On NASA’s Team Until the Final Inning
When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration came into being in 1958, Richard "Dick" Cavicchi, already had 14 years of service with the federal government -- four years in the Army and ten years with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
On July 7, 1948 -- "the last year the Cleveland Indians baseball team won the World Series," Cavicchi is quick to point out--he began his career at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio, doing turbine aerodynamics.
"The Germans had started using jet planes during World War II, but the U.S. was just getting into jet engines after the war. The turbines I was working on were for jet engines," recalls Cavicchi.
In the early years of NASA at the Lewis Research Center (the new name of the laboratory), Cavicchi and 23 others attended two years of full-time training in nuclear physics and nuclear engineering, in preparation for designing nuclear rocket engines which were intended to go to Mars.
"So at that time, I was in the space program," said Cavicchi. "When I came here in 1948, nobody was thinking of going to space; it was all aeronautics then."
Over the years, he has worked in ground power and rotor dynamics; presently he works in computational fluid dynamics. The focus of his work may have changed, but two things that haven't changed are his interest in baseball and his interest in keeping active.
"When I was young, I played on basketball and softball teams here. I also played trumpet in a band on lab," Cavicchi said. He was active in the running club for years, and today he is seen riding his bike to and from work as he has done since 1964.
Since 1982 he has been competing in track and field, swimming and bicycling events in Senior Olympic competitions and has won many medals. Cavicchi is not alone in these activities. His wife, whom he married in 1954 -- "the year the Cleveland Indians won 111 games, the most games won by a team in either league up to that time," he informs me -- is a Senior Olympic swimmer and until recently participated in track and field and cycling events.
Cavicchi's blue eyes twinkle as he says, "I've outlasted all the directors of this lab from Edward R. Sharp through Julian Earls."
Asked when he might retire, he says laughingly, "When the Cleveland Indians win the World Series again."
› Watch Flash Video