Robert J. Parks

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NASA and Mariner program officials, engineers and managers at the White House with President John F. Kennedy (right) in 1963. From left to right: Jack N. James, Bob Parks and William H. Pickering.

Robert J. "Bob" Parks (1922–2011) was a US aerospace engineer and manager who worked for 40 years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, USA. His work as JPL's planetary program director included the Mariner program and Surveyor program in the 1960s, and the Voyager program of the 1970s and 1980s. Parks became Deputy Director of the JPL in 1984 and retired in 1987. Awards received for his work include the NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1967), the Stuart Ballantine Medal (1967), and the Goddard Astronautics Award (1980).

Early life[edit]

Robert Joseph Parks was born on 1 April 1922 in Los Angeles, California.[1] His father was petroleum engineer Joseph Burton Parks, his mother was Ruth (Feltz) Parks, and his brother was Jerome W. Parks.[2][3] Bob Parks obtained his degree in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, graduating in 1944.[1] He then served in the US Army for two-and-a-half years, which included a posting to Vienna, Austria, as part of the Army of Occupation where he met his future wife Hanne Richter, an interpreter and the daughter of a professor at the Vienna Conservatory of Music.[2] She and Parks would later have three sons.[3] After leaving the army, Parks spent six months at Hughes Aircraft before starting work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in April 1947.[1]

JPL career[edit]

During his early years at the JPL, Parks worked on the MGM-5 Corporal and MGM-29 Sergeant guided missiles, starting out as an engineer in the Guidance and Control Section from 1947 to 1950. He then became Section Chief, and from 1956 to 1957 was Division Chief of Research and Development. He was Project Director for the Sergeant missile program from 1957 until June 1960 when the work at JPL was turning from missiles to spacecraft.[1]

From May 1960, Parks was Director of the Planetary Program at JPL. In this role he oversaw the work done on the early Mariner spacecraft and the Surveyor program. During the 1960s, the lunar and planetary divisions at JPL underwent name changes and merges, with Parks named as Assistant Laboratory Director (ALD) for Lunar and Planetary Projects in 1963. He held this role through various name changes until 1981. During this period, he took personal charge of JPL's work on the Voyager program during a period of difficulties, serving as Project Manager from March 1978 to March 1979.[1]

During the 1980s, Parks rose further up the hierarchy at JPL. He held the title of Associate Director for Space Science and Exploration (1981 to 1983), and then succeeded Charles H. Terhune, Jr. as Deputy Director of the JPL. Parks held this position from January 1984 to 30 June 1987 under JPL Director Lew Allen. In this role as Deputy Director, Parks "functioned as JPL's general manager, responsible for the day-to-day management of the Laboratory's resources and the direction and coordination of its activities".[4]

Awards and later life[edit]

Awards received by Parks for his service at JPL include the NASA Public Service Award (1963) and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1967).[1] The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics awarded him its Louis W. Hill Award (1963) and Goddard Astronautics Award (1980).[1] He and his JPL colleague Jack N. James were presented with the Stuart Ballantine Medal (Engineering) from the Franklin Institute in 1967 for their: "Application of electromagnetic communication to the first successful reconnaissance of Mars by the Mariner IV".[5] In 1973, Parks was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his: "Contributions in radio-inertial guidance, communications methods, systems engineering, and project management of spacecraft and missiles."[6]

At the time of his retirement from JPL in 1987, Parks was living with his wife Hanne in nearby La Cañada.[4] Parks died aged 89 on 3 June 2011.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Robert J. Parks Collection, 1983-1987". ArchiveGrid: Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Parks, Robert J.". Current Biography Yearbook. H. W. Wilson. 1968. p. 303. 
  3. ^ a b "Space Effort 'Quarterback'". Corpus Christi Times. 28 August 1962. p. 20. 
  4. ^ a b "NASA press release". NASA. 18 May 1987. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database: Robert J. Parks". Franklin Institute. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Mr. Robert J. Parks". National Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 

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