SCARBOROUGH, Maine (AP) — John C. Houbolt, an engineer whose contributions to the U.S. space program were vital to NASA's successful moon landing in 1969, has died. He was 95.
Houbolt died Tuesday at a nursing home in Scarborough, Maine, of complications from Parkinson's disease, his son-in-law Tucker Withington, of Plymouth, Mass., confirmed Saturday.
As NASA describes on its website, while under pressure during the U.S.-Soviet space race, Houbolt was the catalyst in securing U.S. commitment to the science and engineering theory that eventually carried the Apollo crew to the moon and back safely.
His efforts in the early 1960s are largely credited with convincing NASA to focus on the launch of a module carrying a crew from lunar orbit, rather than a rocket from earth or a space craft while orbiting the planet.
Houbolt argued that a lunar orbit rendezvous, or lor, would not only be less mechanically and financially onerous than building a huge rocket to take man to the moon or launching a craft while orbiting the earth, but lor was the only option to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge before the end of the decade.
NASA describes "the bold step of skipping proper channels" that Houbolt took by pushing the issue in a private letter in 1961 to an incoming administrator.