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Robert Gilruth

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Title: Robert Gilruth  
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Subject: Space exploration, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Mercury-Redstone 4, Mercury-Atlas 6, Swept wing, John A. Powers, Joseph Francis Shea, Space Task Group, April 1959
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Robert Gilruth

Robert R. Gilruth
Gilruth at NASA Manned Spacecraft Center
Born Robert Rowe Gilruth
(1913-10-08)October 8, 1913
Nashwauk, Minnesota
Died August 17, 2000(2000-08-17) (aged 86)
Charlottesville, Virginia
Occupation Director of NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, now Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

Robert Rowe Gilruth (October 8, 1913–August 17, 2000) was an American aviation and space pioneer.[1] He is noted for being the first director of NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center, later renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

He worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics from 1937 to 1958 and its successor NASA, until his retirement in 1973. He was involved with early research into supersonic flight and rocket-powered aircraft and then with the United States manned space program, including the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.



Gilruth was born in Nashwauk, Minnesota. He attended and completed high school in Duluth, Minnesota. Gilruth received a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Minnesota, and received his master's degree in 1936. While there he was a member of the Professional Engineering Fraternity Theta Tau, of which he was later inducted as a Hall of Fame Alumnus.

Flight test career

In the NACA Report R755, Requirements for Satisfactory Flying Qualities of an Airplane, published in 1941, he defined a set of requirements for the handling characteristics of an aircraft. Until this point, no set of guidelines for pilots and aircraft designers existed.

Gilruth also pioneered the recording of data from instruments during flight test, to be later correlated with the pilot's experience. [2] This would go on to become the standard operating procedure.

NASA career

When NASA was created, Gilruth became head of the Space Task Group, tasked with putting a man in space before the Soviet Union. When that didn't happen, Gilruth suggested to President John F. Kennedy that the United States should announce a bigger goal, such as going to the Moon. Soon the Apollo program was born, and Gilruth was made head of the NASA center which ran it, the new Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) (now the Johnson Space Center). Gilruth served as director of the MSC until 1972 and oversaw a total of 25 manned space flights, from Mercury-Redstone 3 to Apollo 15.

Portrayals in dramas

In the 1996 TV movie Apollo 11 Gilruth was played by William Mesnik. In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon he was played by John Carroll Lynch.


External links

Biography portal
Spaceflight portal
  • National Air & Space Museum Oral History project interviews with Robert Gilruth
  • Chris Kraft
  • Human Space Flight (HSF) - Robert Gilruth Tribute
  • NASA HSF Obituary
  • The 1941 report online Requirements for satisfactory flying qualities of airplanes
  • National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir

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