George David Low (February 19, 1956 – March 15, 2008) was an American aerospace executive and a NASA astronaut.
|1956||Born in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio, USA.|
|1978||Bachelor of Science in Physics-Engineering, Washington & Lee University.|
|1980||Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Cornell University. Began work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.|
|1983||Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University.|
|1983||Selected by NASA in Astronauts Group 10. |
|1990||Flew on Columbia STS-32 as MS3 with Daniel Brandenstein, James Wetherbee, Bonnie J. Dunbar and Marsha Ivins. Awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal, his first of 3. |
|1991||Flew on Atlantis STS-43 as MS2 with John Blaha, Michael A. Baker, Shannon Lucid and James Adamson. Awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal, his second of 3. |
|1992||Awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. ||
|1993||Flew on Endeavour STS-57 as MS1 with Ronald Grabe, Brian Duffy, Nancy J. Currie Sherlock, Peter Wisoff and Janice Voss. Awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal, his third of 3. |
|1994||Awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. |
|1996||Left NASA to work for Orbital Sciences Corporation.|
|2008||Died in Reston, Fairfax, Virginia, USA.|
G. David Low, 52: Cerebral Astronaut Flew on 3 Shuttles
Thursday, March 20, 2008
G. David Low, 52, a NASA astronaut who served on three space shuttle missions before becoming a space industry executive, died March 15 of colon cancer at Reston Hospital Center. During his 12 years as an astronaut, he logged more than 714 hours in space while circling the Earth more than 540 times.
In June 1993, Mr. Low was payload commander aboard the Endeavor, launched to recover the free-flying European Retrievable Carrier. Four days into the mission, his third spaceflight, Mr. Low and fellow astronaut Peter J.K. "Jeff" Wisoff ventured outside the spacecraft, where they worked for five hours and 50 minutes.
Frank L. Culbertson, a fellow astronaut and good friend who also walked in space, said he knew what Mr. Low must have been feeling as he left the "cozy comfort" of the Endeavor and stepped into the vacuum of space.
"You have butterflies," he said. "You know that everything that's keeping you alive is contained within that spacesuit, and you make sure that everything you do, you do very carefully."
Culbertson said that Low was almost fanatically well prepared, whatever the task. "He would study something to death before he got involved with it," Culbertson said.
On his first flight into space, an 11-day mission aboard the space shuttle Columbia three years earlier, Mr. Low carried with him a pair of 159-year-old socks that had belonged to Ezra Cornell, founder of the university that bears his name. (Mr. Low had received a master's degree at Cornell.)
At 33, he was the youngest crew member on the mission and, at 5 feet 9 and 145 pounds, the skinniest. That made him the obvious candidate for an experiment in which he would cram himself into a vacuum container designed to force blood from the upper body, where it accumulates during weightlessness, into the legs. Scientists hoped the transfer of fluids downward would reduce the fainting sensation astronauts experienced back on Earth.
Mr. Low -- described by United Press International in 1990 as "an intense young astronaut, a man not given to frivolity" -- said he had a primary objective on his first flight: "I guess I'll be very, very happy if we can get the wheels stopped and I haven't screwed anything up. That would be a tremendous relief, to go through 10 days and know that I did it right."
The rookie crew member had a legacy to uphold. His father, George M. Low, was a former NASA director who was the first to suggest to President John F. Kennedy in 1960 that an astronaut could walk on the moon within the decade. The elder Low, who died in 1984, also directed the Gemini and Apollo missions.
"He's still the yardstick that I use to measure most things in life," Mr. Low said in the 1990 interview, "from how you handle yourself to how you treat other people."
George David Low was born in Cleveland and, as a sister recalled, declared to family members at age 9 that he would be an astronaut.
He graduated from Langley High School in McLean in 1974. He received a bachelor's degree in physics and engineering from Washington and Lee University in 1978, a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from Cornell University in 1980 and a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University in 1983.
From 1980 to 1984, he worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where he was involved in preliminary planning for several planetary space probes. He also helped with the systems engineering design of the Galileo probe, a $1.4 billion spacecraft launched from the shuttle Atlantis in 1990.
He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1984 and at age 28 was the youngest in his class. After a one-year training program, he worked on the shuttle's robot arm system and on plans for future spacewalks. He also served as the spacecraft communicator, or "capcom," for three shuttle missions, including the first flight after the loss of space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
"He was more academic than the rest of us," Culbertson recalled, "but he also became a very good operator. He was good with his hands, a good mechanic who worked on cars, but he understood the physics behind everything. He was also a good communicator."
On his first spaceflight -- the one with the antique socks stowed aboard -- he helped retrieve a science satellite called the Long Duration Exposure Facility. The 10 1/2 -ton satellite, the size of a school bus, was in danger of plunging to a fiery destruction, taking with it six years of valuable scientific information from nearly 57 experiments. Crew members filmed their activities for a 1994 IMAX feature, "Destiny in Space."
On his second flight, in 1991, Mr. Low assisted with the launch of the fifth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and helped conduct more than 30 experiments related to plans for the future space station.
He continued working for NASA for three years after his last flight. Based in Crystal City, he served on the Russian Integration Team that worked out changes between Space Station Freedom and the international space station programs. He also assisted NASA's Legislative Affairs Office.
A Sterling resident, he joined Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. in 1996, serving as vice president of safety and mission assurance for the company's Launch Systems Group. In 2006, he became senior vice president and program manager for the company's Commercial Orbital Transportation Service program.
Survivors include his wife of 15 years, JoAnn Andochick Low of Sterling; three children, Maggie Low, Christopher Low and Abigail Low, all of Sterling; his mother, Mary R. Low of Bethesda; two brothers, Mark Low of Woodinville, Wash., and John Low of Rockville; and two sisters, Diane Low Murphy of Bethesda and Nancy Low Sullivan of Rye, N.Y.
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