very hard with Space Camp. It was his baby, you know."

When asked how she thought her husband would like to be remembered, Jackie Dannenberg said Monday that it would be as a man who encouraged young people to "make the most of themselves and to hopefully pursue a career in engineering and the space program."

"He encouraged them, literally, to reach for the stars," she said.

She came to know Dannenberg when she was a student at adult space camp in 1988. At the time, she was working for a mail order company in Connecticut, and she was so fascinated by space travel, she used vacation time to come learn all she could.

"Konrad said I had too many questions, so he just married me," she said.

The widow said Dannenberg didn't want a wake or visitation, but there will be a memorial service open to the public at the Davidson Center at the Space & Rocket Center at 2 p.m. on Friday.

She said her husband will be cremated and buried in Maple Hill Cemetery next to his first wife, Ingeborg. Dannenberg and Ingeborg had a son, Klaus Dieter Dannenberg, who has two children and four grandchildren.

Fittingly, Dannenberg's memorial service will take place beneath the massive Saturn V that's hanging in the Davidson Center.

"There was no bigger space enthusiast than him," she said. "He said he told Wernher he felt guilty for taking a paycheck because he was having so much fun."

And he looked at rocketry as a lifesaver, she said.

"Otherwise, he would've ended up dead on the Russian front," she said of the man who was plucked from the battlefield during World War II to work at the German Army's Research and Development Center in Peenemnde.

"After his (former Army) unit went into Russia, only one came back, and he was a quadriplegic."

Konrad Dannenberg

No comments: