OBITUARY: NASA Legend Donald D. Arabian, 95, of Cape Canaveral Passed Away Peacefully August 11

By  //  August 23, 2020

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was the first American ever to visit Chinese launch facilities

Donald D. Arabian, age 95 of Cape Canaveral, Florida, passed away peacefully on August 11, 2020. Don was a Rhode Island native. As a young engineer in the early 1950s, Don joined NACA (The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) forerunner to NASA. He had a long and distinguished career as a senior NASA engineer, working on all the major U.S. manned space programs from Mercury through Apollo.

Was Chief of the Mission Evaluation Room (MER) responsible for solving in-flight problems throughout the Apollo Program

BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – Donald D. Arabian, age 95 of Cape Canaveral, Florida, passed away peacefully on August 11, 2020. Don was a Rhode Island native.

He graduated from John F. Deering High School, West Warwick, Rhode Island in 1943. Following graduation he entered Naval flight training, remaining in the Navy until the end of World War II.

He first attended Tuffs University receiving certificates in advanced math and physics. He eventually graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1951 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

SPACE PROGRAM LEGEND, FIRST AMERICAN TO VISIT CHINESE LAUNCH FACILITY

As a young engineer in the early 1950s, Don joined NACA (The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) forerunner to NASA.

He had a long and distinguished career as a senior NASA engineer, working on all the major U.S. manned space programs from Mercury through Apollo.

He headed the Test Division at Johnson Space Center and was Chief of the Mission Evaluation Room (MER) responsible for solving in-flight problems throughout the Apollo Program.

Don and the “Mer-men” as they liked to refer to themselves are best known for solving the problems on Apollo 13 that brought that crew home safely.

Donald D. Arabian, on the phone above, headed the Test Division at Johnson Space Center and was Chief of the Mission Evaluation Room (MER) responsible for solving in-flight problems throughout the Apollo Program. Don and the “Mer-men” as they liked to refer to themselves are best known for solving the problems on Apollo 13 that brought that crew home safely. (NASA image)

In 1978, Don moved to Cape Canaveral where he designed and built his house, flew his plane, built a 32-foot bluewater sailboat, became a town councilman for a time, and was pretty much a permanent fixture around the Cape until his passing.

During those years, he also had time to illustrate children’s books, do a myriad of interviews for books and films on the space program, and travel to China on behalf of an American Aerospace contractor to consult with the nascent Chinese Space Agency.

He was the first American ever to visit Chinese launch facilities.

TALENTED ARTIST, WITTY CHRISTMAS CARDS

A talented artist, many have collected his individually handmade witty Christmas cards that he sent out for over 30 years to family and friends around the world.

According to Charles Murray author of the book “Apollo, Race to the Moon,” Don Arabian was one of four men responsible for the success of the Apollo Moon Landing Program. He lived an extraordinary life.

He is survived by three children: Donald, Shawn and Darby; two grandchildren, Jennifer and Matthew; and one great-grandchild, Andrew.

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