Leaving a legacy for future generations

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- On July 8th, 2011, NASA launched the last Space Shuttle. Dave Christensen joined Greg Screws in the WHNT News 19 studio as part of our extensive coverage. "Go USA, there you go, go NASA! It was great and the whole space shuttle team did a great job and they stuck to the very end, and I'm very impressed," said Dave Christensen.

That was high praise from a man who would know a great job when he saw it. In 1956 Dave worked for the Army, and with Wernher Von Braun on the development of the Redstone Missile. When the Soviets shocked the world with the launch of Sputnik, America needed to respond. Eventually the word came down that Von Braun's team would lead the effort, and launch America's first satellite, Explorer. "So we were all space cadets.  That word was very exciting, that now we were going to get our chance to do it," said Christensen.

And of course Von Braun's team did do it. In 1960 the leader of the German Rocket team would leave the Army and move to NASA. Work on the Saturn 5 would begin in earnest, and Dave Christensen would in several different ways, be part of that.  In 1970 he would also be part of the initial proposals to build the Space Shuttle. "The first stage had jet engines, and would land at the Cape and then fly again," said Christensen as he looked at a booklet which had technical details of a possible shuttle.

Christensen would be part of America's space program for most of his adult life. He would hang on to papers, blue prints, drawings, models and all sort of memorabilia from his career. "You get the entire slice of his career, back from White Sands in the 1950s all the way up to the things he was doing as a consultant in the later years of his life, and that spans about 60 years," said Reagan Grimsley, the Head of Special Collections and Archives at UAH.

The material from Christensen's collection covers more than 150 linear feet, and that's half a football field. It's all going to the UAH library archives. It includes everything from carefully labeled boxes on strategy and planning, to other boxes on Marshall Space Flight Center history. To a UAH history grad student, the material from Christensen is something special. "You are very appreciative for the fact that Christensen went to the lengths that he did to make sure that this material will be preserved, and it's something that we can look back in future generations," said Mark Potter.

The archives cover more than just space, because Dave Christensen was interested in much more than that. He worked on solar and renewable energy projects for much of his career. Space, and science were obviously his work and his pleasure. "I guess it was my calling. I just fit right into it very naturally. It's hard to get out of something that you really enjoy," said Christensen.

Christensen passed away on September 1st in Texas. A great loss for his family, his friends and the Rocket City.