Space reporter Jay Barbree died in Florida on Friday. The veteran NBC News correspondent was 87 years old.
Barbree began covering NASA in 1957 when the space agency was grappling with a series of humiliating rocket explosions.
In 1958, Barbree joined NBC News and began a rich 61-year career.
He then covered all human space missions to leave American soil, starting with Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 flight in 1961, until the last space shuttle mission in 2011.
In all, Barbree reported on 166 manned space flight missions.
Along the way, he is the author of several books focusing on NASA and the space race, including “Moon Shot” and “Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race from Sputnik to Today”.
He is survived by his wife, Jo, whom he married in 1960, two daughters and several grandchildren.
Barbree was working in Georgia, Albany, on WALB television when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957, marking the start of the space age.
Barbree was fascinated. He went to Florida and on May 5, 1961, watched Shepard take off in the first American manned space flight.
“It was a day you will never forget. We saw this rocket climb over the trees – everyone stopped everywhere, ”he said in an interview in 2007.“ They stopped their cars, they fell to their knees, they fell in. prayer looking at this. Everyone was shooting for Alan Shepard, and it was the very first for this country. ”
Barbree was friends with some of the country’s best-known astronauts.
When Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, passed away in 2012, Barbree succinctly recalled, “You couldn’t use the word ‘good’ too much. He was a good man. “
“He would be very happy if what he accomplished here on Earth during his 82 years was remembered by those who will return, and they will continue to progress in space,” said Barbree.
Barbree went on to write “Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight,” which was released in 2014. He collaborated with Shepard and fellow astronaut Mercury Seven Deke Slayton in the previous book “Moon Shot”.
In 2012, Barbree reflected on the International Space Station and how it taught people to live in space – and he raised the possibility of one day being able to get to Mars.
“How the Armstrongs, the Aldrins, the Glenns – all of us who were here for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo – would love to be there for the greatest adventure of the 21st century! ” he wrote.
“Our mortality says we can’t, but our spirits won’t be far away. “