Obituary: Richard (Dick) Harvey Robertson June 3, 2022


Richard (Dick) Harvey Robertson died June 3, 2022, the day after his 98th birthday.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Carol.

He is survived by his children Cindi Robertson, Michael Robertson and Mark Robertson, along with their spouses, four grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

Dick graduated from Roosevelt High School in Portland, Oregon in 1943. After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics with specialization in crystallography from Oregon State University in 1947, Dick worked at the Oregon Bureau of Mines where he assisted in a project led by Admiral Hyman Rickover to build the first nuclear submarine. His team purified zirconium and hafnium from Oregon beach sands for reactor rod casings and control rods. Between 1948 and 1956 Dick’s work expanded to development of the use of graphite for reactor shielding.

In 1956 he and his family moved to New Mexico where he began working for the Los Alamos National Laboratory on the newly initiated Rover Project to develop nuclear rocket engines for intercontinental ballistic missiles. The “Sputnik Crisis” prompted the project to be transferred from the Air Force to NASA in 1958 with the new goal of developing nuclear rocket engines for interplanetary travel. It was enthralling to have him point out the Sputnik rocket booster visible in the sky with only binoculars and hear his predictions for the coming space race.

Richard (Dick) Harvey Robertson died June 3, 2022

Following the successful development of working nuclear rocket engines, the Rover project was closed by congress in 1973, and he joined ongoing hydrogen containment research for use in ICBMs. He concluded his career working on laser fusion research. His family was amazed to be living with someone who loved to go to work every day.

Throughout his life, Dick explored his interest in forestry and he particularly loved hiking New Mexico and Colorado mountains. He was also an avid hunter and firearm enthusiast. He loved motorcycle trips with his wife, going many times to Mexico and as far south as Panama. They several times crossed the U.S. and Canada. He often mentioned how grateful he was for having moved to New Mexico as a young man and, looking back, believed that he had lived a full life.

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