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Retired rocket scientist and fifty-year Redlands resident passed away at Redlands Community Hospital, June 14, 2013 after a long illness. He was born in Topeka, Kansas on Feb. 9, 1934, the son of Robert Irvin and Maude Emma Kemble Blankenship. He was the youngest of four children. All preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife, the former Virginia Greco. They married 57 years ago in Topeka, Kansas. They have two sons; Mark and daughter-in-law Bertha, Scott and daughter-in-law Juliane, nine grandchildren, many nieces and nephews and sisters and brothers-in-law.
Dr. Blankenship graduated from Topeka High School in 1952. Although it was math and science that were primary, it was his music which inspired him. He played clarinet and saxophone in dance bands throughout the Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City areas during his high school and college years.
He received his B.S. degree at the University of Kansas. While there, he was Chairman of American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a member of Pi Tau Sigma and Sigma Tau honorary engineering fraternities. He belonged to the Nu Chapter of Sigma Nu Social Fraternity. His sponsor was Ronald Evans, a hometown friend, who later became command pilot aboard Apollo 17 which was the last manned mission to the moon.
In 1959, he received his M.S. Degree from University of Notre Dame. He was a teaching fellow for graduate studies in the field of Thermodynamics and did extensive research in that field. He also worked for Bendix Aviation Corp. as an analyst on Nuclear Control Rods for submarines and also did research for Vibration Theory.
In 1963, he received a Ph.D from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He was a Rackham Graduate School Scholar and received several National Science Foundation grants. He was elected to Sigma Xi, national honorary science fraternity. He worked for DuPont Chemical Co. during a summer doing research at their pilot plant in Orange, Texas, in polyfilm.
After graduation, he worked for the Aerospace Corporation, where he did research and also served as Director, Mark 18 Re-entry System Concepts which consisted of a formulation package in four volumes. For this body of work, he received commendations from the Department of Defense and also the USAF. He chaired the first Nose Tip Symposium.
In 1968 he began working at TRW and stayed there for twenty-eight years. He served as Department Head and senior staff to the Advanced Ballistic Re-entry Systems. He headed two committees between the USAF and the Atomic Energy Commission which were a major influence on the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Design and Development. He directed the final designs and flight testing. He worked in London, England and Paris, France during ten of those years, traveling there seventy-seven times.
Dr. Blankenship was an Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aeronotics and Astronotics and served on their national committee for Public Policy, Fluid Dynamics and Flight Testing, and was nominated to the USAF Scientific Advisory Board.
Throughout the years he has taught graduate courses at Notre Dame, UofM, USC and under-graduate courses at the University of Redlands, all in engineering and mathematics.
Dr. Blankenship has published extensively in professional journals in the US, England, Germany, and Sweden. He valued highly his collaboration with Dr. Adolph Busaman, noted German scientist, for a paper which was published in Festschrift Zum 75. Geburtstage Von Dr. Adolph Beaumaker, Bonn, Germany.
He has been biographed in many texts: American Men of Science, Who's Who In Space, Dictionary of International Biography, London, England, and Marquis Who's Who.
In Redlands, he was a member of Sacred Heart Church, served as eucharistic minister, was a recent member of the Fortnightly Club preparing to present a paper researching the "Sugar Kings of Redlands" as they relate to Redlands Historical homes.
Throughout the years, he was an avid supporter of his children's many activities - academics, music and sports. Although he appreciated the many opportunities his career provided, it was his family and in later years, his grandchildren, that brought him his greatest joy.
Private memorial services will be held at a later date.
Published in Redlands Daily Facts on July 14, 2013
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