V-2 rockets like this one, developed in Peenemünde, Germany, by legendary scientist Wernher von Braun, used alcohol and liquid oxygen as fuel, and could carry a 748-kilogram (1,650-pound) warhead 362 kilometers (225 miles). The Wehrmacht, or Nazi military, may have used nearly 3,000 V-2s against targets in England and Belgium.
Photograph courtesy the Marshall Space Flight Center

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  • On October 3, 1942, a rocket was launched from Peenemünde, Germany. The rocket traveled about 90 kilometers (56 miles) into the atmosphere before safely landing exactly where its engineers directed it, 193 kilometers (120 miles) away. This rocket, the first ballistic missile to reach outer space, started the Space Age.
    The rocket was developed by engineers of the Wehrmacht, or Nazi military. Originally called an A-4, the rocket was later re-named the V-2, and used for assaults on Allied targets in London, England, and Antwerp, Belgium.
    After the war, American and Soviet scientists raced to recruit Wehrmacht engineers to join their teams. Wernher von Braun, the engineer who eventually led the American space program, has been called “the greatest rocket scientist in history.” Von Braun’s development of the V-2 led to his design of the Saturn family of rocket boosters that helped send men to the Moon
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    assault Noun

    violent attack.

    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    ballistic missile Noun

    projectile that moves on its own momentum and the forces of gravity and air resistance.

    design Verb

    to plan and outline.

    develop Verb

    to expand or grow.

    engineer Noun

    person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

    eventually Adverb

    at some point in the future.

    launch Verb

    to start or instigate.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    Moon Noun

    Earth's only natural satellite.

    Nazi noun, adjective

    (1919-1945) (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) having to do with the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

    outer space Noun

    space beyond Earth's atmosphere.

    recruit Verb

    to work to supply a group with new members.

    rocket Noun

    device that moves through the atmosphere by release of expanding gas.

    rocket booster Noun

    rocket used to augment a vehicle's thrust in order to exit Earth's atmosphere and dropped back to Earth once its fuel is used up.

    Soviet Adjective

    having to do with the Soviet Union and the areas it influenced.

    Space Age Noun

    time characterized by national and business investment in space exploration and space technology, often dated from the launch of the Sputnik satellite (1957) or the development of the V-2 rocket (1942).

    target Noun

    person or object accused of something.

    travel Noun

    movement from one place to another.

    war Noun

    large-scale armed conflict.