Obituary from Dee Funeral Home & Cremation Service:
Richard Horace (Dick) Battin – loving husband, father, grandfather, engineer, applied mathematician and educator – died peacefully on February 8, 2014 at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA. Dick was born on March 3, 1925 to Martha Scheu and Horace L. Battin in Atlantic City, NJ.
He developed and led the analytic and software design of the Apollo spacecraft primary control, guidance and navigation system that landed men on the moon. Dick received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1945 and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1951– both from MIT. He received an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree in 1999 from Texas A&M University.
From 1951 to 1956 he was an Assistant Director of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory and from 1956 to 1958 senior staff member at Arthur D. Little, Inc. In 1958 he returned to the Instrumentation Laboratory (later named the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory) and subsequently served as Technical Director, Apollo Mission Development and Laboratory Associate Director. He retired from Draper in 1987 as Associate Head of the NASA program department and continued his MIT teaching activities until 2010. At MIT he was senior lecturer in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics, teaching at MIT since 1946.
In 1972 he and colleague David G. Hoag were presented the AIAA Louis W. Hill Space Transportation Award “for leadership in the hardware and software design of the Apollo spacecraft primary control, guidance, and navigation system which first demonstrated the feasibility of onboard space navigation during the historic flight of Apollo 8.” In 1978 he received the AIAA Mechanics and Control of Flight Award for “invaluable contributions to the on-board navigation and guidance for the Apollo missions.” In 1987 he received the AIAA Pendray Aerospace Literature Award “for sustained and outstanding contributions to literature in astrodynamics, control, and applied mathematics which have led to significant advances in strategic missile and planetary navigation systems." He received the AIAA von Karman Lectureship in Astronautics for 1989 “to honor an individual who has performed notably and distinguished himself technically in the field of astronautics.” Dick’s von Karman lecture, entitled “Some Funny Things Happened on the Way to the Moon,” was given at dozens of AIAA local meetings throughout the country.
Dick was presented the 1996 Dirk Brouwer Award by the American Astronautical Society; received the inaugural 2000 Tycho Brahe Award by the Institute of Navigation. He also received the 2002 AIAA Aerospace Guidance, Navigation, and Control Award “for contributions to the theory and practice of astrodynamics which guided our astronauts to the moon, and for articulating these concepts to a multitude of students.” He received the 2002 AIAA Summerfield Book Award for the AIAA Education Series book, An Introduction to the Mathematics and Methods of Astrodynamics, “an excellent source for both classical results and recent research, most of it generated by the author.” He is the coauthor of Random Processes in Automatic Control (1956) with the late J. Halcombe Laning and author of Astronautical Guidance (1964). He is an Honorary Fellow of the AIAA and a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics.
As MIT Adjunct Professor, Dick taught and inspired many of the leaders in the guidance and control community throughout this country and abroad. Three of the twelve astronauts who walked on the moon were, at one time, his graduate students. The first woman space shuttle astronaut from MIT was his teaching assistant. “In recognition of outstanding teaching,” the students of the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics honored him in 1981 with their first Teaching Award. He was dedicated to excellence in his teaching and was known for his ability to inspire others to maximize their potential.
Dick was strongly committed to community, living in Lexington, Massachusetts since 1953. He held the record as Lexington’s longest continuously serving elected town meeting member – 53 years – and served as vice-chair of Lexington’s Appropriation Committee from 1958-64. He was active at Hancock United Church of Christ – as Sunday School Superintendent and also as President of the Hancock Men’s Club. He was particularly proud of his 9-year service as President of the Board of Project IMPACT, a Massachusetts non-profit special needs adoption agency.
Dick is predeceased by his dear wife Margery Milne Battin. Married nearly 65 years, Marge and Dick loved world travel and passed along this passion to their children and grandchildren. Dick dearly treasured being surrounded by family – son, Tom Battin and his wife Daryl of Lexington; daughter, Pamela Battin-Sacks and her husband Steven Sacks of Portsmouth NH; and son, Jeff Battin and his wife Linda of Castle Rock CO. He was always extremely proud of his children and their families and was a loving grandfather of Matthew Battin of Chicago IL, Beth Battin of Somerville MA, Rachel Sacks of Boston MA, and Kelly and Chris Battin of Castle Rock CO.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Dick’s memory to Hancock UCC, 1912 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington, MA 02421.
A memorial service is being planned for late March at Hancock United Church of Christ in Lexington, MA.