Ralph Waldo May Jr., 82, an aeronautical engineer with NASA, died of multiple organ failure Dec. 10 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He had dementia.
Mr. May, a longtime resident of Fairfax County, began his career as a staff member of the old National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA. He joined the agency in 1944, before spending two years in the Army.
After his military service, he resumed his career as an aeronautical engineer, focusing on wing design for military and commercial aircraft. He was based in Hampton, Va., before moving to the Washington area in 1951.
Mr. May helped design helicopters and, after NASA was created in 1958, helped develop spacecraft. He worked on programs involving heat during atmospheric reentry, environmental effects in space and the landing and retrieval of spacecraft. Several of his projects resulted in space vehicles of the 1960s and '70s.