Launius at Baltimore AIAA-2009-12I am Roger D. Launius (LAWN-ee-us). I was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1954 and grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. I graduated from Graceland College (now Graceland University), Lamoni, Iowa, in 1976 and received the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history in 1978 and 1982 at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, with major fields in American frontier and military history. I pursued my longstanding interest in the field of history when as an undergraduate I couldn’t conquer the higher math required for biology.

I am interested in Cardinals baseball, ranting about politics and religion, and analyzing movies (probably ad nauseum). I am also undertaking research to find the perfect single malt scotch.

I like to read American history, history of science and technology, history of religion, and works on popular science. I am an unapologetic liberal and vote Democratic most of the time, complain about politicians all of the time, and work hard to keep from becoming deeply depressed by the right-leaning nature of American society. My interests and hobbies include space, baseball, and watching movies.

I presently have two favorite quotes: “non illegitimi carborundum” (don’t let the bastards grind you down) and “time to bring in a lefty,” representative both of my basic belief about baseball pitching and national politics.

37 Responses to About

  1. Hi Roger, I see your post all the time on my FB page. Thought it time I checked out your blog. Brilliant stuff! We simply MUST be related. Anyway, I have a friend in Playa del Carmen, MX. an ex San Francisco attorney turned hotel owner. Your writing, style, interest and political views are aligned pefectly with his (and my own). I’m forwarding a link to your blog to Tony.
    Keep up the great work, my friend, cousin, brother …….? Oh, I am NOT into geneology that much, sorry.


    • launiusr says:

      Barry, I’m sure we are related as well. My family is from southern Illinois, grandfather Jeff Hillard Launius and father Jeff Doyle Launius, although I grew up in S.C. when my dad moved the family from Vandalia to Greenville when I was 7. Do keep in touch, and let your friend know that I’m happy to discuss issues with him. I’m envious about your living in Playa del Carmen. I’m in Washington, D.C., and will not be able to leave here until I am eligible to retire in a couple of years. But I can’t complain, the Smithsonian Institution treats me well.


  2. Janet Ross says:

    I went to a talk you gave here at NASA Langley. It was wonderful — I hope you will be giving another one here soon!


  3. Pingback: Autumn « Time to Eat the Dogs

  4. Cameron S. Brown says:

    Dear Roger,

    Just read your blog for the first time. I enjoyed your story about the Beatles and Finley. My older brother saw the Fab Four when they came to DC when we were kids. I see we were born in the same year. I have read some of your RLDS related writings over the years and I would be curious to know your assessment of where the church is post name change. You indicate you are a liberal. I am a conservative in what I think is the best sense of the word. There is an aberrant liberalism that I feel has been in the driver’s seat of the CofC (and we all wanted to get away from the alphabet soup). Lastly, do you have a testimony that you share with others and would you be willing to share it with me.

    Best wishes,

    Cameron S. Brown


    • launiusr says:

      Cameron, thanks for your note. I am in Munich at present participating in a symposium at the Deutsches Museum on the historz of the cold war, but I’ll be glad to discuss the RLDS/CofC with you in a few days. I am liberal, and I approach the movement from that standpoint so I have no problem with such things as women’s ordination, etc. I do think the church’s leadership has downplayed critical distinctives to the organization’s detriment.


  5. Darrell Dvorak says:

    I found your website via a Google search that surfaced your 1985 monograph about Wendover Field in Utah. I am not a professional historian but I am researching and writing a piece about my late father-in-law, who was base commander of Wendover during the training of the 509th Bomb Group, and would have been the pilot in the event a third bomb needed to be dropped. Even though he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (which cites his Wendover service), his story is virtually unknown. I would like to read your monograph, but the Ft. Douglas Museum website doesn’t seem to have a link to access it. I would very much appreciate your advice as to where I can access it.
    Thank you,
    Darrell Dvorak


  6. Leon says:

    Hi there, I love the image you have of the two shuttles ready for launch at KSC in 2008. To date it is the only photograph I have seen in which more than one orbiter vehicle appears. Do you know of any other images like this?


  7. Herby Nolen says:

    Roger,I found your website via a Google search that surfaced your 1985 monograph about Wendover Field in Utah. I am not a professional historian but I am researching and writing a piece about my late father-in-law, who was base commander of Wendover during the training of the 509th Bomb Group, and would have been the pilot in the event a third bomb needed to be dropped. Even though he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (which cites his Wendover service), his story is virtually unknown. I would like to read your monograph, but the Ft. Douglas Museum website doesn’t seem to have a link to access it. I would very much appreciate your advice as to where I can access it.Thank you,Darrell Dvorak


  8. Paul Gilster says:

    Roger, I’ve been familiar with your work for a long time, but didn’t realize until now that we have two major things in common: 1) Cardinals baseball (I grew up in St. Louis and remain devoted) and 2) single malt Scotches. On the latter, I lean to the island malts, and especially favor Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Talisker. Love that smoky peat!

    A pleasure to find your blog.


    • launiusr says:

      Great. I like Talisker as well. I have enjoyed Laphroaig once, but have not had Lagavulin. I’ll try it soon. As to the Cards, they are hanging in there but it’s a weak division. I’d like to see them win it. I’d also like to see them resign Pujols.


  9. Paul Gilster says:

    Imagine where the Cards would be with a healthy Wainright! But such are the fortunes of baseball, one of the things I love about the game. Yes, by all means, try Lagavulin, which won me over gradually but has emerged as a favorite. I have to say, though, that if I had but one Scotch for the rest of my life, it would be Laphroaig.


  10. Julie Gragg says:

    Mr. Launius, My name is Alex Coleman and I am an 8th grader in Bakersfield, CA. I am doing a documentary with my classmate for the National History Day Competition. The theme this year is “Revolution, Reaction, Reform” and we have chosen to focus on the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act that created NASA. We have read some of your books and were wondering if you would grant us an interview by phone, email, Skype or FaceTime. It is my second year entering the competition and my partner’s 4th. We are very interested in interviewing you as an expert in our topic. Please respond to my mother’s email address with any questions/
    Thank you in advance for your consideration.
    Alex Coleman and Chris Trickey


  11. Anthony Gordon says:

    Roger: I have been familiar with your work in the space field having taught space studies before and it was not until I watched the movie “A Mormon President”, that I saw that you have studied the Mormon religion as well. As a non-LDS member, I was wondering what was your religious background and what got you interested in writing about Joseph Smith and Mormonism? Maybe it is just space historians that study religion as well?
    Keep up the good work.


    • launiusr says:

      I am a member of the Commu nity of Christ, which is one of several organizations claiming a heritage in the LDS tradition, though CofC is much more moderate in its theology and practices. I have done considerable research on the history of Mormonism, but haven’t done much for several years. I do blog about it on occasion.


  12. Reading your bio had me thinking that perhaps your favorite of the LDS-hymns-that-aren’t might be, “Choose the Left.”


  13. David Weir says:

    Have you read the Invention of Air? You would like the mix of political history, religion, and science.


  14. Sam Gregson says:

    Dear Roger-

    Really enjoying the blog! Please keep up the good work.

    I was wondering if you could help me (although I hate to ask!). I am a physicist at Cambridge University in the UK and the Large Hadron Collider. I am writing a TEDx talk regarding how science communication to the public can be improved. Part of the talk centres around empowering the audience by letting them know that their opinions and support can affect real change in scientific policy at the political level. I do not think this is currently very true (as science policy doesnt seem high on the political agenda), but I think it was during the US “space race” years. I was told you wrote a piece and had a lot of statistics about public support for the space race and how that fed into continued technological development. I was wondering whether you could point me to those articles, facts and figures? If you could, I’d be extremely grateful!

    Exciting the public about science and having them bring the government to task on scientific issues is a sure fire route to advancement!

    All the best,

    Sam 🙂


  15. beeseeker says:

    Hello Roger,
    Hope you won’t mind I have just used an I.S.S image from your blog site to illustrate a poem I have posted.
    I do not wish to cause offence.
    Please take a look, if you are unhappy, let me know I will remove it.


  16. David Shomper, ex-Apollo engineer says:

    Cronkite typos:

    our little blue panet
    how things wree going on Apollo 10
    once one of Cronkite’s produces at CBS


  17. Casey Tefertiller says:

    Dear Mr. Launius,

    I came upon your website, and I thought you might provides some assistance. I am in the earliest stages of working on a possible second edition of my book, Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend, and I see that you have some criticisms.

    I wonder if you might be more specific. I can assure you that there are no stories just because they are good stories, however, I would like to correct any inaccuracies that might be included.

    The Earp field tends to be contentious at times. Some of the negatives claims about my book were by Glenn Boyer, who was exposed for fabricating his own books. It is a difficult process trying to get things straight.

    I could not find an email address, or I would have sent this privately.

    Thanks for your interest,

    Casey Tefertiller


    • launiusr says:


      Please feel free to contact me on my personal e-mail, launius@comcast.net. In answer to your question, I read your book and was quite impressed. When I read the Barra book the author criticized some of your conclusions. I have not independently verified any issues. The criticisms I mentioned were not my own but those of Allan Barra. I suppose you have been in contact with him. I hope this is of some help. Roger Launius


  18. Eric says:

    Roger – were you a member of the R.L.D.S. church at one time.


  19. Robyn van Gorsel says:

    Dear Roger Launius,

    My name is Robyn van Gorsel and I’m a Dutch student. I’m writing an essay about Cape Canaveral and I was hoping that you could explain to me why Cape Canaveral is still important for America.

    With kind regards,

    Robyn van Gorsel


  20. David Shomper says:

    I doubt these will appear, but you should know about them. I tried sending them to smithsonianbooks.com, but none of the links work. Nor does your email listed above.

    COMMENTS ON Apollo’s Legacy (Launius)

    pg. 35 typo: “…Senior [White]…” should be “…Senior Pilot [White]…”
    pg. 27 The upper stages for the Saturn I and IB were the S-IV and S-IVB, respectively, not the Centaur as stated. In the Apollo era, the Centaur was usually launched on the Atlas.
    pg. 30 No mention is made that one J-2 engine was also used on the S-IVB third stage.
    pg. 33 The Apollo SM did not have a retrorocket package as stated.
    pg. 33 The Launch Escape System was jettisoned shortly after 2nd stsge ignition, not after achieving orbit as stated.
    pg. 33 Text implies the S-IVB stage failed; it worked fine for the first burn to put it into orbit; it was only the second burn that failed.
    pg. 33 The SM was jettisoned prior to re-entry, not “upon” re-entry.
    pg. 35 The Apollo 1 spacecraft during the test was pressurized at a much higher pressure than “spaceflight pressure”. Pressure in flight was around 5 psi of pure oxygen; the test pressure before the fire was above atmospheric.
    pg. xii Aldrin was calling out altitude and descent rate, not range.
    pg. 36 The fire board’s recommendation for a less oxygen-rich environment was only implemented for ground tests and launch; the cabin atmosphere in flight slowly reverted to 100% oxygen.
    pg. 37 The interval between the board’s recommendations and the launch of Apollo 7 was more like 1.5 years.
    pg. 39 The blockhouse for Pad 34 was on Cape Kennedy AF Station, not the Kennedy Space Center.
    pg. 43 The LM ascent stage used hypergolic liquid propellants, not a solid motor as stated.
    pg. 43 No Saturn V launched in January 1968 as stated. The LM test flight referred to was launched on a smaller Saturn IB.
    pg. 64 Shepard did not make a hole in one on the moon as stated.
    pg. 65 Armstrong did not use the retro rockets on Gemini 8 to regain control; he used the smaller thrusters of the re-entry control system.
    pg. 65 Armstrong was not the first to land on the moon; Aldrin landed at the same time. Armstrong was the first to walk on the moon.
    pg. 114 The original orientation of the Earthrise photo was 90 deg CCW from what is shown.
    pg. 152 There was no correlation between Launch Umbilical Towers and pads as implied; any LUT could go to either pad.
    pg. 153 Guenter Wendt was not on Apollo 1; but the fire was the reason he was hired back by Rockwell.
    pg. 154 During Apollo, the “V” in VAB was “Vehicle”, not “Vertical”
    pg. 154 “VAB” was not an acronym; it was always pronounced “vee ay bee”, never “vabb”

    The quotes on the page before the Contents page are misleading; Armstrong’s statement was made about 24 hours after the exchange between Aldrin and Collins.


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