Paying Tribute to the People Who Took Aviation
from the Flight Deck of a Navy Carrier to Man's First Steps on the Moon
1929 – 2002
President, Space Station Integration Division
Led the design team for the Lunar Module
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Merrick, NY, he attended Wellington C. Mepham High School in Bellmore. Attended Cornell University's five-year engineering program in 1946 on a Grumman scholarship.
He joined Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation full time as a propulsion engineer when he graduated and stayed until his retirement in December 1992, leaving only to serve in the Air Force from 1956 to 1958.
Tom Kelly led the design team for Lunar Module when Grumman received the contract from NASA in late 1962. Kelly had not yet turned 40 when Neil Armstrong took his historic first step on the moon in 1969. "It was the greatest thing in my career. And, in hindsight, it was even more significant than we thought at the time," Kelly said in 1998.
After his work on the lunar module, he served as the vice president and deputy director of Grumman's space shuttle proposal and president of Grumman's Space Station Integration Division in Reston, Va., among other positions. He was awarded NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal in 1972 for his work on Project Apollo.
In May 2001, he published a book titled "Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module," which his family said took six years to complete and was in its second printing. On Saturday, March 23, 2002, at the age of 72, Tom Kelly passed away after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis at his home in Cutchogue.