I drink a toast today to a fine gentleman, a gentle man, Frederick I. Ordway III, who passed away last week at the age of 87. Many in the space community know and counted as a good friend Fred. He was a stalwart in the arena for more than sixty years. We will all miss him.
I first met Fred when I arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1990 to take over as the NASA Chief Historian. He was both inviting and helpful as I settled into my new position at NASA Headquarters after having spent several years as an historian with the U.S. Air Force. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about NASA history at the time; Fred helped with that. Fred was working at the Department of Energy at the time, and was truly helpful in bringing me up to speed on the history of the space agency. Fred also told me about his long and storied career with NASA, his work with Wernher von Braun at the Marshall Space Flight Center, and his role as the technical adviser to Stanley Kubrick for the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. His books are still the final words in several areas. His traveling exhibit, Blueprint for Space: From Science Fiction to Science Fact, and the book by the same title was a path-breaking contribution to knowledge.
There have been many tributes written to the memory of Fred in the last few days. I note that an outstanding one by Tom Crouch at the National Air and Space Museum is located here. Another, from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, which gave Fred an award for lifetime achievement, is located here.
So here’s to Fred. We all loved your company, your enthusiasm, and your good spirit.