- Associated Press - Thursday, February 3, 2011

The first person to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, made a rare public appearance at Alabama’s space center Thursday to honor a NASA pioneer who helped figure out how to drive a rover on the moon.

Armstrong, 80, presented an award at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville to Georg von Tiesenhausen, 96, whom the former astronaut warmly called “Dr. von T.”

“It’s very comfortable for me to be in the company of many old associates,” said Armstrong, who has made infrequent public speeches since landing on the moon in 1969. He has since taught, worked in industry and served on two panels that investigated NASA accidents, including the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

Standing under a full-size Saturn V test rocket from the Apollo program, Armstrong praised von Tiesenhausen as a space visionary, a great teacher and a topflight engineer.

“He is and has been a person who imagines what can be, and he has the skills to convert that imagine into reality,” said Armstrong, whose remarks broadcast over the Internet.

Von Tiesenhausen was among dozens of engineers who helped develop V-2 rockets for Germany during World War II and moved to the United States after the fighting ended. They formed the backbone of the fledgling U.S. space program at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Working under Wernher von Braun, von Tiesenhausen helped design the battery-powered rover that astronauts drove on the lunar surface during the last three Apollo missions to the moon in 1971 and 1972.

The tribute honored von Tiesenhausen both as an innovative space designer from decades ago and an engaged, inquisitive man who still works with students, has an up-to-date cell phone and knows about pop sensation Lady Gaga.

Von Tiesenhausen, who received a lifetime achievement award in education from the state-operated space museum, only recently gave up lecturing to students.

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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