initiated less than a year after the Command and Service Module Program began. People liked to work with or for Kelly. He “told it like it was” and refused to be discouraged by setbacks.
Thomas J. Kelly spent most of his professional career which began right after he graduated from Cornell, at Grumman. Kelly was born June 14, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York, spent his formative years on Long Island, and his undergraduate education was supported by a Grumman scholarship. A number of early assignments at Grumman prepared him for his later responsibilities. He designed the air inlets for the first Grumman aircraft to exceed twice the speed of sound. He was a prime mover in the well regarded but unsuccessful proposal for Project Mercury. He was a key player in a Grumman team that supported General Electric’s unsuccessful bid for the Apollo Command and Service Module contract.
As mentioned earlier, Kelly led the Grumman-funded study that validated the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous strategy for going to the Moon. John Houbolt of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had argued that this approach was clearly more efficient than the Earth Orbit Rendezvous plan. An intense debate in NASA ensued, and Kelly’s briefing based on Grumman’s study was a major contributor to the acceptance of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous plan.
The competition for the Lunar Module contract was unique. Instead of the usual proposed design, NASA asked bidders to answer 20 questions to show their understanding of the design challenge. Kelly led the group that assembled Grumman’s winning response. In the early days of the Grumman effort, it became apparent that NASA, North American (later Rockwell), and Grumman needed a common, standard mission on which to base design efforts. Kelly proposed a joint undertaking, which led to the formation of the Apollo Mission Planning Task Force to work on this vital problem.
During Apollo Missions 9, 10, 11, and 12, Kelly led the Grumman support team at Mission Control at the Manned Space Flight Center in Houston. Grumman then sent Kelly to the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he returned to Houston without finishing his assign-