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Special to JSC Features -- A Tribute to Paul Purser

On September 8, 2003, Johnson Space Center lost one of its founding pioneers. Paul E. Purser passed on at the age of 84 at his home in north Houston. Paul Purser was a member of our precursor, NACA, and was an original member of the Space Task Group, which came to Houston from Langley in 1962.

Among other accomplishments, Paul helped to develop the Little Joe solid rocket used for unmanned tests of the Mercury Spacecraft. In Houston, Paul served as Executive Assistant to Dr. Robert Gilruth through 1968, and was instrumental in the original design and construction of JSC, in establishing the organizational and operating structures, in supporting the early programs (Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo) and in assisting Dr. Gilruth in our Agency and Community outreach activities. Paul was the antithesis of the traditional concept of a government bureaucrat - he was the "Go To" guy at the Center when there was an administrative issue to be resolved. He operated forcefully, but with a grace and politeness that was rare. The Center is very much an artifact of his efforts in those early days.

In 1968, Paul was detailed to help Dr. Philip Hoffman establish the University of Houston - Clear Lake. Due to medical problems Paul retired from NASA in 1970. In subsequent years he had a noteworthy career as an industry consultant and as an academic at University of Houston, University of Texas, Rice, Stanford, Texas A&M and Harvard.

Those of us still at NASA and his friends in the NASA Alumni League will celebrate his career and contributions to the U.S. space program, and will remember him with great admiration and fondness.

Norman Chaffee, President NASA Alumni League

Norman Chaffee
Johnson Space Center
281 483-3777

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