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Another of von Braun Rocket Team Retiring from Marshall

November 18, 1986

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) _ Georg von Tiesenhausen, one of the last members of the famous German rocket team that launched the U.S. space program, says he plans to retire from his post at Marshall Space Flight Center in two weeks.

During his 43-year career, von Tiesenhausen, 72, participated in the development of the space program that grew from the Germans’ knowledge of V-2 rockets in World War II.

Since the feverish race to the moon, von Tiesenhausen won fame as Marshall’s resident dreamer. His ideas for sending self-replicating robots to the moon are now getting serious attention.

The proposal called for robots that would mine and refine materials from lunar soil to make the parts they could then assemble into additional robots.

″I’ve always wanted to retire while I’m ahead of the game, to quit while I’m ahead, and I am doing that,″ von Tiesenhausen said in an interview with The Birmingham News.

Von Tiesenhausen’s departure leaves Werner Dahm, 69, Marshall’s chief of aerophysics, as the most prominent member of the German team still at the space center.

Von Tiesenhausen said he intended to write about the ″dirty politics″ that affected the German team and its leader, the late Wernher von Braun.

The von Braun team of several hundred scientists and engineers were demoted, encouraged to retire or simply laid off at Marshall following the spectacular successes of the Apollo missions in the early 1970s, von Tiesenhausen said.

The team’s demise paralleled a cutback in the space program that only rebounded with a decision to develop the space shuttle and plan a permanent space station.

Von Tiesenhausen remained with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration when most of his colleagues left ″because I had no choice.″ He accepted a pay cut and worked on proposals for the space station and ideas for using tethers to help launch orbiting satellites with less fuel.

Von Braun, the first director of the Marshall center, was transferred to a NASA headquarters job in Washington as ″jealousy and politics″ scattered his team, von Tiesenhausen said.

Von Braun finally left the agency to die of cancer ″a disappointed man,″ von Tiesenhausen said.

Another member of the German team, Arthur Rudolph, gave up his U.S. citizenship and returned voluntarily to West Germany after being accused of war crimes during World War II.

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