German-born American aerospace engineer and space architect, Wernher Von Braun, worked in Nazi Germany's rocket development program as a young man. After World War II, he moved to the United States where he became a pioneer of rocket and space technology in the nation. In his later career, he became director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center.
Robert A. Heinlein was an American author, naval officer, and aeronautical engineer. Heinlein is credited with pioneering a literary subgenre called hard science fiction as he was among the first to stress the importance of scientific accuracy in fiction. Robert A. Heinlein is one of the most influential science-fiction writers of all time.
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was the first from his country to fly into space twice. He died when his Soyuz 1 capsule crashed while re-entering the Earth, due to a parachute failure, on April 24, 1967, which made him the first human to die in a space flight.
The first person to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong was an astronaut and aeronautical engineer. Prior to his trip to the Moon, he became NASA's first civilian astronaut to fly in space. After resigning from NASA, he taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He was a Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee.
Part of the seven Project Mercury astronauts, Gordon Cooper manned a 34-hour space mission, becoming the first American to stay for a day in space. As part of the Gemini 5 mission, he and his co-pilot proved it was possible for astronauts to survive a mission to the Moon and back.
Former NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy captain Lisa Nowak was part of the STS-121 mission. She made headlines when she apparently attempted to kidnap Air Force captain Colleen Shipman, who was getting into a relationship with astronaut William Oefelein, who had previously dated Nowak. Nowak was subsequently dismissed from NASA.
Scott Kelly is an American engineer, retired naval aviator, and astronaut. He is credited with commanding the International Space Station on three Expeditions. Scott Kelly is the recipient of several awards and honors, such as the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
Computer-game developer John Carmack introduced pioneering innovations in the 3-D game arena. He specializes in first-person shooter games, such as Quake and Doom. The id Software founder had spent a year in a juvenile home and had later dropped out of university to become a freelance programmer.
Rocketry pioneer Jack Parsons is best remembered as one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He also co-established the Aerojet Engineering Corporation and developed the first rocket engine that used a propellant. He was also known for his multiple sexual affairs and sex cult rituals.
Judith Resnik was an American software engineer, electrical engineer, pilot, biomedical engineer, and NASA astronaut. She was the fourth woman and the first Jewish woman in space, logging 145 hours in orbit. Resnik, who died during the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, received several posthumous honors. Judith Resnik’s life and career inspired the 1990 TV movie Challenger.
Sergei Korolev was a Soviet spacecraft designer and rocket engineer who played an important role during the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America in the 1950s and 1960s. He was largely responsible for developing the R-7 Rocket and launching Yuri Gagarin into space. Sergei Korolev also launched Belka, Strelka, and Laika into space.
Wally Schirra was an American NASA astronaut, test pilot, and naval aviator. He achieved popularity in 1959, when he became one of the seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury. In 1962, he was part of Mercury-Atlas 8 and became only the ninth human to travel into space. Wally Schirra was portrayed by Lance Henriksen in the film, The Right Stuff.
Renowned meteorologist and aeronaut James Glaisher was a pioneer of balloon flights and had penned the iconic book Travels in the Air. He had also contributed to the formation of the Meteorological Society and the Aeronautical Society of Britain. The 2019 movie The Aeronauts depicts his exploits as a balloonist.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was a Russian rocket scientist. Credited with pioneering astronautic theory, Tsiolkovsky is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of astronautics and modern rocketry. His works served as an inspiration to several other Soviet rocket engineers like Valentin Glushko and Sergei Korolev. Hence, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's work played an influential role in the Soviet space program.
Burt Rutan is an American former entrepreneur and aerospace engineer. He is best known for his ability to make strong, light, energy-efficient, and unusual-looking air and space craft. Burt Rutan is credited with designing historically significant aircrafts like the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, which set the world record for the longest and fastest nonstop circumnavigation flight in history.
Gerald Vincent Bull was a Canadian artillery expert, known for designing Project Babylon supergun for the Government of Iraq. His idea was to do away with the conventional rockets by firing satellites into orbit from a 156m-long barrel embedded inside a hill. However, his assassination within two years of the start of the project put an end to it.
Jiro Horikoshi was a Japanese engineer who played an important role during the Second World War, serving as the chief engineer of several Japanese fighter aircraft, including the famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Jiro Horikoshi's life and career inspired a fictionalized biographical animated film titled The Wind Rises which was directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Aeronautical designer R. J. Mitchell joined Supermarine at age 21 and worked for them throughout his life. Remembered for designing sea planes, he was also the man behind the fighter aircraft Spitfire, which was used extensively during World War II. The film The First of the Few chronicled his life.
German aeronautical engineer Otto Lilienthal became the first known person to use gliders for a successful flight. A mechanical engineer, he owned a shop and flight factory and developed gliders, with which he completed around 2,000 flights. Lilienthal, however, died after breaking his back in a glider crash.
Glenn Curtiss was an American motorcycling and aviation pioneer. He is credited with founding the U.S. aircraft industry. He is also credited with forming the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company which merged with the Wright Aeronautical to form Curtiss-Wright Corporation in 1929. Glenn Curtiss’ company played a major role in the years leading up to the First World War.
Legendary German aircraft designer Kurt Tank established the design and testing department at the Rohrbach aircraft factory. Apart from developing the German fighter aircrafts Fw 190 and Fw 200 Condor, he also developed warplanes for other countries, the most notable being the Marut for India’s Hindustan Aeronautics.
US Air Force pilot and NASA astronaut James McDivitt was mainly associated with Project Gemini and Project Apollo. His Gemini 4 mission witnessed Ed White script history as the first US astronaut to complete a spacewalk. Post-retirement, he was associated with organizations such as Pullman Inc. and Rockwell International.
Aviation pioneer and aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland is best remembered for his double-engine warplane Mosquito and the jet airliner Comet. He was part of the Royal Flying Corps and had been knighted for his achievements. He was also the founder of the De Havilland Aircraft Company.
Hungarian-American mathematician Theodore von Karman is best known for his research on aeronautics. Born to a professor father, Karman was a math prodigy in childhood and was pushed into engineering. He was also the first recipient of the National Medal of Science. A bachelor for life, he lived with his mother and sister.
British engineer and inventor George Cayley was a pioneer of aeronautics and aviation. He designed the world’s first glider that could successfully carry a human being. He was also a prominent Whig and had contributed to the formation of what is now known as the University of Westminster.
British-Australian novelist Nevil Shute was also an aeronautical engineer and had fought in World War I. Of the 25 books he had penned throughout his lifetime, On the Beach remains one of the most notable. Most of his works reflected his cynicism regarding humanity in a war-ravaged society.
Louis Blériot was a French aviator, engineer, and inventor. He is credited with developing the first workable headlamp for cars. He is also credited with making the first working, piloted monoplane. Blériot achieved worldwide fame in 1909 when he became the first person to fly across the English Channel. Louis Blériot also founded the successful aircraft manufacturing company, Blériot Aéronautique.
Marcel Dassault was a French industrialist and engineer. He played an important role during the First World War when he developed a type of aircraft propeller which was used by the French army. In 1916, he worked with Louis Coroller and Henry Potez to form a company named Société d'Études Aéronautiques in order to manufacture the SEA series of fighters.
Noshir Gowadia is a former design engineer. A convicted spy for several countries, Gowadia was indicted for selling classified information to individuals in Switzerland, Germany, and Israel and to China. Noshir Gowadia received a 32-year prison sentence in 2011.
NASA astronaut and USAF pilot Stuart Roosa served as the Command Module Pilot for the 1971 Apollo 14 mission. He had begun his career as a smokejumper for the US Forest Service, before moving on to the USAF. Following his stint at NASA, he worked as an executive for Greek and US businesses.
Satish Dhawan was an Indian aerospace engineer and mathematician remembered for his research in the field of boundary layers and turbulence. From 1972 to 1984, Dhawan served as the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization during which he played a key role in the development of the space program in India. In 1981, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.
Astrophysicist Samuel Pierpont Langley had worked as an engineer before he taught physics and astronomy at the Western University of Pennsylvania. He later took over as the director of the Allegheny Observatory. He is best remembered for his research on solar radiation and for inventing the bolometer.
US astronaut, naval officer, and aviator Robert Crippen was a pilot on the first Space Shuttle mission and completed 4 space flights in his career. He later served as the director of Space Shuttle and of the Kennedy Space Center. He also worked for Lockheed Martin and Thiokol.
Jean Bastien-Thiry was a French engineer and military personnel whose assassination attempt on French President Charles de Gaulle cost him his life. The assassination attempt made international headlines and inspired a novel titled The Day of the Jackal, which was later adapted into a film. Before his treacherous infamy, Bastien-Thiry was credited with creating the Nord SS.10/SS.11 missiles.
At 32, Joe Engle became the US’s youngest pilot to qualify as an astronaut after flying his X-15 to 280,600 feet. He also commanded 2 Space Shuttle missions, including the 1981 STS-2. He was later inducted to the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.
Known as "the father of stealth," Ben Rich made a significant contribution to the development of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter-bomber. Throughout his stint at Lockheed’s Skunk Works, he helped develop numerous military planes. The UCLA alumnus later received the Distinguished Service Cross for his work.