National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Dr. Roger D. Launius is Chief Historian for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), headquartered in Washington, D.C. His office is responsible for preparing books, monographs, special studies, and articles on U.S. aerospace history; managing the NASA Historical Reference Collection of materials about the history of the agency; and providing historical services to both the NASA staff and the public.
Dr. Launius was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on 15 May 1954 and grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. He graduated from Graceland College, Lamoni, Iowa, with a major in history in 1976 and received the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history in 1978 and 1982 at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, with major fields in American frontier and military history.
After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Launius became a civilian staff historian with the United States Air Force. He served in a variety of historian positions with the Air Force, and between 1987 and 1990 was Chief Historian for the Military Airlift Command, outside St. Louis, Missouri. He moved to his present position at NASA in October 1990.
Dr. Launius has lectured widely on historical subjects to military, scholarly, and general audiences. He has also served part-time on the faculties of McKendree College, Weber State University, Graceland College, and Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. He has acted as a reader for publishers, as a member of the governing councils of several historical associations, and on the editorial boards of numerous journals. He is an active member of several professional associations, among them the American Astronautical Society, where he is a fellow and the vice president for publications and the editor of Space Times: The Magazine of the American Astronautical Society.
He has written or edited numerous books and articles on historical subjects. On aerospace history some of the more recent include: Imagining Space: Achievements, Possibilities, Projections, 1950-2050 (Chronicle Books, 2001); Reconsidering Sputnik: Forty Years Since the Soviet Satellite (Harwood Academic, 2000); Exploring the Unknown: A Documentary History of the U.S. Civil Space Program, Volumes II-IV (NASA SP-4407, 1996-1999); Innovation and the Development of Flight (Texas A&M University Press, 1999); NASA & the Exploration of Space (Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 1998); Frontiers of Space Exploration (Greenwood Press, 1998); Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership (University of Illinois Press, 1997); Organizing for the Use of Space: Historical Perspectives on a Persistent Issue (Univelt, Inc., AAS History Series, Volume 18, 1995); NASA: A History of the U.S. Civil Space Program (Krieger Publishing Co., 1994); History of Rocketry and Astronautics (Univelt, Inc., AAS History Series, volume 11, 1994); and Apollo 11 at Twenty-Five, electronic picture book issued on computer disk by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, 1994.
He is also involved in the study of nineteenth century history. His book, Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet (University of Illinois Press, 1988), won the prestigious Evans Award for biography. He has also co-edited Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History (University of Illinois Press, 1994), Cultures in Conflict: A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois (Utah State University Press, 1995), and Kingdom on the Mississippi Revisited: Nauvoo in Mormon History (University of Illinois Press, 1996). His biographical study, Alexander William Doniphan: Portrait of a Missouri Moderate (University of Missouri Press, 1997), discusses the role of the vital center in American politics during the Mexican-American War and sectional conflict.
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center