George Alexander, L.A. Times reporter who chronicled house exploration, dies

Days after an unintentional hearth inside a NASA spacecraft killed three American astronauts, George Alexander peered into the charred capsule.

One among solely three journalists allowed into the Apollo 1 spacecraft following the 1967 incident, Alexander noticed how all the pieces inside had been incinerated, aside from a small fragment of a parachute harness, he recalled to Nationwide Public Radio.

Two years later, Alexander went on to jot down a unique chapter of NASA’s lunar program’s story, however this one had a happier ending: Apollo 11’s historic moon touchdown in 1969.

In a profession that spanned 5 a long time, together with 13 years on the Los Angeles Times, Alexander was one of many foremost chroniclers of the nation’s house exploration applications, capturing each their failures and triumphs.

On July 24, following a two-year battle with Alzheimer’s, Alexander died at 88. He’s survived by his spouse, Daryl Alexander, 4 youngsters and eight grandchildren.

Born in 1934, Alexander grew up within the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush. A lifelong fan of the Dodgers, he lived only a stone’s throw from Ebbet’s Subject, the crew’s previous residence. He attended Fordham College in New York.

Earlier than his lengthy profession in journalism, Alexander served within the U.S. Air Drive as a public data officer. He later was employed by Aviation Week & House Know-how journal in New York and coated the Apollo 1 accident.

After being chosen because the pool reporter by the hordes of reporters who converged on Cape Canaveral to cowl the module hearth, Alexander’s report in regards to the incident was distributed worldwide.

Later that 12 months, Alexander joined Newsweek journal, the place he continued to cowl NASA, modifying and writing tales, together with protection of the 1969 moon touchdown.

Alexander determined to vary coasts and got here to L.A., the place he joined The Times in 1972. Although he wrote about a variety of subjects associated to science, know-how and the surroundings, he stayed connected to masking NASA’s house applications, together with the early shuttle launches.

As a Times staffer author, Alexander was at Cape Canaveral for the primary flight of shuttle Columbia in April 1981, the primary house shuttle to succeed in outer house. Throughout different shuttle launches, Alexander embedded with different reporters in Houston’s Johnson House Heart, fueled by espresso through the early morning hours, ready for an astronaut’s crackly voice from orbit.

After leaving The Times in 1985, Alexander made a late-career swap to tv, producing episodes for the PBS collection “The Infinite Voyage.”

Alexander later turned a spokesman for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, engaged on media affairs for varied main NASA missions, such because the Voyager and Galileo house probes, in addition to missions to Mars and Venus, till his retirement in 1999.

By the top of his profession, Alexander supplied a skeptical, measured perspective towards the thought of launching individuals into house, asking in a 2011 editorial for The Times following the top of NASA’s shuttle program: “So, has it been worth it?”

He mirrored on the lack of 14 women and men aboard the Challenger and Columbia shuttles, and the $290 billion of taxpayer cash spent constructing, testing and working the spacecrafts.

“Looking back on the shuttle program, I think it’s clear that there are valid roles for humans in space,” he wrote. “But it’s hard not to conclude that some shuttle missions have felt like make-work projects undertaken more to keep astronauts in orbit rather than because they were essential.”