Ordway with NASA officials touring MGM Borehamwood during pre-production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (L-R), Fred Ordway, astronaut Deke Slayton, author Arthur C. Clarke, NASA assistant, director Stanley Kubrick, and George C. Mueller, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight (essentially, boss of Project Apollo).
Frederick I. Ordway III, a NASA scientist who was a special assistant to the first director of the Department of Energy and worked as technical adviser on 2001: A Space Odyssey, died July 1. He was 87.
His obituary in the Huntsville Times outlined his professional accomplishments:
Ordway developed his in depth knowledge of rockets and space travel with a career that started in the 1950s working with guided missiles. From 1960-64 he was Chief of Space Information Systems at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. He would later hold various positions, including special assistant to the first director for the Department of Energy. He taught at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, which would award him an honoring doctorate degree. He also authored other books including “Visions of Spaceflight: Images from the Ordway Collection,” “The Rocket Team: From the V-2 to the Saturn Moon Rocket,” and (with Wernher von Braun) “History of Rocketry and Space Travel.”
“Maybe he was a good historian of spaceflight because he lived through so much of its history,” suggests Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins.
Ordway joined the American Rocket Society in 1939, which later became the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, so this was the 75th year of his membership. He was a major collector of books on rocketry, astronomy, spaceflight, and science fiction. (Bill has a roundup of links to videos featuring Ordway plus other material on his LiveJournal.)
Fans are most likely to recognize Ordway’s name for his service as technical adviser on the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. He wrangled a huge amount of information to help extrapolate technology thirty-five years into the future, then helped MGM’s army of filmmakers turn his ideas into designs for sets, props, and costumes.
Space Odyssey’s enduring popularity amazed Ordway… and though he had other significant professional accomplishments, he spent most of his free time the past 20 years giving talks about the film to fans.
In fact, Ordway recently participated in a discussion of the movie at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, on June 12, where he spoke about his life-long friendship with Sir Arthur Clarke. The video can be viewed here:
[Thanks to Bill Higgins for the story.]