Cortright, Edgar M. (1923–)
Influential NASA official during the era of
the first planetary probes. Cortright earned an M.S. in aeronautical engineering
from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1949, the year after he joined
the staff of Lewis Laboratory (now known as
the Glenn Research Center). His research at Lewis involved the aerodynamics
of high-speed air induction systems and jet exit nozzles. In 1958 Cortright
joined a small task group to lay the foundation for a national space agency.
When NASA came into being, he became chief of advanced technology at NASA
Headquarters, directing the initial formulation of the agency's meteorological
satellite program, including projects TIROS
and Nimbus. In 1960 he was appointed assistant
director for lunar and planetary programs, supervising the planning and
implementation of such projects as Mariner,
Ranger, and Surveyor.
He became deputy director and then deputy associate administrator for space
science and applications in the next few years, then, in 1967, deputy associate
administrator for manned spaceflight. The following year he took over as
director of the Langley Research Center,
a position he held until 1975, when he went to work in private industry,
becoming president of Lockheed-California in 1979.