Doctor Wernher von Braun is an aerospace engineer for NASA. He was a leader in Apollo 11's Moon landing. He was a former engineer for the Waffen-SS and engineered the rocket which killed thousands of Londeners. He was also aware of the treatment of slave labourers which built the V-2. After this was exposed to the public, he was removed from NASA. von Braun also designed the Saturn V, which later exploded just as the Apollo 23 mission was ready for take-off.
At a press meeting, Deke is asked why they didn't land on the moon a month before when they had sent Apollo 10. Deke simply responded it was not on the mission plan, and von Braun supported him by saying the fuel levels on Apollo 10 were insufficient for a landing, and the spacecraft weighed too much for a landing, so it was never considered.
Later, at NASA, an alarm sounds. Margo Madison tells them the computer is rebooting, but they can still land. However, they do not listen to her, and decide to abort the landing. Wernher von Braun tells her the fault is hers because she hesitated.
At Deke's office, the former is reading Ed what he had said about NASA not having guts anymore. Deke tells him von Braun wants him reassigned to the Apollo Applications Project effective immediately, telling him he was to blame for being taken off Apollo 15, even mentioning that von Braun wanted him off the project completely. Deke tells him Apollo 15 may not even happen since everything everything would probably be cancelled after Apollo 11.
Margo and von Braun are talking in the latter's office and go see if they can effectively land on the moon. At Outpost, everybody cheers for Neil and the rest of the crew. The three started reaching the moon's surface, but could not find a good place to land, also with little fuel left. Asking Gene if they should abort, the director said it was up to Neil now. As they neared the surface, the crew became worried that they would hit something. As one of them warned, telemetric connection, as well as all other means of contact were lost.
NASA tried contacting them, but they were not reaching the crew. As time went by, NASA was still unable to reach Apollo 11. Von Braun concluded it was likely they had crashed. Since the Eagle had such thin "skin", Gene mentioned you could punch a hole in it with a screwdriver. They could have survived, as they had their suits on, but Deke mentioned there was no contingency plan, and von Braun mentioned it was impossible to perform a rescue on the lunar surface.
Mike, who was in orbit used a telescope and concluded Eagle was about six to eight miles southwest to the targeted landing site in a very rocky area, with no movement. Over four hours had passed, and Karen went with Marge, who told them to go to the Aldrin's and Armstrong's houses.
Deke went to von Braun and told them there was a problem since Michael Collins was refusing to return alone. All of a sudden, they received a transmission from Neil, who let them know that they had landed successfully. Everybody cheered, and Gene mentioned they would now focus on bringing them home again.
Gene Kranz does not feel confident about Neil Armstrong turning the Eagle to a vertical position as it would cost them a lot of fuel. He tells this to Wernher von Braun, but the latter is confident. Neil and Buzz Aldrin are authorized to turn the Eagle over, which they do by detaching the top part. They manage to fly again and reach Michael Collins, who was still waiting for them.
Von Braun talks to Thomas O. Paine who is worried about blueprints. However, von Braun does not believe they are a threat, but the Thomas wants von Braun to make blueprints for a military outpost on the moon and wants him to unveil the plan in his testimony for the committee beginning with Apollo 12 due to instructions from the president. However, von Braun refuses, saying that NASA is a scientific program, not military. Asking Deke if he would be willing to accept more men, he agrees, but mentions Apollo 12's flight is soon. Thomas mentions they may need to move it up a bit, but von Braun refused since they were being encroached and could not allow space to become another battlefield, but Thomas argued it already was.
Talking to Margo Madison, von Braun considers retiring, but Margo does not agree. Von Braun tells her to maybe consider dating someone, but Margo reminds him she does not have time. Changing the subject, von Braun mentions an interview with Gene, and Margo mentions she had not told him because it was something she wanted to do herself.
Later, at her office, Margo is joined by von Braun who says he is disappointed in him because she made him look bad. All this because he was the second to the moon, but she was the first woman in mission control. In a state of utter shock she hugs him, and von Braun congratulates her, giving her his ruler. With these news, Margo moves her things to mission control at her new station. When she arrives she is greeted with a hit dog, and all the men make fun of her, calling her Eva von Braun. When she sits down, a coworker tells her to not take it personal, as it was done with every new person.
At von Braun's conference with congressman Sandman, von Braun mentioned NASA would be pushing to land on Mars, Jupiter, or beyond the solar system, but Sandman argued the Soviets were pushing ahead with plans of a military base on the moon. However, von Braun believed it was time to go to other planets, as it was NASA's purpose. After Sandman told him he was being too cautious after the Apollo 1 fire, von Braun confirmed this, because unlike the Soviets, he cared about the lives of his astronauts. He quoted Neil Armstrong "we pick ourselves up and go back to work," earning the applause of everybody in the room. However, Sandman retaliated that von Braun had built the German V-2 rocket, which had killed many people in London, and von Braun stated his regret that his rockets were used in killing.
When von Braun stated that the questions did not have any relevance, Sandman revealed that von Braun had been a part of the Nazi organization known as the SS, which von Braun mentions was something he was forced into. Sandman turned what the engineer had stated as "caring for the lives" of his astronauts against him, asking if he also cared about the people in concentration camps who had built his rockets. He proceeded to show him photos of the dead workers who had participated in the building of his rockets, but von Braun argued he had no authority and asked him to understand.
Back at Nasa, von Braun told Margo that apparently the Soviets had launched another N-1 right ahead of Apollo 12. She ignored him and simply asked if he had known the workers at his factory were slaves from Nazi concentration camps. Von Braun was surprised by the question, and stated he needed to move his work forward, and mentioned if he had done something, he could have been killed and everything he had done would be ruined. However, Margo told him he can not state what "could have been." Wernher stated that after the war, he chose the USA to give his life's work, but now he was an old man and could be replaced. Margo once again asked him if he knew, and he simply stated that progress was never free, always having a cost. Margo left in silence.
On the day of the Apollo 12 launch, the USA neared peace with Vietnam as well as a lunar base on the moon. Gene led the exploit, asking everyone their status as von Braun left the building.
Margo visits von Braun, who asks her to come in to his house. She told him that she did not know why he wanted to see her. He changed the subject, telling her that she had left her father’s funeral without a word. Margo kept trying to get back on-topic, but von Braun distracted her.
At von Braun’s home, Margo and Wernher were having dinner. Von Braun could not believe Margo could not simply talk to him since they had known each other pretty much Margo’s entire life. Margo told him she forgave him, and to just give her the report, but von Braun told her that he wanted to tell her something her father never had, but that made no sense to Margo.
He told Margo about how he had met her father, and presented her with a suitcase, which contained something he mentioned he did not agree with. Before he started, he told Margo that her father loved her, which she did not see. However, von Braun mentioned that what he was telling her were facts that her father did not know how to tell her, but Margo did not agree since her father had been beyond “remote.”
Von Braun told her that during the war, her father had worked on very secret work for the government, which involved the Manhattan Project. Margo denied it, but von Braun presented her the files where it was explained that he worked on compressing a plutonium core to a critical mass through a spherical implosion, which led to the creation of the weapon that was used on Nagasaki. The bombing had a profound effect on her father, and both he and von Braun talked about the moral ramifications of the bomb, but Margo’s father ended up retreating from the world, and Margo.
Margo asks von Braun if she can keep the files, which he agrees to. She thanks him for having told her, and asks him for the report so she could go. Von Braun told her it was a long drive, so perhaps she could stay, which she refused since what they had talked about did not just wipe away everything that had happened between both of them. Von Braun reminisced with her, and told her he had pushed her when her father had wanted to but could not. Margo thanked him, but von Braun told her she was wasting her talent, not doing as well as Irene Hendricks. He asked her what she wanted to be doing in ten years; she said she would be running NASA, but von Braun told her she would not since she was not a team player. Margo defended herself, saying that she was in mission control, but von Braun told her that that was because he was her mentor, and Gene looked kindly upon her, but even with all her credentials, she was passed over for flight director which Wernher blamed her lack of social skills for. Margo once again asks him for the report, and von Braun gave it to her. He told her she had the key to her success in her hands, and told her to evaluate why the valve on the Apollo 23 had failed. He told her when he reviewed the supply chain for the Saturn, he found out the LH2 valve was manufactured by Kirkland Aerospace, which means NASA had changed the contractors in early 1973, asking why the change had been made.
Margo was going to read the report, but von Braun told her it was not necessary. The change in contract was so that Illinois would back the Equal Rights Amendment, so that the governor would be re-elected. Margo sat down, and wondered if Gene had only died for a political vote, but von Braun reminded her that eleven other men had also died. She mentioned the report would cause a fire in NASA, congress and the White House if it was made public. Margo asked why it would not be made public, and von Braun told her that the reason was that it holds potential to do great harm to the president, so the report would be buried. So, von Braun asked her who would benefit from the situation since every bureaucracy was corrupt.
Behind the scenes
Von Braun is one of various real-word figures to be played onscreen in For All Mankind. In the real world, von Braun was never terminated from NASA and continued working for the agency until he retired in 1972, due to health problems. During his lifetime, he was never publicly exposed for his war crimes, though some of his colleagues (such as Arthur Rudolph) were.