j. 2019/04/15 – Owen K. Garriott

Owen K. Garriott (10/22/1930 – 04/15/2019)

Dr. Owen Kay Garriott passed away on April 15, 2019, at the age of 88, departing from his home in Huntsville, Alabama. A Navy veteran and Engineering Physicist at Stanford University at the time of his selection in 1965 as an astronaut, Oklahoman Owen was one of the first six scientists to be so selected for the Apollo Program. At the ripe age of 34, he was the elder statesman of our Group 4 astronauts. The Group 4 astronauts also included solar physicist Ed Gibson; flight surgeons Joe Kerwin and Dwane Graveline; astrophysicist Curt Michel; and me, a hard rock geologist. Owen’s passing from our unique group was preceded by that of Curt Michel in 2015.

The Apollo Group 4 scientist astronauts.  (back row, l-r):  Owen Garriott, Ed Gibson. (front row, l-r); Curt Michel, Harrison H. Schmitt, Joe Kerwin. (not pictured): Dwane Graveline. (NASA photo, 1965).

Already an accomplished private pilot, Owen took quickly to the T-38 jet pilot training at Arizona’s Williams Air Force Base that was required of the four new astronauts in Group 4 who had not had military pilot training (Joe Kerwin was an active duty Navy pilot and Curt Michel had been an Air Force F-86 fighter pilot). Later, as necessary for all the astronauts at the time, Owen also qualified as an H-13 helicopter pilot.

Owen flew, worked, and enjoyed himself immensely in space as Science Pilot on the 59-day, second manned Skylab Mission (Skylab 3) and as Mission Specialist for STS-9, the 10-day, Spacelab mission on the Space Shuttle. His activities and insights contributed greatly to our understanding in the diverse fields of physiological adaptation to space and the nature of the Sun. Owen’s post-space career in NASA included being Director of Science and Applications at the Johnson Space Center and later entering the private sector as an aerospace manager and consultant.

Owen at the Apollo Telescope Mount console aboard Skylab 3 (launched July 28, 1973) during his 59 day mission with CDR Alan Bean and pilot Jack Lousma. (NASA photo).

With his signature beard and mustache, I sometimes visualized Owen as playing bass in the Dave Brubeck Quartet in a smoky Hollywood dive! A good friend and outstanding colleague, Owen’s humor, scientific insights, operational wisdom, and professional integrity will be missed by all who had the privilege of spending time with him, now seemingly so brief.


Copyright © by Harrison H. Schmitt, 2019. All rights reserved.