The man who created Office of Manned Space Flight at NASA has died. George Mueller, heralded at the as the "Father of the Space Shuttle," died on Monday, Oct. 12 at the age of 97 after a brief illness, NASA confirmed ahead of the weekend.
Mueller headed up the Office of Manned Space Flight from 1963 through 1969. He oversaw the completion of the Apollo project and he helped launch the Skylab and Space Shuttle projects.
"During his six years of service at NASA, Mueller introduced a remarkable series of management changes within the agency during a time when strong leadership and direction were critical to achieving success on a set of extraordinary goals," says NASA.
Those managerial changes Mueller implemented allowed him to introduce what he called an "all up" approach for testing. Famed rocket scientist Wernher von Braun was in favor of a modular approach for testing, but Mueller believed that concurrent development of space systems would cut time and enable the space program to stick the moon landing before the decade closed.
It was risky, but it worked. And before the decade close, the world watched as humans left their marks on the moon.
About six years into his run with NASA, Mueller exits the program after the world finally put people on the moon.
During an interview in August 1998, Mueller said the time for his departure just felt right. There was this feeling that the space program would lie dormant for the five to 10 years following the landing, plus the new politics were about to set in.
"There's also the general thing that if you stay in Washington long enough, if you do anything, you create enough enemies to make it difficult to get anything done," said Mueller.
Mueller left before he created a set of enemies in Washington, he said. It's clear that people have a limited period of effectiveness in Washington if you're there to get anything done.
"If you're not doing anything, you can stay there indefinitely," said Mueller.
Mueller died of congestive heart failure, stated Arthur Slotkin, a spokesman for Mueller's family.
Mueller is survived by his wife, Darla; his son, Bill Schwartzman; and three daughters, Wendy Schwartzman, Karen Hyvonen and Jean Porter; and by his 13 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.