Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Rocket Scientist and His Missile Dog?

A copy of this picture was in our family's picture drawer for years and years. (Robert E.'s mother was my Great Aunt Mary on my father's side.)  I always liked it because of the look on the dog's face. 

I did not know, however, until a few years ago that Robert E. was a rocket scientist during the height of the space race with the Soviet Union.  

The story came together for me when I found the above news story on a CD of family memorabilia that my favorite uncle had burned and shared with me.  

I decided to do more research and while I didn't find a whole lot out about Robert's work, I discovered that the dog just MIGHT be one of eight missile dogs used at White Sands during the 1960s to retrieve small rocket parts that had been buried on impact during test fires. 

(The scientists would coat the parts with shark liver oil and then send the dogs out into the desert to track and alert to them in the glimmering white sands.)

The dogs had a 96% recovery rate, which beat the old method of humans wasting countless hours searching and digging for parts that could explain a success or failure of their test fires.  

I have been unable to determine definitively if Sheiba was part of the Missile Dog pack, but that is not to say I'm not still trying. Sadly, very few family members who knew of Robert's work are still alive to share their own knowledge and information.  

And Robert E., who suffered from familial Rheumatoid Arthritis from the time he was 1, passed away in 1992 at age 65. 

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