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George Diller

NASA Public Affairs, John F. Kennedy Space Center

During his 37-year career in the Public Affairs office at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, George Diller became the agency’s longest-serving commentator. As the team’s lead for the expendable launch vehicle fleet, Diller covered the vast majority of the agency’s planetary, astrophysics and Earth-resources missions, including probes launched to asteroids and comets, the moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Pluto. He was frequently heard during space shuttle countdowns and was the lead for the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, as well as all five shuttle flights to repair and maintain the orbiting observatory.

It was his voice viewers heard when they tuned in for liftoff of STS-114, the shuttle’s return to flight in 2005, and when the storied program completed its final mission, STS-135, in 2011.

“All three engines up and burning,” Diller called as shuttle Atlantis’ trio of main engines ignited. “Two, one, zero and liftoff — the final liftoff of Atlantis. On the shoulders of the space shuttle, America will continue the dream.”

Diller got his start in radio at a young age. Calm under pressure, his voice never wavered, regardless of whether the countdown or launch went according to plan. His smooth, matter-of-fact delivery made him famous within the industry and among space enthusiasts who knew him by voice. He worked as closely as possible with each spacecraft’s payload team in order to thoroughly understand the hardware, instruments and objectives of the mission — all so he could share this information in a clear and interesting way to the news media and, ultimately, to the TV audience on launch day.

Spacecraft and launches are not Diller’s only areas of expertise. As the liaison to the Kennedy weather office, he kept his colleagues and the public informed about potential weather impacts to launches or center assets, even staying at Kennedy through hurricanes as a member of the center’s Rideout Team. He also was Kennedy Public Affairs’ resident expert on the NASA Railroad, which was used during the Apollo and Shuttle Programs.

Diller’s love of space exploration and his appreciation of the technology and human talent required to achieve it helped explain to audiences worldwide that the effort to expand the human presence in space is always worthwhile.

For more, read the full story on George Diller’s retirement in May 2017.