Bob Clark

By Keith Cowing
May 3, 2011
Filed under
Bob Clark

I just learned with great sadness of the passing of Bob Clark aka “Dr. Bob”. Bob was the guy who hired me to work at NASA as a civil servant on the Space Station Freedom Program in 1990. Bob was my first introduction to “old NASA”. He cut his teeth in the Apollo and Skylab days when you needed good design and operations since there was no software to fix those things when your butt was on the line. I have to say that probably learned more from him than any other person I worked for at NASA.

He let me know when I screwed up and defended me like a mother wolverine when I was right. He taught me the rules and how to break them – and the value of learning to work with friends – and co-opt one’s enemies – as a team. For that I am forever indebted.

I’ll never forget the time he stood guard outside several offices with closed doors as a co-worker and I installed a pirate Mac Appletalk network above the ceilings of the offices of people who were in a staff meeting at the time. “Its easier to ask forgiveness than permission” Bob would often say.

The other day I gave Joe Rothenberg and Ed Lu a tour of the old Titan 1 ICBM we’re fixing up at ARC. I mentioned Bob by name as I talked about the value of old elegant design and how it still had lessons to teach. I also gave Nancy Conrad a tour of the rocket that day. Bob worked on the Skylab repair with her late husband Pete. I had a similar chat with her. We’re going to restore this old thing in away that will teach future generations. I guess Bob must have been sending me messages through that old rocket on that day.

Bob liked Farside cartoons, good BBQ and beer after a day of arguing in design reviews, and despite his sharp mind and wisdom he never managed to find a way to match his clip-on ties with the shirt and sans-a-belt slacks he was wearing. Bob had a collection of horrid ties that he stored on the blinds in his office. When he had to wear one as “boss” he’d jus t grabone at random without looking and clip it on.

My kind of boss.

Ad Astra Dr. Bob.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.