George Mueller was the NASA scientist and engineer credited with putting astronauts on the moon in 1967 via Apollo 8. He died at his home in Irvin, California, on October 12 at the age of 97. Spokesman for the family, Arthur Slotkin, said he died of congestive heart failure.
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NASA gives credit to Mueller for being able to manage the first flight shuttle to the moon according to the timetable of US President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had in a 1961 national address said the US must be the first nation to put man on the moon and bring him back to Earth within the 1960s – and Mueller made it happen.
Mueller also initiated developing Skylab as well as American space shuttle programs – saying the success of the moon landing must not stop with Apollo 8. As an associate administrator at NASA, Mueller was excellent at rocket science and human psychology, and his ability for managing risks after careful assessments led to his success.
He developed the “all up” method for rocket and spacecraft testing, and this required that all three stages of the giant Saturn V booster rocket be tested at the same time while they were coupled and with a payload attached to boot. Several experts doubted his technique but Mueller was vindicated when everything went according to plan without any hitch whatsoever.
“It is clear that without all-up testing the first manned lunar landing could not have taken place as early as 1969,”a NASA source said.
Mueller got a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the Missouri School of Mines (then a technical school) in 1939, and a master’s degree from Purdue University Indiana in 1940, also in electrical engineering. He then worked at Bell Labs in New Jersey to perfect the development of radar, television, and microwave tubes – while still taking graduate courses at Princeton University.
He worked at Ohio State University as an assistant professor of electrical engineering while still studying for his doctorate, and in 1951 he received his PhD in physics.
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Mueller’s marriage to Maude Rosenbaum ended in divorce – but he had two children, Jean Porter of West Liberty, Kentucky, and Karen Hyvonen of Southampton, Massachusetts. His second marriage lasted 37 years with former Darla Hix Schwartzman of Irvine. He had 13 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.