James C. Fletcher

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James C. Fletcher
James Fletcher, official NASA portrait.jpg
Official NASA Portrait
Born June 5, 1919
Millburn, New Jersey
Died December 22, 1991(1991-12-22) (aged 72)
Washington, DC
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37.92″N 111°51′28.8″W / 40.7772000°N 111.858000°W / 40.7772000; -111.858000
Fields Physics
Institutions NASA
University of Utah
Alma mater Columbia University
California Institute of Technology

James Chipman Fletcher (June 5, 1919 – December 22, 1991) was the president of the University of Utah from 1964 to 1971. He also served as the 4th and 7th Administrator of NASA, first from April 27, 1971, to May 1, 1977, and again from May 12, 1986, to April 8, 1989.

President Nixon (right) with NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher in January 1972.

Biography[edit]

Born in Millburn, New Jersey, Fletcher earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Columbia University and a Ph.D in physics (1948) from the California Institute of Technology.[1] After holding research and teaching positions at Harvard and Princeton Universities, he joined Hughes Aircraft in 1948 and later worked at the Guided Missile Division of the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation. In 1958, Fletcher co-founded the Space Electronics Corporation in Glendale, California, which, after a merger, became the Space General Corporation. He was later named systems vice president of the Aerojet General Corporation in Sacramento, California. In 1964, he became president of the University of Utah, a position he held until he was named NASA Administrator in 1971.

During his first administration at NASA, Fletcher was responsible for beginning the Space Shuttle effort, as well as the Viking program that sent landers to Mars. He oversaw the Skylab missions and approved the Voyager space probes and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

When he left NASA in 1977, Fletcher became an independent consultant in McLean, Virginia, and served on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh. During the nine years between his terms as NASA Administrator, Fletcher was active as an advisor to key national leaders involved in planning space policy. Among other activities, he served on advisory board involved in developing the Strategic Defense Initiative.

During his second administration at NASA, Fletcher was largely involved in efforts to recover from the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. With the accident, the Shuttle program went into a two-year hiatus while NASA worked to redesign the solid rocket boosters and revamp its management structure. Fletcher ensured that NASA reinvested heavily in the program's safety and reliability, made organizational changes to improve efficiency, and restructured its management system. He oversaw a complete reworking of the components of the Shuttle to enhance its safety and added an egress method for the astronauts. He was in charge of the agency when the Space Shuttle finally returned to flight on September 29, 1988. While administrator, he also approved the Hubble Space Telescope program.

Fletcher died in December 1991 of lung cancer at his home in suburban Washington, DC. He was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery. He was a Mormon.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fisher, Ian. "James Fletcher, 72, NASA Chief Who Urged Shuttle Program, Dies", The New York Times, December 24, 1991. Accessed December 11, 2007.

Sources[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Thomas O. Paine
NASA Administrator
1971 - 1977
Succeeded by
Robert A. Frosch
Preceded by
William Robert Graham (acting)
NASA Administrator
1986 - 1989
Succeeded by
Richard H. Truly
Academic offices
Preceded by
A. Ray Olpin
President of the University of Utah
1964 – 1971
Succeeded by
Alfred C. Emery