Elected in 1975
“For pioneering accomplishments in the design, development, and implementation of space launching capabilities for the Apollo program.”
BY WILLIAM R. LUCAS
ROCCO A. PETRONE, a pioneer in rocketry and space flight, died on August 24, 2006, at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California. From humble beginnings, and with an uncommon intellect and unexcelled work ethic, he became one of the most important contributors to space technology of the 20th century. Among the many thousands of people who were involved in landing men on the moon and returning them safely to Earth, Rocco was one of a very small group of leaders whose contributions were critical to that effort. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1975.
Rocco was born on March 31, 1926, to Italian immigrant parents in Amsterdam, New York. In 1946, he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, where, in addition to his academic leadership, he played tackle on the great Army football teams of the 1940s. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army in Europe from 1947 to 1950. Upon his return to the United States, he studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and earned a master’s degree in 1951 and a professional degree in 1952, both in mechanical engineering.
Rocco’s career in rocketry began in the early 1950s at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, where, as an army officer, he joined the team headed by Wernher von Braun. He was assigned to the Missile Firing Laboratory, which was responsible for the development of hardware and techniques for the launch of bal-