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Lee R. Scherer

Lee R. Scherer

Former Armstrong Flight Research Center Director (1971–1975) and Kennedy Space Center Director (1975–1979)

Lee R. Scherer was director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center from Jan. 19, 1975, to Sept. 2, 1979.
Prior to his appointment as Kennedy Space Center director, Scherer was director of NASA’s Flight Research Center (now Armstrong Flight Research Center) in Edwards, California, responsible for the conduct of advanced aeronautical flight research from Oct. 11, 1971 until Jan. 19, 1975.

A 1942 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a Bachelor of Science in naval science, Scherer’s operational experience in the Navy included assignments as a fighter pilot operating from various aircraft carriers. Prior to entering the Naval Academy, he attended the University of Kentucky.

He was awarded a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1949, and a professional degree (aeronautical engineer) from the California Institute of Technology in 1950. He was awarded a doctorate degree in engineering science from the University of Central Florida in 1979.

From 1950 to 1953, he was flying qualities project officer for the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, responsible for establishing stability and control specifications for fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, and for approval of flight tests to meet these objectives prior to acceptance by the Navy.

From 1953 to 1956, he held several assignments, both in Washington and on the staff of commander, Fleet Air Hawaii.

He was special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research and development from 1956 through 1959, the period when Vanguard, Polaris, and ballistic missile nuclear submarines were developed.

He served as technical assistant to the team responsible for the establishment of the Anti- Submarine Warfare Research Center for NATO in La Spezia, Italy from 1959 to 1962. In 1962 he was head of the Aircraft Production Branch, responsible for planning, management and cost control in production of new Navy aircraft.

In 1962, on assignment from the Navy to NASA Headquarters, he was the program manager for the Lunar Orbiter Program, five spacecraft that photographed the Moon from low lunar orbit to provide data for the selection of Apollo landing sites. All five spacecraft performed their missions successfully. He retired from the Navy with the rank of captain in 1964, following 25 years of service, and remained in NASA as director of lunar programs for the Office of Space Sciences.

President Jimmy Carter, with wife Rosalynn and daughter Amy, listen to Lee R. Scherer, center director from 1974 to 1979, explain a model of the crawler-transporter during their tour of Kennedy Space Center.
President Jimmy Carter, with wife Rosalynn and daughter Amy, listen to Lee R. Scherer, center director from 1974 to 1979, explain a model of the crawler-transporter during their tour of Kennedy Space Center.

From 1967 to 1971, Scherer was director of the Apollo Lunar Exploration Office, responsible for scientific aspects of lunar exploration. He held this position during the first five lunar missions.

Scherer received NASA’s Exceptional Service Award in 1967, the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award in 1969, and the NASA Distinguished Service Award in 1974. He received the 1976–77 General Lewis H. Brereton Award, presented annually by the Air Force Association (Florida) to the Florida civilian making the greatest contribution to aerospace during the year.

During his tenure as director of the Flight Research Center, Scherer was responsible for the overall management of advanced aeronautical flight research conducted at the center. He continued most of the programs established by his predecessor while aligning the center’s interests and projects with those of NASA Headquarters.

Scherer directed the Kennedy Space Center during the Apollo Soyuz Test Project — a joint manned space venture with the Soviet Union in 1975—and the early buildup for the Space Shuttle program. Scherer left Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 2, 1979, to assume the post of associate administrator for External Relations at NASA Headquarters.

Following his retirement from NASA, Scherer served as a senior executive with General Dynamics Commercial Services Group in San Diego, California.

After a lengthy retirement in San Diego, Scherer died May 7, 2011, at the age of 91.