Dr. Gordon McKay, 1945–2008
February 12, 2008
It is with deep sadness that we write on behalf of the Science Mission Directorate to mourn the untimely passing and celebrate the life and career of Dr. Gordon McKay. Beginning his career as a Ph.D. student on the first lunar samples returned to Earth by the Apollo astronauts and ending it in a role of exceptional leadership at a NASA review panel, Gordon devoted his life to public service and the advancement of scientific knowledge. Gordon was someone who epitomized being a civil servant.
Gordon’s decades of research yielded numerous major contributions and international recognition in lunar and martian petrology and geochemistry, most notably in the area of petrogenesis — how the lunar rocks were formed. He began his formal association with NASA in 1977 as a two-year post-doc. He spent a year at Headquarters as a management fellow before permanently joining the NASA family at the Johnson Space Center.
Over his career, Gordon served on and led innumerable review panels, study teams, and working groups. In recent years, he also developed close working relationships with Japanese researchers, spending seven months at the University of Tokyo working on martian meteorites, another area of his expertise. Most recently, Gordon was assisting NASA with its future lunar and Mars exploration plans.
In addition to his scientific contributions, Gordon was a respected and well-loved manager for nearly two decades in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division at JSC, fondly but firmly “herding cats” (as he often described it) to help NASA achieve its goals. Gordon also had a passionate commitment to educating and inspiring young scientists, mentoring dozens of interns and students over the years.
Gordon is survived by his wife and long-time JSC civil servant, Linda Uljon, and their two college-aged daughters. His brother, David McKay, and his sister-in-law Mary Fae are also JSC colleagues. Gordon made immeasurable impacts on planetary science. We extend our warmest appreciation and deepest sympathies to Gordon’s family and friends for a life well led and a man we and the NASA family will miss.
Alan Stern and Jim Green
Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Last updated February 12, 2008