Apollo Contractors Visit the MIT Lab

Bob Gilruth

Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center

Robert “Bob” Gilruth—born October 8th, 1913—graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1935 with a Bachelor’s in Aeronautical Engineering and in 1936 with his Master’s. He began working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1937 and remained when it transformed into NASA. He performed flight research for NACA and published "Requirements for Satisfactory Flying Qualities of Airplanes" to improve flight vehicles.

Gilruth moved to work on hypersonic missile rockets when NASA emerged, and he was made the head of the Space Task Group, which had the goal of winning the space race and beating the Soviets to the moon. In 1961, Gilruth became the Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, with responsibility for the development of spacecraft for manned flight, flight crew selection and training, and for the conduct of space exploration missions. Gilruth was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1969 after the success of Apollo 11. He served in this capacity until January 1972.

During his decade-long tenure as MSC Director, Gilruth managed 25 manned-space flights, including Alan Shepard's first Mercury flight in May 1961, the first moon landing by Apollo 11 in, and the dramatic rescue of Apollo 13.