Skip to content
Saturn V, V-2 designer
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.
Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye
Curator of slave museum in Africa
Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye, 86, curator of Senegal's historic House of Slaves, died Feb. 6 in Dakar, according to an announcement from the country's culture ministry.
Ndiaye oversaw the memorial on Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal, for more than 40 years. The island was used to hold captured Africans before their perilous voyage to the Americas.
"He was the main architect of the defense of the memory of the Atlantic slave trade, the man most fervent and unrelenting against any revisionism," said Hamady Bocoum, director of cultural heritage at Senegal's Culture Ministry.
Ndiaye was born Oct. 15, 1922, in Rufisque, near Dakar. He was among the soldiers from French colonies who fought for France during World War II and the Vietnam War.
After leaving the service, he worked for a time in business before dedicating his efforts to the House of Slaves.
Over the years, he hosted a number of famous visitors, including President Clinton, South African President Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II.
Japan's oldest kabuki actor
Matagoro Nakamura, 94, believed to be Japan's oldest kabuki actor, died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Tokyo, according to the Japan Times newspaper.
Known for his ability to perform a wide range of supporting roles in the centuries-old traditional art, Nakamura's last main appearance on stage was in April 2006, according to the Mainichi newspaper.
The son of a kabuki actor, Nakamura was born Yukio Nakamura in 1913. He debuted in Japan's classical theatrical art at age 8 and earned great acclaim for his graceful acting style that allowed him to look natural in a variety of roles ranging from a young woman to an elderly man.
Since the 1970s, the Tokyo native had devoted himself to nurturing young kabuki actors and lecturing on the traditional art overseas.
He was named a living national treasure in 1997.
Former chairman of Icelandair
Sigurdur Helgason, 87, the Icelandic airline executive who pioneered cheap flights that carried legions of backpackers between Europe and the United States in the 1960s and '70s, died Feb. 8 on Mustique, a tiny private island in the Caribbean, an Icelandair spokesman said. No cause of death was given.
Helgason, who reportedly spent winters on Mustique after retiring, was chief executive of Icelandair from 1974 to 1984 and then chairman of the board until 1991.
He was running Icelandic Airlines' U.S. operation in New York when it gained a big following among 20-somethings for its cheap flights to Luxembourg via Iceland, said the spokesman, Gudjon Arngrimsson.
Icelandic merged with another airline in 1973 to become Icelandair, the country's flagship carrier.
"This idea of using Iceland as a hub between Europe and the U.S. . . . That was the big break. In the '60s this really took off," Arngrimsson said.
Helgason was born July 20, 1921, in Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. He earned a business degree from Columbia University in New York in 1947.
-- times staff and wire reports