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NASA Remembers Charles T. Force
Charles  T. Force NASA notes with sadness the passing last week of Charles T. Force, former associate administrator for the agency's Office of Space Communications.

Image Left: Charles T. Force, NASA's former associate administrator for the Office of Space Communications. Image credit: NASA

Force left NASA in May 1996 after an aerospace career that spanned more than four decades. He joined NASA in 1965 as director of the Guam tracking station used to support the Apollo lunar landings. He would later go on to help develop, construct and employ NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, known as TDRSS.

The constellation of communications satellites replaced an aging ground-based communications network and was designed to increase the time spacecraft were in communication with the ground and improve the amount of data that could be transferred. It cut NASA's telecommunications costs in half and is still in use today.

On leaving NASA, Force said it had been "an honor and privilege to work with the dedicated men and women at NASA," noting that the agency's "increasingly ambitious achievements" would not have been possible without the work of his colleagues in the Space Communications program.

"As we fly the International Space Station and space shuttle today and rely on the TDRSS system and as we prepare for new satellites in the constellation, it’s fitting to acknowledge the fundamental role of Charlie Force in the development and deployment of this incredible data relay system." said Michael Hawes, acting deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation.

TDRS spacecraft Image Right: The Tracking and Data Relay Satellites comprise the space segment of NASA's communications relay system. Artist's concept credit: NASA

The users of TDRSS read like a who's who of the space program. Programs such as the Hubble Space Telescope and LANDSAT relay their observations to their respective mission control centers through the network.

In a 1992 op-ed in the Washington Post, Force complimented NASA and its employees, writing "its (NASA's) accomplishments are unequaled and attest to its people forming one of the most capable and effective teams ever assembled."

A native of Shoals, Indiana, Force was a 1957 graduate of Purdue University. He was 72 years old.