George Mueller, 97, ex-NASA engineer known for contributions to moon landings, dies at Irvine home


Former NASA scientist, engineer and administrator George Mueller, who was largely credited for NASA meeting President John F. Kennedy’s timetable for manned moon landings, as well as for initiating the Skylab and space shuttle programs, died Oct. 12 at his Irvine home at age 97.

The cause of death was congestive heart failure, a family spokesman said..

As deputy associate administrator, Mueller was head of NASA’s Office of Manned Spaceflight from 1963 to 1969, bearing much of the burden for the space agency’s Cold War-era mission through the Apollo program to land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, The Washington Post reported.

One of his most significant contributions was the “all up” philosophy of examining everything to be used for a space mission all at once, as opposed to incrementally, the Post reported.

According to a NASA history, “it is clear that without all-up testing, the first manned lunar landing could not have taken place as early as 1969.”

During his time at NASA, Mueller supervised three space flight centers: the Marshall Space Flight Center, the Kennedy Space Center, which was used in future programs such as the space shuttle, and the Manned Spacecraft Center, now known as the Johnson Space Center.

Before joining NASA, Mueller was vice president of Space Technology Laboratories in Los Angeles. He left NASA after the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing. He later served as senior vice president of General Dynamics, chairman and chief executive of System Development Corp. and CEO of Kistler Aerospace.

He was born in St. Louis on July 16, 1918. As a boy, he loved science fiction and built model airplanes powered by rubber bands and made his own radio receiving sets, the Post reported.

Mueller received a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University in 1940. He worked at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey and took graduate courses at Princeton University.

Mueller is survived by his wife of 37 years, Darla; two daughters from a previous marriage, Jean Porter of West Liberty, Ky., and Karen Hyvonen of Southampton, Mass.; two stepchildren, Wendy Schwartzman of Calabasas and Bill Schwartzman of Villa Park; 13 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Rob Vardon