in graduate school, Gilruth married Jean Barnhill, a fellow
aeronautical engineering student and pilot who had flown in
cross country races. A friend of Amelia Earhart, Jean Gilruth
claimed membership in the flying group she helped found, the
99s, a women pilot association.
"When you think about putting a man up
thatís a different thing. Thatís a lot more exciting.
There are a lot of things you can do
with men up in orbit." Gilruth,
NASA Interview 1986
before Gilruth received his graduate degree, he was offered a
job as a junior engineer at NACA, National Advisory Committee
for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA. The Gilruths moved to
Hampton, Virginia. This is were they would design and build
their first boat, and later design their home and await the
birth of their daughter, Barbara. Two constants remained in his
life from his earliest years, his love of flight and his deep
affection for sailing.
soon made his mark at NACA. During his first year, he wrote a
report titled "Requirements for Satisfactory Flying
Qualities of Airplanes." This report helped to make Gilruthís
reputation and he became the flying quality expert at Langley.
In 1945 he was placed in charge of developing a guided missile
research station. Gilruthís organization became known as PARD,
Pilotless Aircraft Research Division.
to assistant director of Langley in 1952, he became troubled by
the advent of the Atomic Age of warfare and turned his focus in
a new direction. "When you think about putting a man up
there, thatís a different thing. Thatís a lot more exciting.
There are a lot of things you can do with men up in orbit."
NASA Interview 1986
August 1, 1958, Gilruth went before Congress and presented a
manned space program and he became the leader of the Space Task
Group. NASA was formed and absorbed the 8,000 employees of NACA.
Project Mercury commenced and Gilruth set about selecting the
first astronauts and the best engineers. Capsules were designed
and rockets tested. On April 12, 1961, Soviet Yuri Gagarin beat
the United States into space. This event stirred the world and
frightened the United States.