Arthur (Art) Junior Reetz, 93, a former NASA headquarters manager in planetary sciences, died Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Whispering Pines, of complications from the flu.
Arthur was born in 1929, in Yankton, S.D., to Arthur and Margaret (Whitfield) Reetz. He was very active in high school, playing the piano and trumpet; singing in the glee club, the mixed chorus, and a barbershop quartet, and acted in the lead role in two plays. He was also the South Dakota Junior Chess champion in 1946.
Mr. Reetz majored in electrical engineering at the University of Iowa, but then switched to a B.S in education at the University of South Dakota to be closer to home and his high school sweetheart and future wife, Marlene Mary Zimmerman. They were married for 72 years.
After graduation, Art taught high school physics, math and biology in Bradley, S.D. Two years later he became a full-time math instructor at the University of Missouri, Rolla, while a graduate student in physics. He received an M.S. in physics from Missouri-Rolla in 1956.
After working on radiation shielding for nuclear powered airplanes for Convair in Fort Worth, Texas, Art was employed at General Dynamics in San Diego, using his shielding expertise for nuclear powered unmanned space flight. In 1963, he was recruited to NASA headquarters to manage their research programs in high-energy space radiation effects and shielding for space vehicles. In 1971, Art was detailed to the Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, Calif., for one year to test space shuttle designs in their wind tunnels, and to study meditation, bio-feedback and extra-sensory perception (ESP) in order to evaluate whether humans could control equipment on the moon or space with ESP. He recommended stopping that research because the field participants were too biased to produce valid results.
From 1973 -1977, Art was the NASA program engineer for both Voyager spacecraft, deciding which version of scientific instruments would be selected from vendors and managing the engineering development. He was also the deputy program director for Outer Planet Missions. In 1978, he joined the Space Telescope Project, later renamed the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Art was the NASA Space Telescope Program engineer in NASA headquarters, Washington, D.C., managing the early phases of its design, development and construction. He left HST in 1983 to be the NASA headquarters program manager for the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
Art retired from NASA in 1989 and then worked at SAIC for several years. The highlight of working at NASA was the enthusiasm and competence of the best engineers and scientists in the world. He recently recounted how much he enjoyed running on the Mall in Washington, D.C., near his office, during his lunch hour.
In retirement, Art was chair of the local computer club and was an avid golfer, rating golf courses all around the Pinehurst area into his late 80s. While at NASA he lived in McLean, Va., and coached some of his sons’ Little League and Babe Ruth teams and went to his daughter’s flute and piano recitals and band and symphony concerts. The family often went fishing at first light on Saturdays when there were no sports events. An avid shooter, raising Brittany Spaniels for bird hunting, he gave up guns for cameras, prompted by the politicization of the NRA.
He was a member of the Arlington (VA) Unitarian Church and choir and then the Fairfax (VA) Unitarian Universalist Church.
Mr. Reetz is survived by his wife, Marlene; three children, James, also of Whispering Pines, Jack, of Henderson, Katherine (Riddle), of Oakton, Va; five grandchildren; and his sister, Dorothy Pfefferle, of Twin Falls, Idaho. Art was preceded in death by his parents and three brothers, Rex, Harry, and Robert.
Condolences may be sent to www.coxmemorialfuneralhome.com.
Services have been entrusted to Cox Memorial Funeral Home & Crematory in Vass.