Encyclopedia Astronautica
Gilruth



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Gilruth
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Gilruth
Credit: NASA
Gilruth, Robert R (1913-2000) American engineer, at NASA 1937-1952. Head of Mercury, 1959-1962, Director, Houston, 1962-1972. Under his leadership Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo were designed and flown, America won the moon race, and the shuttle was designed.

Gilruth's father was a high school physics teacher; his mother a math teacher. As a 13-year-old boy in Duluth, news of Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic gave him the aviation bug, and he became a master model airplane builder. He went to the University of Minnesota and got a masters degree in aeronautical engineering. While there he was deeply involved in the design and wind tunnel testing of the Laird Meteor racing plane, which seized the world speed record in 1935. Gilruth went straight to NACA's Langley Aeronautical Laboratory after graduation in 1937. In 1946 he was named chief of the pilotless aircraft research division at Wallops Island, then named an Assistant Director at Langley from 1952. By then he already began exploring the possibility of human spaceflight , putting together an informal group that studied the technical and aerodynamic problems of getting into space and returning to earth.

As a result of this advanced work, when NACA was transformed into NASA, he was named Assistant Director for Manned Satellites and head of Project Mercury in 1959. Three years later NASA moved its manned spaceflight activities to Houston, where Gilruth was Director from 1962-1972. Under his leadership NASA developed the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft, successfully trained for and flew the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo manned programs, won the moon race, and designed the Space Shuttle.

Birth Place: Nashwauk, Minnesota.


Born: 1913.10.08.
Died: 2000.08.17.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
Bibliography
  • Launius, Roger D, NASA Chief Historian, NASA History Office Home Page, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Gray, Mike, Angle of Attack: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon, Penguin Reprint edition, 1994.

Gilruth Chronology


1944 December 9 - .
  • Wallops Island Launch Site founded. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. A meeting was held at the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, to discuss the formation of an organization that would devote its efforts to the study of stability and maneuverability of high-speed weapons (guided missiles). From the outset, work was pointed toward supersonic flight testing. In early 1945, Congress was asked for a supplemental appropriation to fund the activation of such a unit, and in the spring of that year the Auxiliary Flight Research Station (AFRS - later known as the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division) was opened on Wallops Island, Virginia, with Robert R. Gilruth as its director. On July 4, 1945, the AFRS launched its first test vehicle, a small two-stage, solid-fuel rocket to check out the installation's instrumentation.

1958 March - .
  • NACA design concepts to achieve manned orbital flights. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Spacecraft: Mercury. Robert R. Gilruth, Clotaire Wood, and Hartley A. Soule of NACA transmitted a document to the Air Research and Development Command, which listed the design concepts NACA believed should be followed to achieve manned orbital flights at the earliest possible date. These were: (1) design and develop a simple ballistic vehicle, (2) use existing intercontinental ballistic missile propulsion systems, and (3) use the heat sink method for reentry from orbital conditions.

1958 September 24-October 1 - .
  • Basic plan for a manned satellite program. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Faget. Program: Mercury. A series of meetings were held in Washington, with Robert R. Gilruth serving as chairman to draft a manned satellite program and provide a basic plan for meeting the objectives of this program. Others attending included S. B. Batdorf, A. J. Eggers, Maxime A. Faget, George Low, Warren North, Walter C. Williams, and Robert C. Youngquist.

1958 November 5 - .
  • Space Task Group (STG) organized to implement the manned satellite project - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Glennan; Gilruth. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Mercury. The Space Task Group (STG) was officially organized at Langley Field, Va., to implement the manned satellite project (later Project Mercury), NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan had approved the formation of the Group, which had been working together for some months, on October 7. Its members were designated on November 3 by Robert R. Gilruth, Project Manager, and authorization was given by Floyd L. Thompson, Acting Director of Langley Research Center. STG would report directly to NASA Headquarters.

1959 April 12 - .
  • Mercury impact tests - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Mercury. Spacecraft: Mercury. Summary: Tests were in progress at Langley in which an aluminium honeycomb structure was used partially to absorb the spacecraft impact load. Robert R. Gilruth, Project Mercury Director, had stated his belief of this requirement on January 16, 1959..

1959 May 27 - .
  • STG staff discusses the possibility of an advanced manned spacecraft - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Faget; Low, George; Chamberlin. Program: Apollo. Director Robert R. Gilruth met with members of his STG staff (Paul E. Purser, Charles J. Donlan, James A. Chamberlin, Raymond L. Zavasky, W. Kemble Johnson, Charles W. Mathews, Maxime A. Faget, and Charles H. Zimmeman) and George M. Low from NASA Headquarters to discuss the possibility of an advanced manned spacecraft.

1959 June 4 - .
  • Post-Mercury program using maneuverable Mercury spacecraft - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Mercury. Summary: At an STG staff meeting, Director Robert R. Gilruth suggested that study should be made of a post-Mercury program in which maneuverable Mercury spacecraft would make land landings in limited areas..

1959 June 4 - .
  • Mercury follow-on program using maneuverable Mercury capsules. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Spacecraft: Mercury Mark I. Summary: At a staff meeting, Space Task Group Director Robert R. Gilruth suggested studying a Mercury follow-on program using maneuverable Mercury capsules for land landings in predetermined areas. .

1959 November 2 - .
  • Planning of advanced spacecraft systems begun - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Faget; Chamberlin; Johnson, Caldwell. Program: Apollo. At an STG meeting, it was decided to begin planning of advanced spacecraft systems. Three primary assignments were made:
    1. The preliminary design of a multi-man (probably three-man) capsule for a circumlunar mission, with particular attention to the use of the capsule as a temporary space laboratory, lunar landing cabin, and deep-space probe;
    2. Mission analysis studies to establish exit and reentry corridors, weights, and propulsion requirements;
    3. Test program planning to decide on the number and purpose of launches.
    Additional Details: here....

1960 January - .
  • Name Apollo suggested - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Faget; Silverstein. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. At a luncheon in Washington, Abe Silverstein, Director of the Office of Space Flight Programs, suggested the name "Apollo" for the manned space flight program that was to follow Mercury. Others at the luncheon were Don R. Ostrander from NASA Headquarters and Robert R. Gilruth, Maxime A. Faget, and Charles J. Donlan from STG.

1960 May 5 - .
  • STG and Grumman discuss advanced spacecraft programs - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Faget; Chamberlin. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM; LM Source Selection. Robcrt R. Gilruth, Paul E. Purser, James A. Chamberlin, Maxime A. Faget, and H. Kurt Strass of STG met with a group from the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation to discuss advanced spacecraft programs. Grumman had been working on guidance requirements for circumlunar flights under the sponsorship of the Navy and presented Strass with a report of this work.

1960 May 25 - .
  • Advanced Vehicle Team to make preliminary design for advanced multiman spacecraft - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Maynard. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. Summary: STG formed the Advanced Vehicle Team, reporting directly to Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the Mercury program. The Team would conduct research and make preliminary design studies for an advanced multiman spacecraft.. Additional Details: here....

1961 February 13 - .
  • NASA and McDonnell began discussions of an advanced Mercury spacecraft. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Faget; Chamberlin. Program: Gemini. Spacecraft: Gemini. McDonnell had been studying the concept of a maneuverable Mercury spacecraft since 1959. On February 1, Space Task Group (STG) Director Robert R. Gilruth assigned James A. Chamberlin, Chief, STG Engineering Division, who had been working with McDonnell on Mercury for more than a year, to institute studies with McDonnell on improving Mercury for future manned space flight programs. Additional Details: here....

1961 May 7 - . LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 2.
  • Titan II proposed for lunar landing program - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Seamans; Silverstein. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Gemini LOR. Albert C. Hall of The Martin Company proposed to Robert C. Seamans, Jr., NASA's Associate Administrator, that the Titan II be considered as a launch vehicle in the lunar landing program. Although skeptical, Seamans arranged for a more formal presentation the next day. Abe Silverstein, NASA's Director of Space Flight Programs, was sufficiently impressed to ask Director Robert R. Gilruth and STG to study the possible uses of Titan II. Silverstein shortly informed Seamans of the possibility of using the Titan II to launch a scaled-up Mercury spacecraft.

1961 May 8 - . LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 2.
  • Martin briefed NASA on the Titan II weapon system. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Seamans. Program: Gemini. Spacecraft: Gemini; Mercury Mark I. Martin Company personnel briefed NASA officials in Washington, D.C., on the Titan II weapon system. Albert C. Hall of Martin had contacted NASA's Associate Administrator, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., on April 7 to propose the Titan II as a launch vehicle for a lunar landing program. Although skeptical, Seamans nevertheless arranged for a more formal presentation. Abe Silverstein, NASA Director, Office of Space Flight Programs, was sufficiently impressed by the Martin briefing to ask Director Robert R. Gilruth and Space Task Group to study possible Titan II uses. Silverstein shortly informed Seamans of the possibility of using the Titan II to launch a scaled-up Mercury spacecraft.

1961 May 18-31 - .
  • Apollo A - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Spacecraft: Apollo A. Space Task Group Director Robert R. Gilruth informed Ames Research Center that current planning for Apollo 'A' called for an adapter between the Saturn second stage and the Apollo spacecraft to include, as an integral part, a section to be used as an orbiting laboratory. Preliminary in-house configuration designs indicated this laboratory would be a cylindrical section about 3.9 m in diameter and 2.4 m in height. Additional Details: here....

1961 May 26-27 - .
  • First conference on the "Peaceful Uses of Space" - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Summary: The first conference on the 'Peaceful Uses of Space' was held at Tulsa, Oklahoma. A second conference on this subject was held at Seattle, Washington, on May 8-10, 1962. In both instances, Robert R. Gilruth reported on the manned space flight aspect..

1961 July 18 - .
  • NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Apollo. Class: Moon. Type: Manned lunar spacecraft. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Source Selection. 1,000 persons from 300 potential Project Apollo contractors and government agencies attended the conference. STG pushed the conical CM shape, in defiance of Gilruth's preference for the competitive blunt body/lifting body designs. Scientists from NASA, the General Electric Company, The Martin Company, and General Dynamics/Astronautics presented the results of studies on Apollo requirements. Within the next four to six weeks NASA was expected to draw up the final details and specifications for the Apollo spacecraft.

1961 September 24 - .
  • NASA reorganization - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Holmes, Brainard; Silverstein; Webb; Dixon. Program: Mercury. NASA Administrator Webb announced major organizational changes and top-level appointments to become effective November 1. The reorganization should provide a clearer focus on major programs and allow center directors to have a louder voice in policy making. The new appointments included the following Directors of major program offices: Ira H. Abbott, Office of Advanced Research and Technology; Homer E. Newell, Office of Space Sciences; D. Brainerd Holmes, Office of Manned Space Flight; and an as yet unnamed Director of Office of Applications Programs. Also, Thomas F. Dixon was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator; Abe Silverstein was named Director of the Lewis Research Center, and Robert R. Gilruth was chosen Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center.

1961 November 1 - .
  • STG redesignated the Manned Spacecraft Center - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Apollo. Summary: The Space Task Group was formally redesignated the Manned Spacecraft Center, Robert R. Gilruth, Director..

1961 December 7 - . LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 2.
  • Two-man Mercury Mark II spacecraft announced - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Gemini. Spacecraft: Gemini. Plans for the development of a two-man Mercury spacecraft were announced by Robert R. Gilruth, MSC Director. The two-man spacecraft, to be built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, would be similar in shape to the Mercury spacecraft but slightly larger and two to three times heavier. Its booster rocket would be a modified Air Force Titan II, scheduled for flight test in early 1962. One of the major objectives in the program would be a test of orbital rendezvous, in which the two-man spacecraft would be launched into orbit by the Titan II and attempt to rendezvous with an Agena stage launched by an Atlas rocket. The total cost for a dozen two-man spacecraft plus boosters and other equipment was estimated at $500 million.

1961 December 7 - .
  • Plans for Gemini announced - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Mercury. Spacecraft: Gemini. Summary: Plans for the development of a 2-man Mercury spacecraft were announced by Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center. On January 3, 1962, this program was designated Project Gemini..

1961 December 7 - . LV Family: Atlas; Titan.
  • NASA announced plans to develop a two-man Mercury capsule. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Gemini. Spacecraft: Gemini. In Houston, Director Robert R. Gilruth of Manned Spacecraft Center announced plans to develop a two-man Mercury capsule. Built by McDonnell, it would be similar in shape to the Mercury capsule but slightly larger and from two to three times heavier. Its booster would be a modified Titan II. A major program objective would be orbital rendezvous. The two-man spacecraft would be launched into orbit and would attempt to rendezvous with an Agena stage put into orbit by an Atlas. Total cost of 12 capsules plus boosters and other equipment was estimated at $500 million. The two-man flight program would begin in the 1963-1964 period with several unmanned ballistic flights to test overall booster-spacecraft compatibility and system engineering. Several manned orbital flights would follow. Besides rendezvous flybys of the target vehicle, actual docking missions would be attempted in final flights. The spacecraft would be capable of missions of a week or more to train pilots for future long-duration circumlunar and lunar landing flights. The Mercury astronauts would serve as pilots for the program, but additional crew members might be phased in during the latter portions of the program.

1962 January 15 - .
  • James A. Chamberlin named Manager of Gemini Project Office (GPO). - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Chamberlin. Program: Gemini. Spacecraft: Gemini. Director Robert R. Gilruth of Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) appointed James A. Chamberlin, Chief of Engineering Division, as Manager of Gemini Project Office (GPO). The next day MSC advised McDonnell, by amendment No. 1 to letter contract NAS 9-170, that GPO had been established. It was responsible for planning and directing all technical activities and all contractor activities within the scope of the contract.

1962 March 1 - .
  • 4 million New Yorkers greet Glenn - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Glenn. Program: Mercury. Summary: An estimated 4 million people lined the streets of New York City for John Glenn Day. Mayor Robert Wagner presented Glenn and Robert R. Gilruth the city's Medal of Honor..

1962 July 10 - .
  • First Apollo mockup inspection - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Grissom. Program: Apollo. Summary: The first Apollo spacecraft mockup inspection was held at NAA's Space and Information Systems Division. In attendance were Robert R. Gilruth, Director, MSC; Charles W. Frick, Apollo Program Manager, MSC; and Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom..

1963 March 19 - .
  • Chamberlin reassigned from Manager of Project Gemini. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Chamberlin. Program: Gemini. Spacecraft: Gemini. James A Chamberlin was reassigned from Manager of Project Gemini to Senior Engineering Advisor to Robert R Gilruth, Director of Manned Spacecraft Center. Charles W Mathews was reassigned from Chief, Spacecraft Technology Division, to Acting Manager of Project Gemini.

1963 December 31 - .
  • NASA/USAF discussions on MOL joint control and support. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Mueller. Spacecraft: MOL. MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth apprised George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, of recent discussions with officers from the Air Force's Space Systems Division regarding MSC's joint participation in the MOL project in the area of operational control and support. Such joint cooperation might comprise two separate areas: manning requirements for the control center and staffing of actual facilities. Gilruth suggested that such joint cooperation would work to the benefit of both organizations involved. Furthermore, because a number of unidentified problems inevitably existed, he recommended the creation of a joint NASA Air Force group to study the entire question so that such uncertainties might be identified and resolved.

1965 January 26 - .
  • Apollo Lunar Landing Research Vehicle results - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LLRV. Warren J. North, Chairman of the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) Coordination Panel, reported to MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth that the LLRV had been flown 10 times by Flight Research Center pilots - eight times by Joe Walker and twice by Don Mallick. Maximum altitude achieved was 91 m (300 ft) and maximum forward velocity was 12 m (40 ft) per sec. Additional Details: here....

1965 March 29 - . LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 2.
  • Full EVA considered for Gemini 4. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Low, George; Mueller; Seamans. Flight: Gemini 4. Spacecraft: G4C. The possibility of doing more than the previously planned stand-up form of extravehicular activity (EVA) was introduced at an informal meeting in the office of Director Robert R. Gilruth at Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). Present at the meeting, in addition to Gilruth and Deputy Director George M. Low, were Richard S. Johnston of Crew Systems Division (CSD) and Warren J. North of Flight Crew Operations Division. Johnston presented a mock-up of an EVA chestpack, as well as a prototype hand-held maneuvering unit. North expressed his division's confidence that an umbilical EVA could be successfully achieved on the Gemini-Titan 4 mission. Receiving a go-ahead from Gilruth, CSD briefed George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator for Mannned Space Flight, on April 3 in Washington. He, in turn, briefed the Headquarters Directorates. The relevant MSC divisions were given tentative approval to continue the preparations and training required for the operation. Associate Administrator of NASA, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., visited MSC for further briefing on May 14. The enthusiasm he carried back to Washington regarding flight-readiness soon prompted final Headquarters approval.

1966 April 15 - .
  • NASA said to need a manned space flight goal other than "using Apollo hardware" - a Mars flyby or landing mission. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Mueller. Spacecraft: IMIS 1968; Von Braun Mars Expedition - 1969. MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth summarized Houston's position expressed during discussions with Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller two days earlier. Gilruth cited NASA s need for a manned space flight goal other than 'using Apollo hardware' (and suggested a Mars flyby or landing mission as an in-house focus for planning.) Also, he repeated his concern over the imbalance between AAP goals and resources, as well as the extent of engineering redesign and hardware modification that had been forced upon the project. Though expressing his and MSC's desire to contribute to and be a part of AAP, Gilruth voiced concern that 'the future of manned space flight . . . is in jeopardy because we do not have firm goals, and because the present approach appears to us to be technically unsound.'

1966 May 11 - .
  • Refurbished CSMs proposed for AAP. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Mueller. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; Apollo LM Lab; Apollo X. Replying to a suggestion by MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth that AAP capitalize on Apollo hardware to an even greater extent by using refurbished CSMs, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller deferred any action toward implementing a competitive effort for such work. This was necessary, he said, because of the present unsettled nature of AAP planning. Additional Details: here....

1966 July 20 - .
  • Apollo mapping and survey system (M&SS) - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; von Braun. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 9. Spacecraft: Apollo LMSS; CSM Recovery. Summary: MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth informed MSFC Director Wernher von Braun that for the past two years MSC had studied the use of the mapping and survey system (M&SS) in conjunction with the Apollo program.. Additional Details: here....

1968 February 14 - .
  • Concern of inadvertent Saturn V abort - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Low, George. Program: Apollo. In discussing the results of a manned test with MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, George M. Low mentioned that a single 45-degree motion of the abort handle was required to initiate a launch abort in Apollo. Gilruth voiced concern that an abort could be caused by a single motion. Additional Details: here....

1968 March 21 - .
  • Apollo lunar landing research vehicle in operation - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LLRV. The lunar landing research vehicle was operating and training was being conducted, MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth wrote Langley Research Center's Acting Director Charles J. Donlan. MSC intended to conduct a second class for LLRV pilots and one of the first requirements for checkout was a familiarization program on Langley's Lunar Landing Research Facility. He requested that a program be conducted for not less than four nor more than six MSC pilots between April 15 and May 15.

1972 January 14 - .
  • Gilruth appointed NASA Director of Key Personnel Development - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth; Kraft. Program: Apollo. Manned Spacecraft Center Robert R. Gilruth was appointed to the newly created position of NASA Director of Key Personnel Development. He would integrate NASA planning to fill key positions, identify actual and potential candidates, and guide them through appropriate work experience.

    Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC Deputy Director, was named Director of MSC. Both Kraft and Gilruth were original members of the NASA Space Task Group established in 1958 to manage Project Mercury.


2000 August 17 - .
  • Death of Robert R Gilruth - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth. Summary: American engineer, at NASA 1937-1952. Head of Mercury, 1959-1962, Director, Houston, 1962-1972. Under his leadership Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo were designed and flown, America won the moon race, and the shuttle was designed..

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