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Duluth Aviation Institute
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DULUTH TO THE MOON (continued)

Interviewer: "You talked in your essay here about realizing that math and chemistry and physics were important, that sort of thing, but did you have a concept of what engineering was or what you were heading towards? Did you think that you were going to have to be a scientist in order to do what you wanted to do in designing airplanes? Was that your goal?" Gilruth: "Yes, it was my goal to design airplanes." NASA Interview 1986

Little did young Gilruth know, he would some day be the "Father of Human Space Flight", the "Godfather to the Astronauts".

While 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 there, 
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

Just 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.

Gilruth 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.

Promoted 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." Gilruth, NASA Interview 1986

On 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.                                                           









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Pilotless Research

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Langley Tunnel

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Photo Credits
Johnson Space Center



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