National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
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Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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             JOSEPH F.SHEA                                            211
                               JOSEPH F.SHEA
                                BY GEORGE E.MUELLER
                JOSEPH F.SHEA, senior vice-president for engineering at Raytheon
            Company, and former manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office at the
            National Aeronautics and Space Administration, died at his home in Weston,
            Massachusetts, on February 14, 1999.
                Joe was one of the great systems engineers of our time and one of my
            personal heroes. He was a brilliant engineer, a great leader, an outstanding
            manager, an inspired speaker, and a great intellect. One of his many contributions
            to Apollo was the decision to base the mission on rendezvousing in lunar orbit.
            This decision was central to a successful lunar landing in the decade, and it is a
            tribute to Joe’s logic and leadership that he was able to build a consensus among
            the three space centers, Marshall Space Flight Center, Cape Canaveral, and
            Johnson Space Center, at a time when they never agreed on anything.
                Joe was born in the Bronx, New York, on September 5, 1926. He served in
            the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1947 and was commissioned an ensign in 1946. He
            was a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he earned bachelor’s
            degrees in engineering and mathematics, and a master’s degree and a doctorate in
            engineering mechanics. He also taught at the university from 1949 to 1950 and
            again from 1953 to 1955.
             JOSEPH F.SHEA                                            212
                From 1955 through 1959, Joe was a military development engineer at Bell
            Telephone Labs in Whippany, New Jersey. In that position he was intimately
            involved in direction of the project that led to the development of the extremely
            accurate radio-inertial guidance system employed in the Titan I intercontinental
            ballistic missile. He contributed a considerable amount of engineering innovation
            and project management skill and was directly responsible for the successful
            development of this pioneering guidance system.
                From 1959 through 1961 as director of advanced research and development
            and program manager of the inertial guidance system development project for the
            Titan II ICMB, Joe was responsible for a number of significant engineering
            achievements, in particular the introduction of then-new technology relating to
            the design and development of solid-state power generation systems in long-life
            operational guidance equipment. This feature was a major factor in the reliability
            and continuing readiness of the still-operational Titan II ballistic missile weapon
            system, which is a major element of the current strategic deterrent missile force in
            the United States.
                Joe joined Space Technology Labs in 1961 and while there directed
            advanced systems analysis and preliminary design studies of classified,
            advanced-technology ballistic missile defense concepts.
                In 1962 Joe joined NASA and at first had the systems responsibility for
            Apollo and later became the project manager at the Manned Spacecraft Center
            for both the capsule and the lunar module. He was responsible for the definition
            of the basic design concept for the Apollo lunar landing mission, including the
            Apollo spacecraft command and service modules and the lunar module. He was
            the chief engineer of the design and development effort for lunar spacecraft, and
            directed the extensive spacecraft test and evaluation program. Joe directed the
            initial Apollo conceptual studies, which established the technical feasibility and
            advantages of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous technique, which had a major impact
            on the ability to achieve the Apollo objectives on-schedule and with minimum
            development and mission risk. He directed the spacecraft development
             JOSEPH F.SHEA                                            213
             program through the most critical development phases. He contributed personally
             and directly by making key decisions regarding engineering and scientific
             applications, and actively directed the critical system tradeoffs and integration
             among spacecraft development, flight crew operations, and overall Apollo flight
                At NASA, Joe made outstanding contributions to the establishment of the
             basic Apollo lunar mission concept, and he directed the initial design,
             development, and test of the Apollo spacecraft command and service modules.
             His technical skills and managerial abilities contributed in a significant way to the
             final successful achievement of our national goal of landing men on the Moon
             and return them safely to Earth before the end of the decade of the 1960s.
                In 1967 and 1968 Joe held the position of vice-president of engineering for
             the Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1969 Joe joined
             Raytheon as senior vice-president of engineering and was responsible for all
             engineering and technology developments as well as all quality-assurance
                Joe continued his public service activities after having entered the private
             sector. He chaired a task force established by NASA Administrator Daniel
             S.Goldin in 1993 to review plans for the Hubble Space Telescope servicing
             mission and the Defense Science Board Task Force on Countermeasures and
             Defense Suppression and served as a member of the Division on Engineering and
             Physical Sciences Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National
             Research Council. In 1964 Joe received the Arthur S.Flemming Award as one of
             the ten outstanding young men in government for directing the studies that led to
             the selection of lunar orbit rendezvous as the mission mode for the Apollo moon
             landings. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology named Joe the 1989 Jerome
             C.Hunsaker Visiting Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
                Joe was the recipient of numerous honors and awards. He was elected as a
             member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1971 and was a fellow of the
             American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and of the American
             Astronautical Society.
             JOSEPH F.SHEA                                            214
                Joe is survived by his wife, Carol; five daughters, Mary S.Helt of
            Framingham, Massachusetts, Nancy C.Shea of Denver, Colorado, Patricia A.Cash
            of South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, Amy V.Shea of Acton, Massachusetts, and
            Hilary Shea Crowley of Weston, Massachusetts; a son, Joseph E.Manion of
            Framingham, Massachusetts; a sister, Jeanne Tombini of New Rochelle, New
            York; a brother, Gerald Shea of Middletown, Maryland; six grandchildren; and
            one great-grandchild.
             JOSEPH F.SHEA                                                    215
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