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Dr. Robert R. Gilruth (right), Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) Director, sits with Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr., MSC Director of Flight Operations, at his flight operations director console in the Mission Control Center, bldg 30, during the Apollo 5 (LM-1/Saturn 204) unmanned space mission launch. NASA Photo ID: S68-18733
Born October 8, 1913
Died August 17, 2000
Robert R. Gilruth was born in Nashwauk, Minnesota on 8 October 1913. He developed a strong interest in aviation at an early age and with Charles Lindberghs historic flight in 1927, resolved to enter the field of aeronautics. In 1936, he was awarded a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering position with the National Advisory Committee (NACA) at Langley Field, Virginia.
Initially, his principal work at NACA was in the field of stability, control and handling qualities of airplanes. In 1945, Dr. Gilruth was assigned the responsibility of organizing a research group and the construction of a facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. Their investigations of flight in the transonic and supersonic speed range began with rocket-powered models. Later these responsibilities were expanded to encompass research in hypersonic aerodynamics, high temperature structures and dynamic loads.
With the beginning of the space age and the creation of NASA, Dr. Gilruth was charged with the task of putting man in orbit around the earth (Project Mercury) as a first step in achieving the goal of lunar exploration. Subsequent to the success of Project Mercury in 1961, he was selected to organize and direct the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. He was responsible for the design and development of spacecraft, selection and training of flight crews, and planning and control of missions necessary to put Man on the Moon (Project Apollo). In this, role he also conceived and directed the Gemini Program, which tested spacecraft, rendezvous, docking and flight control procedures in Earth orbit. The ultimate success of the Apollo manned lunar landings are directly attributable to Dr. Gilruths courage to explore the unknown, his insistence on sound step-by-step advances, and his great qualities of leadership and technical expertise.
Invested 1992 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame
Dr. Gilruth received honorary degrees from at least five universities. Gilruth is enshrined in the both the National Space Hall of Fame and International Aerospace Hall of Fame and has received numerous honors, including the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Service and the prestigious Collier Trophy from the National Aviation Club. Dr. Gilruth retired from NASA in 1973. He died at the age of 86 in Charlottesville, VA, due to complications from his Alheimer's disease.
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