DR. EDGAR CORTRIGHT
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DR. EDGAR CORTRIGHT, of Palm City, Florida, passed away
peacefully on May 4, 2014 at the age of 90 following a stroke. Dr. Cortright was an engineer, scientist and administrator, best known for his work as Director of NASA's Langley Research Center during which time he directed Project Viking which successfully landed the first spacecraft on Mars in 1976. Edgar Maurice Cortright was born in Hastings, PA on July 29, 1923 to Edgar Maurice Cortright, Sr. and Janet Pearsall Cortright. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), receiving a B.S. and M.S. degree in aeronautical engineering. Later in his life, he was awarded Honorary PhDs from both RPI and George Washington University. Dr. Cortright served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and was on the carrier USS Saratoga when it was bombed in the Pacific. In 1945 Dr. Cortright married Beverly Jane Hotaling, to whom he remained married for 67 years until her death in 2012. After graduation from college, Dr. Cortright joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor of NASA, as an aeronautical research scientist to conduct research on supersonic aerodynamics. Sputnik changed everything. In 1958 Dr. Cortright was recruited to join a small taskforce that created NASA. He held a number of positions in the 1960s. Dr. Cortright led the initial formulation of NASA's meteorological satellite program. This was the first time satellites were used to study the earth. He brought the weather photos commonly displayed on television today to the public. He directed NASA's programs for unmanned scientific exploration and utilization of space, including the lunar and planetary probes; the geophysical and astronomical satellites and probes; biosciences; applications and satellites; and the development and use of light and medium launch vehicles. During the following ten years Dr. Cortright played a key role in planning and directing many manned and unmanned space programs. In 1968 Dr. Cortright was named Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Manned Space Flight. Later, in 1968 Dr. Cortright became Director of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. He spent the next years dedicated to landing a space vehicle on Mars. Under his direction, the Project Viking made the first Mars landing in 1976. Viking brought back high- resolution images of the Martian surface and took surface samples, analyzed them for composition and signs of life, as well as studied atmospheric composition and meteorology, and deployed seismometers. Viking's findings revolutionized our understanding of Martian geology and possibility for sustaining life, demonstrating large areas of terrain seemingly influenced by rivers, lakes and volcanoes not dissimilar to those on Earth. Its findings provided the foundation of our understanding of Mars into the 21st century. In 1970 Dr. Cortright was honored to chair the Apollo 13 Review Board. This Review Board was charged with reviewing the circumstances surrounding the Apollo 13 accident, establishing the probable cause, and making recommendations for corrections. After 30 years of government service Dr. Cortright retired from NASA. He became Vice President and Technical Director of Owens-Illinois Corporation and subsequently President of the Lockheed-California Co., where he was involved in the oversight of key U.S. defense projects including the development of the F-117A Stealth Fighter. After retirement from Lockheed, Dr. Cortright became involved in small business. Dr. Cortright is the author of numerous technical reports and articles. He was proud of his books, "Exploring Space With a Camera" and "Apollo Expeditions to the Moon." These books were among NASA's best- selling publications to date and were two of the first publications revealing space-based photography to the public. Dr. Cortright's awards and citations include the Arthur Flemming Award (1963); NASA outstanding Leadership (1966); NASA Distinguished Service (1967); AAS Space Flight Award (1970). Dr. Cortright's leisure activities included golfing, boating, and listening to music. He was interested in architecture and visual arts. Dr. Cortright designed three of his homes including the one he most cherished on Wormley Creek in Yorktown, VA. Dr. Cortright's education changed his life; he believed strongly in the value of education and he was proud to have educated his children, donated to colleges, and created scholarships for minority students attending college. Dr. Cortright was a kind, modest, respectful, honest, and generous man who loved golden retrievers, people, and most of all, his wife, Beverly. Until his dying day, Ed always greeted each person he saw with his warm and memorable smile. Edgar is survived by his brother, David P. Cortright of Jenkintown, PA; his daughter, Susan Weiss of Auburn, ME; his son, David E. Cortright of St. Louis, MO; his son-in-law, Robert Weiss; his daughter-in-law, Cathy Cortright; and his three grandsons, as well as six nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sister, Janet Smith.


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Published in TC Palm on May 6, 2014.
Memories & Condolences
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24 entries
July 14, 2017
At Langley Research Center's Centennial, we look back on the remarkable contributions Ed made in his service to Langley and NASA HQ. On Ed's retirement as Langley's Director, he told me he actually recalled hiring me in 1970 from NCSU when new employees were scarce. I was impressed by his remarkable memory, intelligence, poise, praise for others and solid engineering judgement. I felt it a high honor to contribute to his favorite project, Viking, our first successful Mars landing. He was truly a great man and mentor, responsible for leading to the success of numerous NASA missions and projects through his engineering management skills. May he rest in peace.
Olaf Storaasli
Coworker
September 3, 2014
Dr. and Mrs. Cortwright were lovely people. i grew up knowing them through my parents' friendship with them. When they moved out of their home in Yorktown, Mrs. Cortwright gave me some lovely guest room furniture that I still have and enjoy today. I wish I had gotten a chance to talk to Dr. Cortwright more about his experiences with space exploration. It wasn't until I went to work with NASA about 5 years ago that I connected all the dots about his impressive career there. Up until then, I just knew them as nice friends of my parents that I saw several times a year at parties and holidays. They made the world a better place.
Shelley Spears
May 13, 2014
Lovely people, Bev and Ed. Their contributions to all they encountered are immersurable . They will be long remembered by friends and co- workers. Bill and Carolyn Grantham
May 10, 2014
We think of Ed and Bev so many times through the years and will greatly miss them. We send our condolences to the family.
Howard & Marilyn Schuitema
May 10, 2014
I met Edgar a few times at NASA Langley Research Center, but was most impressed with his brilliance and warm friendliness.
These initial impressions were further deepened when we met in my lab at UVa where I was proud to have his son, Dave, as a student.
Robert Mattauch
May 8, 2014
It is clear upon hearing of Dr. Cortright's outstanding accomplishments that he embraced life in all of its possibilities, a passion that he has passed along to his children and grandchildren. Through them, the impact of his full life remains strong and vibrant.
Sheryl Baker
May 8, 2014
Ed was a very smart fellow. I enjoyed his company whenever the occasion arose. I will miss him. He had a great life, the dream of any engineer.
Jerry South
May 8, 2014
Remembering Apollo 1 Investagative Team
What a joyous reunion is happening as Ed and Beverly are together again in a new life. The kindness and love that both of them shared with each other and those who were blessed to have known them in the many and varied facets of the universe they shared, has enriched all of us. My husband, Bart admitted and respected his friend and colleague during the special years they shared both at NASA and as dear friends. I enjoyed all of it as well as sharing Beverly's name. (We often laughed at that) To all of the family who have such a wonderful treasured legacy of parents who loved you with all their being and provided that loving foundation to help you become who you are, I share my deepest condolences and celebrate with you the life that gave you life.
I know that Bart is happy to share memories as he joins in their "Welcome Home". May God comfort you with His peace in the days to come.
Beverly H. Geer
May 8, 2014
Dr. Cortright was a remarkable man, a great Center Director, and I always wished he had stayed on at Langley for many more years. My sympathy to his family.
Ed Prior
May 8, 2014
Ed and Bev were neighbors and dear friends while we were at Harbour Ridge. We stayed in close touch when we moved to Shell Point and visited them in Maine. Ed was a person of great depth, modest, and always willing to explain, often with a wry sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye. It was a privilege to know him.
Iver Brook
May 7, 2014
Ed Cortright was the personification of a leader. We will miss this kind and wonderful man.
Pat and Judy McCormick
Pat McCormick
May 6, 2014
Ed charted the surface of the moon,and then we went there.Ever the quiet and delightful gentleman.
Mort Thalhimer
May 6, 2014
When Gene and I moved here in 1989 Bev and Ed took us under their wings. What wonderful neighbors and friends. You will be missed Ed!
Terry Francolini
May 6, 2014
Ed was a gentle man, a gentleman and an all round great person. He will be missed by so many.
Lyn Cortright
May 6, 2014
An outstanding scientist, leader and visionary. We are proud to have known him. Send us some photos Ed from Heaven!!!
Doug and Patty Stewart
May 6, 2014





















iwas prowd to have Ed for a friend. He was the smartest, most impressive , yet nicest friend, and neighbor I've ever known.
Doug and Chris Douglass
May 6, 2014
Ed was such a great and grand human being! We were privledged to know this most kind, modest man of many accomlishments.
Our sympathy goes out to all his beloved.
Louise & Marty Yarvis
May 6, 2014
A delightful human being. I remember the story about the Cortright's cleaning person trying to assemble a vacuum cleaner from parts in a box. She enlisted Ed to help her with the task that was not going well. She finally said that you needed to be a rocket scientist in order to assemble the thing to which Ed replied: "I am a rocket scientist".
Jim Pierson
May 6, 2014
We were privileged to know both Ed and Beverly for many years. Ed was a great person and such a good friend. We will miss our many talks with him.
Rita May and Stuart Wright
May 6, 2014
Ed always met you with a smile and a kind word. We enjoyed knowing this kind and unassuming man. He and Bev were a wonderful couple. Mary Jo and Ron Ognar
May 6, 2014
A lovely man with a great sense of humor.
John and Sara Hazelton
May 6, 2014
With respect and affection. Edw.J.Sltzman
May 6, 2014
We had great times together in Harbour Ridge. We met because of our interest in dogs and became fast friend. Ed and Bev are together again.
Jim & Joann Bernd
May 5, 2014
He was such a nice gentle and unassuming man - we will miss chatting with him in the Grille Room.
Bob and Audrey Sprague
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