Auburn Family

NASA Skylab's 40th Anniversary has a Strong Auburn History :: Richard Smith

Auburn can celebrate today's 40th anniversary of the Skylab program with a special fondness.  It turns out, Auburn educated Skylab's Space Age Man, so said the New York Times and his hometown Lexington, NC newspaper - The Dispatch. (See clipping below.)

Who are we talking about?  A 1951 Auburn electrical engineering graduate named Richard Smith.  He was Auburn's (and the nation's) Mr. NASA for all practical purposes.

Smith was actually a part of NASA at its inception.  He worked with Dr. Werner von Braun and was with NASA as the giant Saturn 5 rockets were designed.   It was those rockets that led to the Apollo program and humankind's landing on the Moon.  Smith served as deputy manager and later manager of the Saturn Program.

In 1978, Smith "served as director of the Skylab Task Force appointed by the NASA administrator to represent NASA preceding and following the reentry of Skylab." (Source: NASA Biography)

Smith became director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in September of 1979.

Over the years, Smith rose through the ranks was at the forefront of manned space travel.  The man literally helped change the world.  

Smith was honored with several NASA awards:

  • NASA Medal for Exceptional Service in 1969
  • NASA Medal for Distinguished Service in 1973
  • NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal in January 1980
  • awarded the rank of meritorious executive in the Senior Executive Service in September 1980
  • awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree by Florida Institute of Technology In June 1981
  • and awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree by his Alma Mater, Auburn University, on December 9, 1983.

Hey, the man even has his own Wikipedia page.

Richard G. Smith was director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center from September 26, 1979 to August 2, 1986. Born in Durham, N.C., in 1929, Smith was educated in Alabama schools. After graduation from Decatur High School, he attended Florence State College and Auburn University. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Auburn in 1951.  (Source)

There you have it. Auburn's tie to Skylab and NASA. One remarkable Auburn Tiger.

(News clipping source: Google News)

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