Jim Martin, 'Giant Among Space Explorers,' Dies
18 Apr 2002
(Source: NASA Headquarters)
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1727) Ivelisse Gilman
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
(Phone: 757/864-5036) RELEASE: 02-70 Former NASA manager of the Viking missions to Mars, James S. Martin, Jr., died April 14, in Rising Sun, Md., after a long battle with cancer. Martin was 81. NASA's Viking 1 and Viking 2, twin spacecraft launched to Mars in 1975, reached the Red Planet a year later. The two orbiting spacecraft provided the first global maps of Mars and when the two Viking landers touched down on the Martian surface, they made history by becoming the first successful mission to soft-land on the surface of another planet. Martin led this unprecedented effort and its 750-person nationwide team of NASA, industry and university engineers, scientists and technicians. "America lost a great explorer and superb leader in space exploration, and those around the world who push back the frontiers of the unknown mourn the loss of Jim Martin," said Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington. "He will always be remembered as a giant among space explorers. He was able, against tremendous odds and obstacles, to succeed with perhaps the most ambitious space mission ever attempted. The legacy of Viking, and Jim Martin, lives on in our new Mars Exploration Program." The Viking landers and orbiters operated in orbit and on the surface of Mars for over five years, laying laid the groundwork for more recent NASA successes including Mars Pathfinder, the rover Sojourner, the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, and the 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter which launched in April 2001. "Jim Martin was the epitome of leadership," said Tom Young, Viking's mission director and former president of Lockheed Martin, on the occasion of the project's silver anniversary in July. "Jim had the experience. He knew what it took to make a project successful. He had the strength and the integrity to do those things that were necessary to make it work." Martin joined NASA's Langley Research Center in September 1964 as assistant project manager for Lunar Orbiter. The five successful Lunar Orbiter missions provided significant new information about the Moon's surface and a wealth of photographic detail that stood as the definitive source of lunar surface information for years. In recognition of his contribution to this project, Martin was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1967. Martin was born in Washington, D.C. on June 21, 1920. He earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1942. He later completed the Harvard Graduate School of Business Middle Management Program. From 1942 to 1964, Martin worked for Republic Aviation Corporation, assuming greater responsibility first as assistant chief technical engineer, then chief research engineers and, finally, as manager of space systems requirements. Martin left NASA in 1976 to become vice president of advanced programs and planning, for Martin Marietta Aerospace, Bethesda, Md. In 2000, Martin was asked by NASA to come out of retirement and lead the effort to restructure the agency's Mars Exploration Program. He is survived by his wife Frieda and their children Neil Martin (now an employee at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.) and Laurie Martin.