Dr. William R. Lucas
Fourth Center Director, June 15, 1974-July 3, 1986
William R. Lucas' career extended from the earliest days of the
U.S. rocket program, all the way through the foundation of the
Lucas moved to Huntsville, Ala. in 1952 to join
the Redstone Arsenal team of rocket pioneers headed by Dr. Wernher
von Braun. At Redstone he became a staff member of the Guided
Missile Development Division. A specialist in materials, he eventually
became chief of that organization's Materials Branch. On February
1, 1956, Lucas was transferred to the Development Operations Division
of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.
He was responsible for designing the passive thermal
control system for the free world's first satellite, Explorer
I, which was launched by a Huntsville team using a Jupiter rocket
in 1958. And, he selected the materials used in the Red stone,
the rocket that would carry the nation's first astronaut, Alan
Shepard, into space in 1961.
On July 1, 1960, when the development division became
the nucleus of the Marshall Center, Lucas transferred to the new
organization. For most of the decade of the '60s, while working
on the Saturn family of rockets, he served in progressively responsible
management positions within the Center's Propulsion and Vehicle
Engineering Laboratory, becoming laboratory director in 1966.
In these positions, he directed the critical selection
of major materials and welding techniques for future launch vehicles.
He pioneered work with sp ray-on foams for cryogenic insulation
and high-temperature materials. And, he led the development of
the world's largest propulsion system used in the Saturn V launch
Lucas was also involved in the design and development
of the world's first space station, Skylab. Under his direction,
one of the upper stages of the Saturn V was transformed into a
laboratory and living area where three astronaut crews would eventually
spend a total of six months probing the unknowns of long-duration
space flight and conducting numerous other scientific experiments.
In 1969, four years prior to the actual launch of
Skylab, Lucas was named by Wernher von Braun to direct a new organization
designed to look to the future. Serving in that key position,
then later as deputy director of the Center, and finally from
1974 as Center director, Lucas was instrumental in bringing to
Marshall a significant share of the nation's major space programs.
Under Lucas' direction, Marshall was given responsibility
for managing three of the four main Shuttle elements-the main
engines on the orbiter, the twin solid rocket boosters and the
huge external tank. In addition, the Marshall Center was given
responsibility for Spacelab, an international laboratory carried
in the Shuttle where career scientists could travel into space
to acquire new knowledge about the sun, the stars, the Earth and
life itself. The Center also assumed responsibility for managing
Spacelab missions on orbit.
Under Lucas' guidance, the Marshall Center has also
led a NASA/industry team in the development of the Hubble Space