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  About the life and works of Dr. Robert Gilruth

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Author Topic:   About the life and works of Dr. Robert Gilruth

Posts: 344
From: Hudson, MA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 01-18-2012 11:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I want to know more about Dr. Robert Gilruth. He has been called "the architect of manned space flight" and yet I seem to be able to find little about him.

I would like to know if there were any taped interviews with him after he retired from NASA or if any books were written specifically about him? Did he write any significant things about his time in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo era?

Was he interviewed at the time of Challenger or later? I understand everyone's right to privacy but I am a bit perplexed on the lack of any substantial info about this individual who was so central to our very successful early space programs.


Posts: 599
From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 01-18-2012 12:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unfortunately for Dr. Gilruth (most of all) and for researchers, he was hampered by Alzheimers disease in his later years. His colleagues often spoke to us with great regret about this situation, and the tragic nature of it happening to someone with such a brilliant mind. That explains the lack of his being more in the public eye with memoirs and interviews.

Many of us believe he was the great unsung hero of the early manned space program. He was the true driving force behind the organization that built all of our manned spacecraft, even more so than Von Braun was to the rocket guys. His nature was always that of a more behind-the-scenes guy than Von Braun, so he never got the same credit. And that also explains why you see little from/about him even during his time with NASA.

I haven't seen anything more than an article here or there that deals with him specifically, though he is all over the pages of the early NASA histories, the MSC/JSC history (Suddenly Tomorrow Came), and so forth. The JSC archives at the University of Houston - Clear Lake may have a recorded interview of him from the set that was done in the 1960s in writing the original NASA histories, but I don't recall for sure.


Posts: 39
From: Chelmsford, MA
Registered: Oct 2000

posted 01-19-2012 07:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for edorr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Chris Kraft wrote a biographical memoir of Gilruth that is available here (PDF).


Posts: 344
From: Hudson, MA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 01-19-2012 09:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks to all for that info. The link to Christopher Kraft's memoir was very nice. I can see that Dr. Gilruth was very much a 'behind the scenes' type of manager and NASA was very fortunate to have had him.

Michael Davis

Posts: 353
From: Houston, Texas
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 01-22-2012 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I developed a bit of a fascination for Robert Gilruth a few years ago, The only sizable account of his life I found was in James Schefter's "The Race." A large portion of that book is devoted to Gilruth. It deals extensively not only with his remarkable work at NASA, but also with his personal life.

Gilruth had a passion for sailing and he built boats for a hobby. Thinking of him sailing in Galveston Bay during his time in Houston still forms a great image.

I find it a little sad that we may have more information readily available about Sergei Korolev than Robert Gilruth. That seems like an omission of history.

One of the first autographed photos I collected was of Gilruth greeting the crew of Apollo 15 as they touched down on the recovery carrier.

It remains as one of my favorite items.

Lou Chinal

Posts: 946
From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 01-22-2012 03:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mike and Paul, I too was fascinated by Dr. Robert Gilruth's life. I spent an afternoon with him in his home in Kilmarnock, Virginia in 1986. He said he had to come back to the Chesapeake Bay to sail.

Did you know he worked on the X-1?

I compiled several pages of notes from that day, but I don't think I'll ever have time to do anything with them. He is truly one of the lesser known hero's of the space program.

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