Gerald M. Truszynski, NASA engineer

Gerald M. Truszynski

NASA engineer

Gerald M. Truszynski, 91, an electrical engineer who worked on the first aircraft to break the sound barrier and on NASA space programs, died Dec. 1 at an assisted living facility in Aurora, Colo. He had congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Joan Lolcama.

Mr. Truszynski joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a forerunner of NASA, in 1944 in Hampton, Va. Three years later, he transferred to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where he helped design instrumentation for the X-1, the aircraft in which pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947.

Mr. Truszynski later supervised the development of instrumentation for various experimental aircraft before coming to NASA’s Washington headquarters in 1961 as an associate administrator. He developed global tracking networks and communication systems for all of NASA’s flight programs.

In 1969, he twice received the Distinguished Service Medal, NASA’s highest award, for his work on the Apollo manned flight program. He also worked on the space station and satellites before leaving NASA in the 1970s.

He later worked for Systematics General Corp., a communications and satellite firm in Northern Virginia.

Gerald Marian Truszynski was born in Jersey City, N.J. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1944 from Rutgers University. He worked his way through college by playing the piano in nightclubs.

He lived in Chevy Chase for many years before moving to Colorado in 2007. He was a member of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kensington and enjoyed fishing, travel and music.

His wife of 57 years, Helen Bennett Truszynski, died in 2003.

Survivors include two children, Carl G. Truszynski of Aurora and Joan T. Lolcama of Mechanicsburg, Pa; and two grandchildren.

— Matt Schudel