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Joe McRoberts

Public Affairs, NASA

Several years after he retired formally from NASA, Joseph J. McRoberts returned as a re-hired annuitant to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to assist in media services during the space shuttle era. His experience as an information specialist for many years at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and NASA Headquarters in Washington was particularly valuable to the new reporters. He brought to the job at Kennedy the space shuttle experience he gained as a contractor to Goddard from 1983 to 1985 in charge of setting up and running their newsroom for shuttle missions to serve reporters who didn’t want to travel to Florida.

McRoberts began his NASA career in 1962 at NASA Headquarters in Washington as a public affairs officer for the office of applications. In 1973, he was asked to take the post of news chief at Goddard. In 1979, he moved back to NASA Headquarters as public affairs officer for the newly organized office of space science and applications, the position he held until he retired in 1980.

Throughout his career he was involved in all areas of public affairs planning, writing and presentations. This included creating and implementing the dissemination of information for high-profile national and international space missions, writing and editing press kits, news releases, statements and speeches for top NASA officials. He was responsible for overall public affairs management of numerous space missions including weather, communications, earth resources, scientific, solar and planetary spacecraft from 1962 to 1980. He spent a great deal of time assisting the various NASA centers and coordinating their material for the diverse elements of the complex missions into comprehensive press kits and fact sheets for missions to Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars, Mercury and the moon. He wrote and produced numerous TV news clips used by all of the networks nationally and internationally including interviews with mission managers, scientists and principal investigators. And of course, he worked with all of the major national and international newspapers, wire services and magazines. He received numerous awards ranging from those of Group Achievement to a Sustained Superior Performance Award for his work on the Voyager encounter with Jupiter in 1979.

As a contractor to Goddard, following retirement, he also wrote the initial Space Telescope book for NASA.

McRoberts came to NASA with a long list of achievements in the public affairs area. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism before going to work as a reporter for the Illinois State Journal in Springfield. After a stint in the army where he saw combat during the Korean War, he returned to journalism as a news writer for the Columbia Broadcasting System, CBS, in Chicago.

McRoberts first civilian government service came when he was hired as an information officer for the office of civil defense in Battle Creek, Mich. From there he moved to the chief of engineers for the U.S. Army in Washington.