Ron Epps of Houston, retired chief of the NASA flight design and dynamics division and a Missouri University of Science and Technology graduate, was awarded the doctor of physics, honoris causa, during the Missouri S&T spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13.
From the northeast corner of the square in Mount Vernon, Missouri, to NASA’s Mission Control in Houston, Epps had a front row seat to the history of space exploration.
Epps, retired chief of the NASA flight design and dynamics division supporting the U.S. space station and space shuttle programs, earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Missouri S&T in 1967. He began his 38-year career with NASA at Johnson Space Center as an aerospace technologist with the Landing and Recovery Division, serving as a technical advisor to the U.S. Navy. Assigned to recovery ships for Apollo 8, 9 and 14, he was deployed all over the world to recover spacecraft returning from the moon and to cover unplanned landings following system failures.
After Apollo 14, Epps spent 12 years as a flight dynamics officer in Mission Control. He manned a console on the front row, an area known as “the Trench,” during the two final Apollo flights, the launch of Skylab, the docking of the Apollo spacecraft with the Russian Soyuz capsule, and the first nine space shuttle flights. He then spent three years training astronauts for shuttle ascent and entry.
In 1986, Epps became chief project engineer supporting Mission Control operations and shuttle space flight simulators. After the Challenger accident, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for technical management in preparation of those facilities for the shuttle’s return to spaceflight. Epps retired in 2005, and NASA awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal for outstanding technical contributions and exceptional leadership to the nation’s space program.