AN EXCEPTIONAL HISTORY AND MISSION

HISTORY

General Astronautics Corporation was first organized in June 1955 and was incorporated in the state of New Jersey in February 1956. It is believed to have been the first company in history to specialize solely in space flight.

The two dominant fields of endeavour for the corporation were technical and educational support in the new science of astronautics. In the Technical Division, the company made available contractual engineering and scientific studies, and provided both research information service and technical consultation to governments, institutions, and corporations.

The Educational Division organized, on request, lectures and classroom instruction, provided a channel for reliable books on space flight and supporting disciplines, handled or developed visual aids to education and entertainment, and provided public displays of space technology, art and history.

Two of the founders of General Astronautics, Frederick I Ordway III and Ronald C. Wakeford, would become world-famous authors in the fields of space science and history in the early 1960s. Their books would be published in multiple editions and languages, and were illustrated by the US Army’s conceptual space artist Harry H-K Lange.

Ordway and Lange had both been head-hunted by the famous Army Ballistic Missile Agency, which was under the aegis of rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun. Ordway would write reports, press releases and speeches for Von Braun, and Lange would provide the breathtaking and technically accurate illustrations.

 

In the early 1960s their company was reorganized under the name General Astronautics Research Corporation (GARC) and the directors were joined by David L. Christensen, another consultant assigned to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, who also worked closely with the von Braun rocket team in the design, development and testing of rocket propulsion systems for the Redstone, Jupiter and Saturn rocket systems.

GARC soon became the clearing house for information about space science, technology and exploration, through book publishing; lectures and classroom instruction; consulting for radio, television and movie scenarios; and creating unique visual aids for conveying complex messages through education and entertainment. Ordway, Lange, Christensen and their colleagues provided content to a wide array of important clients ranging from the BBC to Esquire Magazine to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

1943


Ordway and friends at Harvard discuss forming their own company

1950


Ordway and Arthur C Clarke meet at the world’s first International Astronautical Congress in Paris

1951


Ordway gets a job at Reaction Motors, America’s first rocket company, takes over editors job on “The Rocket”. Joins British Interplanetary Society (BIS). Renews his friendship with Clarke

1952


Ordway reviews von Braun’s first public speech in America, a few months later meets von Braun at 2nd Space Symposium in NYC. The creation of Collier’s articles and Viking books with Bonestell artwork take the world by storm. Ordway reviewed it in March

1953


Ordway writes a manual for the Viking rocket

1953


Ordway collaborates with others of the IAF to create Acta Astronautica.

1954


Ordway Joins AAS. Joins IAF Acta committee, Discusses forming Astronautics Associates, a forerunner of GARC. Takes a job at Republic Aviation

1954


December Ordway and von Braun meet again and become friends.  Ordway becomes the editor of “Astronautics” and a member of the AAS board

1955


Ordway forms General Astronautics in New York with colleagues from Republic Aviation, Grumman, Sperry, Johns Hopkins and Bell Aircraft .  Studies by GARC include instrumentation, power supplies, telemetry systems, vehicle design and recovery problems for high-altitude rocket vehicles and artificial satellites. Responsibilities included administration and coordination of contracts, proposals and sales under prime contract to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency

1956-1964


General Astronautics contracted to consult for the ABMA and NASA

In February 1965 GARC, two of its principal directors Ordway and Lange, were contracted to Stanley Kubrick’s Polaris Productions to assist in the design and conceptualization of his upcoming motion picture, 2001 A Space Odyssey.

Their task…to visualize the future of space travel and the world 35 years in their future.

The theme of the movie would touch on the issue of contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence, a subject which Ordway, Lange and Wakeford had already explored in great detail in several books published in the early 1960s. Christensen and Ordway had just finished designing a space station. For the next two years Ordway and Lange provided Kubrick the insights and scientific authenticity to help him create the most far-reaching vision of the future of spaceflight ever enshrined on celluloid. 2001 A Space Odyssey forever changed the way that entertainment was made and placed a new high bar in special effects and verisimilitude. After 2001 audiences would never look back and entertainment would never be the same. Ordway would later be endorsed by Wernher von Braun as the world’s leading space historian, while Lange would go on to assist in the creation of entertainment franchises such as Star Wars.

Wernher von Braun at his desk in the early 1960s. Behind him is a painting by GARC director Harry Lange. The image is of the U.S. Army lunar direct spacecraft which originally appeared in 1959’s Project Horizon. GARC founder Frederick Ordway III contributed to the civilian version of Project Horizon after President Eisenhower stated his preference to not militarise space.

1957


Wernher von Braun becomes a director when the National Research Development Corporation merges with GARC, Willy Ley, Fred Singer and Arthur C. Clarke become consultants.

1958


USAF approaches GARC to bid on a contract for a recycling system for spacecraft. Ordway and Willy Ley begin work on it. 

1958


Army forces von Braun to resign due to a conflict of interest.

1959


GARC contracted to design a moon base for USAF

1963


First Meeting of the International Academy of Astronautics History Committee.

1963


Ordway on AIAA Communications Committee with Dave Christensen

1963


Ordway begins writing book on Extraterrestrial Intelligence

1964


General Astronautics partners with General Electric Missile Division under contract with The NASA Marshall space flight center to conduct an interplanetary mission study.

1964


Ordway, Lange and Christensen organise first ever space art exhibit for Volta Gallery in DC, Bonestell paintings and Lange paintings

GARC founder Frederick I Ordway III and director Dave Christensen discuss models of a two stage flyback space shuttle. (1964). Later that year they would submit their designs for a space station to the U.S. Navy as part of GARC’s ongoing relationship with the Department of Defense.

NASA conceptual artists Gerd de Beek and Harry Lange discussing de Beek’s “Space Village” concept, painted by Lange, in 1964. Harry Lange had been designing spacecraft for the Advanced Projects Office at the Army and NASA for a decade before moving to England to work for Kubrick. He ended up staying there and working on Star Wars, James Bond and many other major films.

1964


Ordway and Christensen are contracted to design a space station for US Navy

1964


Ordway and Roger McGowan of the Army Computing Center write book “Intelligence in the Universe” with Clarke writing the Foreword

1964


Ordway and Lange write book “Life in Other Solar Systems”

1964


GARC begins plans for an International Space Museum in Washington DC

1964


GARC and General Electric present an Interplanetary Payload Definition Study to NASA

1965


January, Dinner with Clarke and Lange at Harvard Club, phone call comes from Stanley Kubrick

1965


April, GARC is hired by Polaris films to consult on 2001 A Space Odyssey

1965-1966


Ordway and Lange move to England to work on 2001, providing Kubrick with contacts at over 60 aerospace companies including NASA, IBM, Honeywell, LTV, Grumman etc

Frederick I Ordway III and Wernher von Braun examine the latest edition of their massive “History of Rocketry and Space Travel”. The book was illustrated by Harry Lange and covered the entire story of humanity’s pursuit of spaceflight. It would go through five editions.  (1967)

Frederick I Ordway III (scientific advisor) and Harry H-K Lange (conceptual designer) on the set of 2001 A Space Odyssey. Ordway and Lange as directors of General Astronautics Research Corporation signed a contract with Stanley Kubrick’s Polaris Productions in early 1965 to provide conceptual designs that were scientifically accurate. (1966)

1966


Ordway, Lange and von Braun write “The History of Rocketry and Space Travel”

1966


Ordway joins IAA History Committee consulting on Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

1967


GARC continues plans for space exhibition center in Washington DC drawing upon the finest space art and science fiction to communicate sound scenarios and strategies to influence planning and future development.

1967


GARC bids on RCA/NASA contract on the Saturn rocket

1968


The film 2001 A Space Odyssey opens

1969


GARC consults to Research Institute, School of Graduate Studies and Research, The University of Alabama in Huntsville managing broad studies of applications of space-derived science and technology to industrial, environmental and social activities under NASA-Marshall contract; technology assessment and transfer; history of science and technology–including the history of the development of the Saturn series of launch vehicles; and remote sensing studies. Lange remains in England continues long career in movie industry, Ordway consults on movie “The Adventurers” in Colombia with some crew from 2001. Christensen works on Apollo.

1974


Ordway consults to National Science Foundation’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

 1975-1977


Ordway at Energy Research and Development Administration in Washington under NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans

Frederick I Ordway III, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick stand in the POD bay of the Discovery space craft during the filming of 2001 A Space Odyssey. Ordway had known Clarke since 1950. Kubrick and Ordway were both born and raised in the boroughs of New York City just a few miles apart. (1966)

Harry Lange working on the Millenium Falcon for the Film Star Wars.

1975


Lange works on Star Wars 

1976


Ordway writes “The Rocket’s Red Glare” with von Braun

1977


Ordway meets Ridley Scott to discuss collaborating on movie “The Alien”. Reviews Spacecraft models with Victor Lyndon (Producer of 2001).

1979


Ordway writes “New Worlds: Discoveries from our Solar System” with von Braun

 1979


Ordway writes New York Times bestseller “The Rocket Team” with Mitchell Sharpe and Dave Christensen

1985


New edition of “The History of Rocketry and Space Travel” with von Braun.

1977-1994


Ordway at U.S. Department of Energy: Office of Assistant Secretary of Policy and Evaluation, Office of Assistant Secretary of International Affairs, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and Office of the Secretary

1994


Ordway writes Wernher von Braun Crusader for Space: The Biographical Memoir (with Ernst Stuhlinger)

1994


Harry and Daisy Lange meet Stephen McNeilly at the University of Oxford and remain friends

Frederick I Ordway III and Wernher von Braun in 1972. Von Braun briefly became a director of General Astronautics when he signed on in late September 1957. He was about to leave his job at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. The Army ordered him to resign a few months later due to “conflict of interest”. He continued to assist Ordway for the rest of his life.

Robert Godwin with Fred Ordway III in Times Square. Godwin and Ordway would work together for fifteen years until Ordways death in 2014.

1998


Godwin starts Apogee Books to publish Apollo 8 30th Anniversary book at the request of Buzz Aldrin. 

1999


Godwin gets endorsements from Buzz Aldrin and Wally Schirra for space book series

2000


Godwin meets Ordway at Apollo 13 anniversary dinner

2001


Ordway writes Visions of Spaceflight: Images from the Ordway Collection featuring art by Bonestell and others.

2001


Godwin co-sponsors 2001 Tribute for Arthur C. Clarke at the Playboy Mansion. Publishes event program.

2002


Apogee Books receives “Best Presentation of Space Award” from the Space Frontier Foundation.

2002


Godwin works with Arthur C Clarke to publish 70th anniversary edition of “The Conquest of Space”, the book which introduced Clarke to spaceflight.

2002


Godwin consults on Discovery Channel TV Series “Rocket Science” written and produced by Michael Lennick. Arthur C Clarke appears in show. The pilot episode won the Silver Award for writing at the 2002 Houston Film Festival and the Spirit of Da Vinci Award for best documentary at the 2006 Da Vinci Film Festival. In 2003 the series won the Gold REMI award at the Houston International Film Festival for best direction

2003


Godwin publishes and edits new edition of Ordway’s “The Rocket Team” and creates new DVD movie to accompany

Thomas A. Furness III developing pioneering virtual reality “super cockpit” designs for the USAF between 1966 and 1989. Furness continued his work by establishing human interface technology laboratories (HITLab) and new approaches to VR and AR.  Dubbed “The grandfather of virtual reality” Furness and his team continues work in photonics under his professorship at the University of Washington and his Company RATLab. Furness joined GARC in 2015.

Dave Christensen, an original director of GARC, at his home in Texas in 2016. He stands in front of a painting he created of the “Big Bang”. Dave worked at the Marshall Space Flight Center throughout the space race before moving on to Lockheed’s space division. Towards the end of his life he consulted to Bigelow Aerospace and remained a GARC director until he passed away in 2017.

2005


Godwin publishes, edits and contributes chapters and DVD to Alan Lawrie’s “Saturn” book which wins “Arthur C Clarke Award” for best book

2006


Godwin publishes and edits first ever edition of Wernher von Braun’s “Project Mars” science fiction novel

2007


Godwin publishes “The Speeches of Wernher von Braun” and writes “The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook” which is endorsed by Ordway, Sir Patrick Moore, Arthur C. Clarke, Tom Hanks, Edgar Mitchell, Dick Gordon and Senator Harrison Schmitt

2007


Mainbelt asteroid “4252 Godwin” named by International Astronomical Union’s Committee for Small Body Nomenclature

2008


Harry Lange passes away

2008


Godwin becomes Space Curator at Canadian Air & Space Museum in Toronto, Ordway nominates Godwin to IAA History Committee

2009


Godwin publishes textbook for International Space University

2012


Godwin edits, publishes and produces movie with Michael Lennick for Adam Johnson’s book “2001 The Lost Science – The Frederick I Ordway III Collection”

From right, Jon Labrie, Mark Randall and Peter Jackson during the filming of Lord of the Rings.  Labrie was the CTO of Peter Jacksons graphics company Weta Digital where he was principal architect of the innovative digital pipeline developed to deliver the Academy Award®-winning visual effects for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Labrie became a director of GARC in 2015.

Chesley Bonestell and Fred Ordway III discussing the book “Intelligence in the Universe” which Ordway was writing when he was approached by Stanley Kubrick. Ordway became the curator of Bonestell’s space art for more than 40 years.

 2013


Godwin co-authors and publishes Fred Clarke’s biography of his brother Arthur C. Clarke

2013


Ordway is given “Arthur C Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award”

2014


Godwin co-authors and publishes with Fred Ordway “2001 The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey”

2014


Fred Ordway forwards the idea of a powerful educational experience to draw on the work of General Astronautics and 2001 to offer a compelling view of the way ahead.

Backed by its unprecedented pedigree the General Astronautics Research Corporation becomes a Public Benefit Corporation to enable new partnerships that will ensure the continuation of the work of this far-sighted group of artists, engineers, scientists and visionaries.

Drawing upon its unique archives and network GARC assembles a team of experts in strategic communications, space research, visual effects, virtual reality and production design.  Once again bringing together talents, assets and original technologies to focus upon the world of communications, education and entertainment to powerfully convey the importance of space development.

2014


Fred Ordway III passes away. Fred Ordway IV and Godwin team up to continue GARCs work . Godwin hosts a memorial event for Ordway at the International Astronautical Congress.

2015


Ordway (IV)  reforms GARC to continue the vision with Dave Christensen, Robert Godwin, Jon Labrie, Stephen McNeilly, John Lange (son of Harry Lange) and Tom Furness

2015


Frederick I Ordway III Award formed by American Astronautical Society (Ordway IV and Godwin on awards committee)

 2015


Labrie and Ordway IV develop “Ordsphere” spherical simulator concept

Looking Forward: Astronaut Thomas Stafford examines the space simulator at the Martin company premises in Baltimore, Maryland.

 2015


GARC commences strategy study for a new public program.  McNeilly submits Outposts brief and research strategy

2015


GARC Directors undertake dozens of meetings with space awareness and advocacy groups

2015


Godwin edits, publishes and produces movie for Adam Johnson’s book “2001 The Lost Science – The Frederick I Ordway III Collection Volume 2”

2015


McNeilly and Lange form company Cornerstone Oxford at Harwell within the European Space Agency Incubation program 

2016


McNeilly develops outline Outposts installation and documentary film concepts

2016


General Astronautics Research Corporation reforms as a Public Benefit Company with the chartered aim of “providing formal and informal opportunities that educate and inspire both stakeholders and the public about future space development”

2016


Ordway, McNeilly, Lange and Furness meet in Seattle to discuss the group immersion technologies required for the Outposts program.  Christensen assists with structural study.

2017


McNeilly becomes fellow of the British Interplanetary Society

2017


McNeilly develops Outposts design proposal for a North American site with assistance from Godwin and Tom Cousins

2017


Dave Christensen passes away

2018


GARC consults potential partners on Outposts program, expands The Space Library digitisation and development project