Space aficionados should take a moment of silence this week to honour the memory of George Mueller, the man who fueled their dreams of exploration, space suits, lunar landings and exploration into the Final Frontier.
Mueller, known in certain circles as the “father of the space shuttle,” passed away earlier this month at the age of 97. Mueller served as the associate administrator of the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight and, as such, had responsibility for overseeing the early design, planning and testing of hardware that would eventually drive the first astronauts to their date with the moon in 1969.
As reported by various media outlets, one of Mueller’s first acts as administrator was to reorganize NASA and create the Office of Manned Spaceflight. “Entering the position, he found that the agency had little in the way of tracking the costs of the program,” according to io9.com. “With Apollo behind schedule and becoming increasingly expensive, he was instrumental in helping to organize and coordinate the project, while helping to streamline costs. Some of his efforts included the ‘all up’ policy of testing entire rockets at once, which put him in conflict with some of the agency’s leading scientists, such as Werner von Braun.”
In an oral history project with NASA, Mueller said his greatest achievement was “Getting to the Moon on time. What else?” It paved the way for future missions and exploration tools, including Skylab, the predecessor for today’s International Space Station, not to mention the Space Shuttle program and the still-in-development but really exciting Orion capsule.