Apollo program's Petrone dies at 80

Sept. 1, 2006 at 12:25 PM

PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif., Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Rocco Petrone, who helped develop the Saturn rocket for the U.S. Apollo space missions, died at his California home at age 80.

The former Army engineer, who came on loan to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, later became the director of launch operations at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he oversaw all phases of the program and was responsible for every spacecraft component used in it, reports The Los Angeles Times.

Petrone died last week at his home in Palos Verdes Estates from complications of heart disease.

Petrone also headed the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. In that role, he led the team that rescued the 1973 Skylab mission after it was damaged during liftoff.

Petrone had advised against the Jan. 28, 1986, launch of the shuttle Challenger, which ended in a disaster, the Times said.

After graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Petrone got his master's degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Besides his wife of 50 years, Petrone is survived by four children, a brother, and a half-brother.

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