October 8, 1913: Birth of space flight pioneer Robert R. Gilruth

On this day in 1913, future Duluthian Robert R. Gilruth was born in Nashwauk, Minnesota, to educators Henry Augustus Gilruth and Frances (Rowe) Gilruth. They moved to the Zenith City in 1923, where Henry first worked as a chemistry, physics, and mathematics teacher at Morgan Park High School; he was promoted to principal of Morgan Park in 1927. Robert attended the Laboratory School of the Duluth State Teachers College (today’s UMD) for much of his education and graduated from Duluth Central High School. After earning a masters in aeronautical engineering, Gilruth was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA as a flight research engineer. When NASA was established in 1958, when Russia was jumping ahead of the U.S. in space. Gilruth was named head of the team created to plan for sending a man into space. In 1961, Gilruth was appointed head of the new Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. In that job, he supervised manned space flights, including the first Mercury flight and the Apollo moon landing in 1969. Robert died in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 17, 2000. Read his complete biography by biographer David Ouse here.

Duluth native Robert Gilruth, pioneer of manned space flight, year unknown. (Image: NASA.)