Second Center Director, March 1, 1970 - Jan. 19, 1973
us that it pays in unexpected ways to attempt to satisfy our curiosity
about the universe." So said Dr. Eberhard Rees, appointed as
the second Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center on March
1, 1970. Rees, who retired in 1973, is counted among the pioneers
of rocket and space research.
Born April 28, 1908, in Trossingen, Wuerttenberg, Germany, Rees
received his scientific and engineering education in Stuttgart and
at the Dresden Institute of Technology. His studies focused on thermodynamics,
engine design, production planning and methods development. After
graduating in 1934, he became assistant to the manager of a steel
mill in Leipzig, Germany. In 1940 he became technical plant manager
of the German Guided Missile Center at Peenemünde. As World
War II ended, Rees was among the German rocket experts that surrendered
to Allied forces and emigrated from Germany to work for the U. S.
Army. Initially assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, Rees and other members
of the Wernher von Braun team were eventually transferred to Redstone
Arsenal in Huntsville. Assigned to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency,
Rees served as Deputy Director of Development Operations.
On January 31, 1958, the von Braun team used a modified Jupiter-C
rocket to launch Explorer I, America's first orbiting satellite.
Two years later, with von Braun as Director and Rees as Deputy for
Technical and Scientific Matters, the Marshall Center was created.
There an expanded team would develop the Saturn rockets that launched
humans to the moon in 1969. As the Apollo program drew to a close,
von Braun transferred to NASA Headquarters, and Rees became Center
A von Braun biography, written by Marshall-retiree Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger,
quotes George Mueller, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space
Flight during the Apollo era: "Wernher and Eberhard were a
great team. Wernher was the outgoing one. Eberhard the practical
Rees was practical, and he was a realist when it came to space
program management. When the Apollo Saturn Program was inaugurated
in the early 1960s, the adolescent NASA organization had no comprehensive
management apparatus, space historian Roger Bilstein once wrote.
According to Rees, the system developed after '"some painful
experiences" during the early development period. Bilstein
captured Rees' frustration with one Saturn contractor. "For
me, it is just unbearable to deal further with a non-performing
contractor who has the government tightly over a barrel when it
comes to a multibillion dollar venture of such national importance
as the Apollo program."An official biographical sketch published
in 1972 by the Marshall Center said, "Dr. Rees is known for
his unrelenting insistence on technical excellence and meticulous
accuracy in performance."
As Von Braun's deputy, Rees ironed out the kinks in Saturn management.
As Marshall's second Center Director, he continued to manage the
Saturn/Apollo program and implemented Skylab. "With Skylab
we are not concerned primarily with flying a spacecraft. We are
concerned with the important aims of living and working in Earth
orbit and conducting the experiments that will eventually lead to
many beneficial results," said Rees, who also directed the
Lunar Roving Vehicle, a program once described as a "tribute
to his leadership."
Rees managed Marshall-related space hardware and tackled difficult
institutional challenges as well. As the Apollo program ended, the
Marshall Center faced the grim realities of workforce cuts and fiscal
reductions. Those who sacrificed during and following Saturn, and
those who survived to build the Shuttle were, said Rees, "the
bold ones who stepped out into this new frontier and made possible
these great new dreams and new benefits that mankind is only just
beginning to realize."
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