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  Roger L. Easton, Father of GPS (1921-2014)

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Author Topic:   Roger L. Easton, Father of GPS (1921-2014)
Robert Pearlman

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From: Houston, TX
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posted 06-22-2014 12:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory release
Roger Easton, Father of GPS, Dies at 93

Roger Lee Easton, Sr., visionary, inventor, and pioneer of modern day navigation passed away Thursday, May 8, 2014 at his Wheelock Terrace residence located in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Born April 30, 1921, in North Craftsbury, Vt., to Frank Birch Easton, Sr. and Della (Donnocker) Easton, he was raised in Craftsbury Common and graduated from the Craftsbury Academy in 1939. He was a member of the class of 1943 at Middlebury College. After graduation he attended the University of Michigan for one semester where he met his wife Barbara.

In 1943 Easton began work as a physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, where he spent his entire 37-year career. During 1944 and 1945 he served in the U.S. Navy while working at the laboratory on radar beacons and blind landing systems. In the early 1950s he was involved in early rocket experiments carried out at the White Sands Proving Grounds in N.M.

In 1955 he assisted in writing the proposal for the Vanguard Project, a scientific satellite program for the International Geophysical Year (IGY), and served on the design team for that satellite. From there he went on to design Minitrack, a system for following varying types of Earth-orbiting objects.

A problem with synchronizing the timing of the tracking stations led Easton to the idea of putting highly accurate clocks in multiple satellites which could also be used to determine the precise location of someone on the ground. He called this system Timation for Time-Navigation. Following the origin and development of the NRL time-based navigation system, select features were adopted by the Department of Defense (DoD) in the early 1970s and the system renamed the Global Positioning System, or GPS.

Above: Roger Easton (third from left) with astronauts Eugene Cernan, Ken Mattingly, Ronald Evans, Robert Crippen and Joseph Kerwin at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1975.

Easton held 11 U.S. patents including patent 3,789,409 for "Navigation Systems Using Satellites and Passive Ranging Techniques" for Timation. He received many awards for his inventions and in 1978 was awarded the Thomas L. Thurlow navigation award for Timation. In 1993 he was recognized as a member of the GPS team which received the Robert J. Collier Trophy aviation award.

In 1997 Easton shared the Magellanic Premium given by the American Philosophical Society and was inducted into that organization in 1998. He was also awarded the National Medal of Technology for 2004 and inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2010. In June 2013 he was awarded the Infomatics Badge of Honor by the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait.

In 1980 Easton retired as Head of the Space Applications Branch at the Naval Research Laboratory and he and Barbara moved to Canaan, N.H., where he continued efforts to improve GPS and to work on energy issues - a proponent of solar energy, Easton had installed solar cells on his garage roof. He served two terms in the New Hampshire Legislature and ran for Governor in the primary election of 1986 to offer a moderate alternative in the Republican Party and in opposition to the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. As he did throughout his life, he maintained his sense of humor in this campaign, telling his family that "The only thing worse than losing would be winning."

Easton is survived by his wife of 68 years, Barbara Coulter Easton, daughter Ruth Easton, two sons Roger Easton, Jr. and Richard Easton and daughter-in-law Kathleen Easton of Winnetka, sister Penelope Easton of Durham, NC, five grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by daughters Ann Davis and Joan Dunleavy, half-brother Daniel and brothers Frank, Jr., Charles, and Nelson.

On behalf of the collectSPACE community, I would like to extend our condolences to fellow member Richard Easton and his family.

Shuttle Endeavour

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posted 06-22-2014 12:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttle Endeavour   Click Here to Email Shuttle Endeavour     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

United Launch Alliance should post his name on the payload fairing of GPS 2F-7 as they have done for ULA workers in the past.

Michael Davis

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posted 06-22-2014 02:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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uk spacefan

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Lunar rock nut

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Astro Rich

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posted 06-24-2014 11:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Astro Rich   Click Here to Email Astro Rich     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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posted 06-25-2014 01:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NavySpaceFan   Click Here to Email NavySpaceFan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a retired Navy officer and a former ship's navigator, I thank you, sir for making my job safer.


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posted 06-25-2014 01:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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Richard Easton

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posted 06-27-2014 07:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Easton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Robert for posting this. James Buisson, who worked with my Dad for twenty years, shared these stories which I'm posting with his permission.
Roger and I sat side by side for 56 hours a week reading Space Surveillance records.

The object was to determine what was an airplane, what was lightening strikes and what was a satellite observation.

Later, when satellite observations, were more readily determined, my job along with another person was to calculate the orbit of the satellite.

I knew Mr. Lynch, my immediate Supervisor and this guy named Roger, whom I worked with.

Eventually I realized that he was the Branch Head.

The relationship was always the same between Roger and me.

Years later I was called into Roger’s office at about 8:10 AM and the Technical Director of the Lab was there with Roger after they were back from a breakfast in the NRL cafeteria.

Roger said that the Director had some questions that Roger couldn’t answer and asked me to explain to the Director about some of our projects.

Of course I knew that couldn’t be true but I answered all the questions and Roger never said a word.

About two weeks later I got my GS15.

Roger was a true gentleman and a genuine genius.

Buisson was the co-author of an important constellation study in 1972.


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