Dr. Robert Gilruth

Robert Gilruth.
Robert Gilruth

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[Note: The following is as published in the Spring, 1992 program book (author unknown). After a long struggle with Alzheimer's, Dr. Gilruth died on August 17, 2000 in Charlottesville, VA.]

This year the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement has chosen to present The Corona, a special life time achievement award, to Dr. Robert Rowe Gilruth. Often referred to as the Father of Manned Spaceflight, Dr. Gilruth's entire life has been dedicated to the exploration of space.

A pioneer in his field, Dr. Gilruth was an inspiration to many, an individual who had the vision to see the challenges and potentials of space. Upon graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor and Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, he joined the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1936. At the Laboratory, Dr. Gilruth began his career in flight research, with his principal work involving the field of stability, control and handling qualities of airplanes.

In 1945, Dr. Gilruth was assigned the job of organizing a research group and constructing a facility for conducting free-flight experiments with rocket powered models for investigating flight of transonic and supersonic speed. This activity resulted in the development of the NACA Pilotless Aircraft Research Division, which later great into the NASA-Wallops Island launching site.

He was appointed Assistant Director of the Langley Laboratory in 1952. In this position, he was responsible for directing research efforts in hypersonic aerodynamics at the Wallops Island Station and in high-temperature structures and dynamic loads at the Langley Laboratory.

In October of 1958, Dr. Gilruth became the Director of the Space Task Group at Langley Field, Virginia. This Group was responsible for the design, development and flight operations of Project Mercury, the United State's first manned space flight program.

In 1961, he brought his vision of spaceflight to the Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Johnson Space Center). As Director, he guided the center in the development of space craft for manned slight, in the selection and training of flight crews and in the conduct of space flight missions.

In January 1972, Dr. Gilruth took on a new position with NASA as Director of Key Personnel Development, reporting to the Deputy Administrator in Washington, D. C. Here he was responsible for identifying near and long range potential candidates for key jobs in the Agency and for creating plans and procedures which would aid in the development of these candidates. Dr. Gilruth officially retired from NASA in 1973, but was appointed as a consultant to the Administrator in 1974, where he continued to provide valuable guidance to the nation's space program.

During his career, Dr. Gilruth has received numerous honors from aeronautical and rocket research societies, as well as universities. He was among the first ten individuals selected for the National Space Hall of Fame and was one of 35 original inductees into the International Hall of Fame.

It is the Foundation's great pleasure to present Dr. Gilruth with The Corona. Without his vision and guidance, space exploration as we know it would not exist.

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