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February 24, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Konrad Dannenberg, 96, a German rocket scientist who was part of Wernher von Braun's team that helped put the first American astronauts on the moon, died Feb. 16 of natural causes at a Huntsville, Ala., rehabilitation center.

Dannenberg had a role in developing America's key space rockets -- the Redstone, the Jupiter and the rocket that carried American astronauts to the moon in 1969, Saturn V.

Once part of Germany's war machine, Dannenberg and other Von Braun team members were brought to the U.S. to compete against the Soviet Union for supremacy in space.

Dannenberg was born in Weissenfels, Germany, and earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Hanover.

During World War II, Dannenberg, who was not a member of the Nazi Party, left the battlefield to work on the V-2 rocket at the German army's research center at Peenemunde. The V-2 became a deadly and destructive missile launched at Allied targets.

In an interview with the Associated Press on the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing, Dannenberg said that of all the rocket launches, the test launch of the V-2 on Oct. 3, 1942, stood out the most for him. It soared 53 miles high, just past the 50-mile point where space begins. It was the first rocket to break that barrier.

After retiring from NASA in 1973, Dannenberg became a speaker at Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center program in Huntsville.

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