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Former Kennedy Space Center Director Lee Scherer Dies at 91
05.11.11
 
Lee Scherer talks with Walter Kapryan following the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project launch Image above: Former Kennedy Space Center Director Lee Scherer, left, talks with the former Director of Launch Operations Walter Kapryan following the successful lift off of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project on July 15, 1975. Photo credit: NASA
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Lee Scherer lands first plane at SLFImage above: On May 21, 1976, Lee Scherer, Kennedy Space Center's second director, pilots the first airplane to land on the Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. Photo credit: NASA
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Lee Scherer lands first plane at SLF Image above: On May 21, 1976, Lee Scherer, Kennedy Space Center's second director, poses for a photo after landing the first air plane on the Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. Photo credit: NASA
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Lee Scherer welcomes President Jimmy Carter to Kennedy Image above: Former Kennedy Space Center Director Lee Scherer greets President Jimmy Carter for a tour of the center on Oct. 1, 1978. Photo credit: NASA
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Lee Scherer welcomes Columbia to Kennedy Image above: Former Kennedy Space Center Director Lee Scherer talks to a crowd gathered to see the arrival of space shuttle Columbia aboard a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on March 24, 1979. Photo credit: NASA
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Lee Scherer, the second director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, died Saturday morning in his San Diego home. He was 91.

Scherer was born in Charleston, S.C., on Sept. 20, 1919. He attended the University of Kentucky, was a 1942 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a retired naval aviator. He also received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of Central Florida.

From 1967 to 1971, he led the Apollo Lunar Exploration Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington and helped pick out landing sites and exploration opportunities for the first human expedition on the moon. In 2009 as the nation was celebrating the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, Scherer talked to Spaceport News, Kennedy's newspaper, staff about his work with NASA's Apollo Program.

“We watched the first man step down onto the moon on a vague, rough television picture. It was breathtaking for everyone in the program,” he said.

Scherer then assumed the role of director at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. During his tenure at Kennedy from 1975 to 1979, Scherer oversaw the launch of more than 50 satellites and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project -- the last Apollo mission and the first collaborative mission for the United States and Russia. He also managed the transformation of the center as NASA geared up for the Space Shuttle Program and was the first to land a plane on the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).

"I made about four landings over there with nobody to see me but the alligators. Then went over to the strip and made two touch-and-go's and then a full-stop landing," Scherer recalled during an oral history interview in 2002.

"There was a busload of people that had come out to watch it, a couple of reporters there who had a few questions . . . I said 'That is the most unimportant landing that'll probably ever be made at this facility,'" Scherer joked. "It was quite a thrill. I was a carrier pilot so I'm used to landing in small areas. That runway goes right on out over the horizon."

He returned to NASA Headquarters as associate administrator of external relations until 1980, before becoming a senior executive with General Dynamics Commercial Services Group in San Diego.

Scherer is described as a lifelong advocate of America's space program and often joined the Kennedy work force on launch days and returned for center director forums.

"We have lost one of our biggest boosters, and he will be missed," said current Kennedy Director Bob Cabana. "Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers."

Scherer is survived by his wife, Sheryn.

 
 
Rebecca Regan
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center