Dr. Earle Knowlen Huckins III, Manager of Space Science and Space Station Programs and NASA HQ , dies at 59

Press Release From: NASA HQ
Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Dr. Earle K. Huckins III, 59, a top manager for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington died July 22 at his home in Centreville, Va., of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

From February 1996, until November 2001, he served as the Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Science at Headquarters, responsible for the executive direction of NASA's space science flight program including missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Telescope, planetary missions including Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn.

During his tenure as deputy, he oversaw the successful launch of 25 space missions. He was also responsible for the overall contract management of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. He resigned as deputy in November 2001 because of his declining health, but continued working as a special assistant.

"Earle had a unique combination of management and engineering expertise as well as tremendous 'people' talents," said Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator of Space Science at Headquarters. "I relied on Earle's good sense -- and the respect in which he was held throughout NASA -- to solve the most difficult challenges in managing complex programs. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Cathy and his family."

Dr. Huckins' distinguished 40-year career with NASA began in 1962 when he joined the space agency as a student trainee at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. He specialized in the field of spacecraft dynamics, stability, and control. Dr. Huckins held various management positions at Langley including Mission Integration Manager for the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) Project, Head of the Large Space Antenna Systems Technology Office, Manager of the Large Space Structures Technology Program, and Deputy Manager of the Space Station Evolutionary Definition Office.

In 1986, Dr. Huckins accepted a temporary assignment as Technical Assistant to the Associate Administrator for Space Station in NASA Headquarters in Washington. In 1988, he permanently transferred to NASA Headquarters as Director of the Strategic Plans and Programs Division in the Office of Space Station.

Prior to being named as the Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Science, he was Director, Space Station Engineering in the Office of Space Systems Development, Chief Engineer in the Office of Space Flight (including both Space Shuttle and Space Station), and the Program Director of the Cassini Mission to Saturn in the Office of Space Science. Just prior to his resignation, he had led the initial efforts to restructure the Mars Program and recover from 2 failed missions.

Dr. Huckins received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1966, a Master of Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1968, and a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1972. He completed the Program for Management Development (PMD) at Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration under a NASA fellowship in 1984. Dr. Huckins received two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, a NASA Exceptional Service Medal, Presidential Rank Awards of Meritorious and Distinguished Executive, a Creative Management Award, and numerous Special Achievement Awards. In 2001, the NASA JPL named an Asteroid in his honor. He was an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

Dr. Huckins was born, in Newport News, Va., went to high school at Warwick High School in Newport News, and he and his family lived in Williamsburg, Va. prior to moving to Centreville, Va.

A viewing will be held at Demaine Funeral Home, Springfield, Va. on Thursday, July 25, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. EDT. The funeral service will be conducted at Saint John's Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square in Washington on July 26 at 1:30 p.m. EDT. A burial service will be held at the gravesite in Newport News, Va. on July 27 at 1:00 p.m. EDT. The family has requested that contributions be made to the ALS Association-National Capital Area Chapter (

He is survived by his wife, Cathy L. Huckins, of Centreville; a daughter, Christine G. H. Franck, of New York City; 2 sons, Scott K. Huckins of Seattle and Brian T. Huckins, of Haymarket, Va.; a granddaughter, Kelsey T. Huckins, and a forthcoming grandson Connor K. Huckins, of Haymarket. He is also survived by 3 sisters, Beverly Huckins of Moodus, Ct; Katherine Benefield of Visalia, Calif; Carol Sise of Elkton, MD; and two brothers, David Huckins of Monongah, W.Va. and Paul Huckins of Gordonsville, Va.

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