WORLD famous space body NASA have paid tribute to a former director who hailed from Leigh.
John Hodge, NASA’s second flight director, died on May 19 at his home in Northern Virginia aged 92.
He was born in Leigh in 1929, and went on to study at the Northampton Engineering College at the University of London, graduating in 1949 with a degree in engineering.
Mr Hodge became NASA’s second flight director for the final solo flight of the Mercury Program, Mercury-Atlas 9, in which astronaut Gordon Cooper flew a spacecraft for 22 orbits of the earth in 1963.
Through the 1960s, Mr Hodge continued to serve as a flight director, managing the agency’s earliest human spaceflight missions in the Mercury and Gemini Programs, and leading flight control teams in the new Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (then the Manned Spacecraft Center) in Houston, Texas.
He was on-shift during the Gemini 8 mission of astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott when a malfunctioning thruster put the crew into a dangerous spin and brought the mission to a premature conclusion.
Armstrong and Scott were supposed to rendezvous with a target vehicle, and then Scott would perform a spacewalk.
Gemini docked with the target vehicle, but then it began to tumble and roll out of control, so Mr Hodge and Mission Control had to bring the crew home as quickly as possible.
The mission saved Mr Armstrong’s life, who would then go on to famously become the first man on the moon in 1969.
The Leigh-born director was also on-duty during the pre-launch test that resulted in the Apollo 1 tragedy when three astronauts died in a cabin fire.
Having joined NASA in 1959, he also was chief of the Flight Control Branch two years later, and chief of the Flight Control Division in 1963, retiring as a flight director in 1968.
He later went on to become head of Johnson Space Center’s Advanced Program Office where he helped design the past three Apollo lunar landings.
Mr Hodge left NASA in 1970, and worked on projects in the U.S. and Canada, and spent five years at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
He returned to NASA in 1982 to manage space station design studies, and was named NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Station in 1984, working on the Space Station Program, a precursor to the International Space Station.
He left the space agency for the final time in 1987, and formed J. D. Hodge and Co., an international management and aerospace consulting firm.
He is survived by Audrey Hodge, his wife of 70 years, and his four children.