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CORONA Pioneers
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The CORONA Pioneers were honored during ceremonies at CIA Headquarters and the NASM in May 1995. These remarks are drawn from those ceremonies. To read individual descriptions, click on the name.

Program Managers

The two program managers were honored posthumously for their tireless efforts in overseeing the design, creation, production, delivery, and performance of the product. Without the vision and oversight of these two gentlemen, the program would not have succeeded.

Richard Bissell

Mr. Bissell had the vision, determination, and courage that gave the CORONA program the opportunity required to move from failure to success. His intervention was vital, particularly at the White House level. When a string of one dozen failures was testing the nerves of key government officials, Bissell never faltered--and the program moved on. If a single person were selected to be given the bulk of credit for the success of CORONA, it would be, by general acclaim, Richard Bissell.

Osmund Ritland

As Vice Commander of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division and Deputy Chief of the CORONA program, Mr. Ritland shared, with Richard Bissell, oversight of CORONA as well as development of the critical three-axis stabilized Agena upperstage that carried the CORONA payload. His attention to schedule, without jeopardizing performance, was a major contributor to CORONA's remarkably short development span and prodigious launch schedule.

Program Office

The program office served as CORONA's nerve center, coordinating the activities of the CIA, Air Force, and industry contractors under the tightest security. The program office honorees exhibited that non-stop "can do" attitude that helped make the program a success.

Clarence L. (Lee) Battle

Mr. Battle guided day-to-day management of the CORONA program by emphasizing a streamlined approach with simple clarity: select a small group of good people, demand quality performance, focus on mission accomplishment, don't waste time on busy work, and the pay-off is on results. These and other management principles are known today throughout the National Reconnaissance Office as "Battle's Laws."

Edward F. Blum

Mr. Blum managed Lockheed's engineering development and manufacture of the Agena A, B, and D upperstage to which the CORONA payload was integrated. He oversaw modifications of the standard Agena for use in other government programs as well, and was responsible for Agena launch pad development.

Frank S. (Buzz) Buzard

Mr. Buzard led CORONA's system integration and operations in which he was responsible for ensuring that all launch, on-orbit, and recovery activities were implemented according to plans before and after each mission. It was his job to get the program back on track when glitches or failures occurred.

Ralph J. Ford

Mr. Ford assisted Paul Worthman in the day-to-day implementation of the CORONA development. His diligence in moving the program forward spanned all portions of CORONA: contracting, security, technical, integration, launch, and administration.

William Johnson

Mr. Johnson oversaw the development of CORONA's increasing complex payloads and recovery capsules, working closely with contractors. He was the final responsible government person to sign off on each contractor delivery of cameras and recovery capsules.

Richard R. Moore

Mr. Moore came to the CORONA Program from training with industry at Douglas Aircraft which made him a natural to oversee the Thor booster activities. Working with the Thor Program Office and Douglas, he was instrumental in getting the Thor modified and improved when greater performance was required.

William Sheppard

As General Ritland's executive and later as General Schriever's Program Director, Mr. Sheppard established the early processes and procedures that provided the transition between the unclassified Discoverer Program and the classified CIA activities. He interacted with senior Air Force leadership to maintain booster funding, and was also responsible for establishing a study to determine how conventional film could be modified to survive the space environment.

Roy H. Worthington

As a member of Colonel Battle's project team, Mr. Worthington was responsible for the Agena spacecraft development, and succeeded in the challenging task of managing development of the three-axis stabilized space vehicle, the Agena. He also later served as the CORONA Program Manager.

Paul E. Worthman

Mr. Worthman had headed an Air Force laboratory which developed aerial recovery equipment; he adapted these procedures designed for hooking and reeling in packages parachuted from a high-altitude balloon to capturing recovery systems from space. He later replaced Red Sheppard as the principal interface between the CIA and the program office. He was also the CORONA Director during the period of greatest activity.

Program Staff

The talents exhibited by these early pioneers of the program staff ranged from writing contracts for an effort never before envisioned and convincing the contractor they could meet the deadline, to melding together a team of experts from different industrial cultures into a team that was unstoppable.

Daniel M. Kelly

Mr. Kelly was the CORONA Contracting Officer who negotiated the initial contract with Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in April 1958. At a time when no one had ever launched a stabilized platform in space, recovered an object from space, or built a long, focal length panoramic camera, Dan convinced the contractor they could be ready for the first launch in ten months. He was right, and his enthusiasm helped mold the team.

Eugene P. Kiefer

Mr. Kiefer served in Mr. Bissell's staff as the Special Assistant for Technical Analysis. Gene conducted a number of the early trade-off studies as Thor booster performance limited the total on-orbit payload. He was Mr. Bissell's right hand as decisions regarding time on-orbit, film capacity, and resolution were considered.

George Kucera

Mr. Kucera was the first Chief of the CIA CORONA Development Staff. George had served Mr. Bissell in both contracts and technical aspects of the U-2 and A-12 aircraft developments. George's experience in covert contracting and his technical ability in contractor management helped get the program underway in minimal time.

James H. McDonald

Mr. McDonald served as the principal liaison between the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and the CIA CORONA Program Office during the formative years of the Program. His fiscal skills helped to keep the CORONA Program moving forward in spite of the early launch failures.

John Parangosky

Mr. Parangosky served as Deputy Chief, then later as Chief of the CORONA Program Office Development Staff. Throughout 1959 and 1960, he guided the technical efforts of the contract team. He is known as one of the finest team builders to have ever worked in the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. His talent in forging together a government contractor team was an essential element of the Program's success.

Launch Base

The Launch Base at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was the poor cousin to the other US Space launch facilities under the civilian programs. Operating under the burden of secrecy, the launch team was not lonly responsible for sending CORONA through the atmosphere, but supporting a cover story mission that did not exist, in essence doubling the work load.

Joseph Cody

Mr. Cody was the Commander of the 6555th Aerospace Squadron at Vandenberg AFB. He had overall responsibility for all Air Force Systems Command launch activities at Vandenberg, where the CORONA Program all came together. Joe took a deep personal interest in the CORONA Program and deconflicted ballistic missile and space launches.

William F. Heisler

Mr. Heisler arrived at Vandenberg in 1958 as chief of the launch control team and set up the CORONA operation there. As the weight of the Agena/CORONA payload grew, he was under continued pressure to increase the lift capability of the Thor booster. Through improvements in operational procedures, he managed the operations of the successful Thor launches.

Roy B. Lefsted

Mr. Lefsted was the Launch Control Officer on the CORONA Program at Vandenberg AFB, where the system came together. He worked many long days and many long hours on the launch pad with the Lockheed and Douglas people as they checked out, tested, and prepared the Agena and Thor for launch.

Rob Roy

Mr. Roy was one of the first Air Force officers at Vandenberg AFB assigned the task of launching CORONA on the Thor/Agena. As the first CORONA launch controller, he developed the test procedures and countdown manuals; and he manned the blockhouse for the early CORONA launches.


Once a CORONA spacecraft reached its destination, a team of operations personnel controlled its activities, directing its photo operations, altitude control, and de-orbit of the capsules back to Earth. While less visible than other program elements, their mission was equally dramatic.

William Bumm

Mr. Bumm was one of the original 13 individuals assigned to work space operations at the Satellite Test Center. He provided the vital link between the operations of the Skunkworks and the on-orbit controllers at the satellite test center.

Forrest S. McCartney

Mr. McCartney was at the Satellite Test Center and responsible for the on-orbit control of early CORONA satellites. Forrest also served as the Commander's executive officer, and was at the console during the first successful CORONA mission.

Charles G. (Moose) Mathison

Mr. Mathison was the commander of the Air Force operations at Palo Alto and Sunnyvale during the early days of the CORONA Program. He directed the on-orbit operations of the Air Force - industry team. When Discoverer 13 was retrieved by the Navy, he traveled by helicopter to the ship and brought the capsule to Hickam and eventually to the White House.

Charles L. Murphy

Mr. Murphy served as the First CORONA Field Technical Director at the Advanced Projects Integration Facility, known as the "Skunkworks." At this facility the cameras, the reentry vehicles, and the payload spacecraft came together for testing prior to shipment to Vandenberg AFB for Launch. Charlie managed the integration, test, launch, and on-orbit operations of the CORONA System.

Joseph P. O'Toole

Mr. O'Toole was a Control Chief for CORONA operations at the Satellite Test Center at Sunnyvale and supervised the Duty Controllers. He led his team to develop revolutionary operational procedures to control the on-orbit satellite.

Recovery Group

All the activity of designing, building, and launching the CORONA spacecraft was dependent on one metal hook for mission success, for if the film buckets were not recovered, there would be no photography to evaluate. As it set so many other trends, CORONA was the first object ever recovered from space, on the unlikely Number 13 mission. The Recovery Group was responsible for creating this miracle, a combination of technology, luck, and dogged perseverance.

Teuvo A. (Gus) Ahola

Mr. Ahola commanded the 6594th Recovery Group and was responsible for the total CORONA recovery effort. He supervised extensive training of the Test Squadron crews and improved on techniques and overall familiarization in flying the probable ocean recovery areas. His emphasis on training and rehearsals with the Navy were critical to the success of CORONA recovery operations.

Everett E. Anderson

Mr. Anderson was a navigator with the 6593rd Test Squadron (Special) and participated with the Operations Staff of the 6594th Recovery Control Group. He coordinated operational matters with the various participants of the recovery effort, designed and installed equipment for Victory ships for aircraft pickup of the CORONA buckets. He was a special training project officer for recovery gear and DF gear crews on aircraft.

Harry L. Conway

Mr. Conway was the pioneer in air-to-air pickup of space capsules used in the CORONA Program. As early as 1943, he pioneered procedures at Wright-Patterson Field for aerial pickup of downed airmen from the ground. In the 1950s, Harry was a key engineering assistant for the full development of the aerial pickup technique as employed by the CORONA Program. As a industrial consultant, he worked with the 6593rd Test Squadron (Special) where he trained pole handlers, aircrews, and winch operators in preparations for a successful recovery.

Arthur H. Grafe

Mr. Grafe was an Operations Officer with the 6594th Recovery Control Group. He prepared operations orders and conducted conferences with the various CORONA participating support organizations including several Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and FAA elements. He conducted a final combined briefing for all the participants on the day of each mission. Art had an outstanding grasp of the many details that had to be thoroughly examined and procedures worked out in specific detail.

Janet Tsutomi

Ms. Tsutomi was the Commander's secretary who worked continuously from the day of activation until the unit's final deactivation (December 1958 to September 1986). She was skillful, intelligent, tactful and possessed an outstanding attitude. She was a totally dedicated person--all of which contributed greatly to the success of the Recovery Control Group's mission.


The Lockheed team created the upper stage vehicle that took CORONA into space. Lockheed also served as the integrator for the entire effort. The dedication and the drive for excellence that each member of the team, from the highest levels of the corporation down to the engineers, made the CORONA program a success.

Ray Gavlak

Mr. Gavlak supervised the engineers and technicians at the Lockheed facility at Vandenberg AFB, and coordinated the launch effort with the other contractors. In the early days, there were many changes made to correct deficiencies found in tests and typically these changes continued until the final assembly for launch. Ray, half jokingly, would say he had to close the windows to keep late engineering changes from blowing in.

Willis M. Hawkins

Mr. Hawkins was the General Manager of the Lockheed space vehicle effort during the formative days of the CORONA Program. Willis was always happiest when he could roll up his sleeves and work in the details of the current engineering problem. His emphasis on "common sense engineering" brought the unending respect of all his engineers. Few top level managers made as many direct engineering contributions to a major aerospace project as did Willis.

Fred O'Green

Mr. O'Green was the manager for the design, manufacture, and test of the Agena vehicle for CORONA. He was a strong leader with a very active involvement in all phases of the program. He was always present at the scene of the action and was famous within the group for his calling people in the early hours of the morning to have them come to the test center and work on a technical problem. He was a very demanding supervisor but never asked anyone to work harder than he did.

James W. Plummer

Mr. Plummer was the CORONA Program Manager at Lockheed and had overall responsibility for the project. Jim led the Lockheed team from the early days of WS-117L, through the difficult formative years of CORONA, all the way to CORONA's full operational capability. He is the one person from industry most directly responsible for the success of CORONA.

L. Eugene Root

Mr. Root was the President of Lockheed Missiles and Space Company at the initiation of Lockheed's effort on the Air Force Space programs. He was a very active top executive who committed the company's total resources to the high priority CORONA program. During the early period of maximum security, he was the only top executive who was briefed on the objectives of the program. He used this responsibility to establish a dedicated shop along the lines of the famous Lockheed "Skunkworks" and gave the selected team full authority to get the job accomplished.


The talents of Itek Corporation brought about the design of the spaceborne camera which revolutionized photoreconnaissance. Their design excellence and knowledge of panoramic cameras systems allowed the CORONA program to become the success we herald today.

Richard Leghorn

Mr. Leghorn was Chief of Intelligence and Reconnaissance Systems Development at the Pentagon. Dick was a true visionary in the field of airborne and space reconnaissance developments, including origination of the "Open Skies" concept. As a consultant to the USAF Scientific Advisory Board and to the Special Assistant to the President for Disarmament Affairs, he was principal contributor to the early CORONA camera development. In late 1957, Dick was a co-founder and the first President of Itek Corporation.

Walter J. Levison

Mr. Levison was the camera designer and Assistant Director of Boston University. Walt was project manager for the balloon reconnaissance cameras and designer of the HYAC panoramic camera system. During his assignment as General Manager of Itek's Defense Systems Division, Walt was the principal proponent of the proposal that CORONA employ a high resolution 24-inch focal length Petzval lens in a panoramic camera to be used on a stable body space vehicle.

John Wolfe

Mr. Wolfe was Itek's first Program Manager on the CORONA camera development effort because of his extensive experience on the panoramic cameras for the balloon reconnaissance programs. John retained this responsibility for a number of years, providing guidance for subsequent program success..

Francis J. Madden

Mr. Madden was Itek's Chief Engineer for development of the HYAC panoramic camera, and subsequently was responsible for all engineering development of the CORONA camera system through most of its evolutions. As Chief Engineer, Frank was responsible for the physical design, development, manufacturing, and operation of the early system and later assumed the role of CORONA camera project manager. His signal contributions included the unique "starwheel" mechanism to time the movement of the complex optical system and elimination of the static "corona" which was present in the early imagery.

Eastman Kodak

Eastman Kodak is honored for developing the leading edge technology in film which allowed the cameras to operate in the unique environment of space without the film sticking or cracking.

James Alkofer

Mr. Alkofer was instrumental in investigating and characterizing the unique technical challenges for high altitude reconnaissance films. He helped develop and define the film sensitometric and spatial performance requirements for the program and assisted the government in monitoring operational system performance.

Edgar Green

Mr. Green was the Program Manager for the Kodak interface with the government and camera manufacturers during the critical program implementation years. Ed's drive and initiative enabled the development of the technical film solutions required to meet the program requirements for physical and photographic performance.

Donald Schoessler

Mr. Schoessler was the liaison with the Kodak film manufacturing division, providing the interface necessary for communicating the program's film requirements and directing development of films to these unique requirements. These efforts provided excellent film products; developed, manufactured, and packaged to meet the precise requirements of the film transport and camera imaging systems.

Richard Stowe

Mr. Stowe provided management and technical guidance for the development, integration, and quality assurance of Kodak ground handling equipment, for films and chemistries used to government facilities, and for processing and duplication of the program films.

General Electric

General Electric designed and manufactured the recovery capsule. Affectionately called the "bucket" by later members of the program, this recovery capsule was the first system to be successfully returned and recovered from space. This technology provided solutions for manned space flight programs that would follow.

Ingard Clausen

Mr. Clausen was the original Program Manager for the SRV assembly at General Electric. Ingard helped design the recovery system which was the first man-made object to return to the earth from space.

Hilliard W. Paige

Mr. Paige was the General Electric facility General Manager with overall responsibility for development of the CORONA bucket reentry system. He was well known for personal engineering contributions to CORONA of a highly technical nature.

Edward A. Miller

Mr. Miller was an original CORONA Project Engineer and the CORONA Program Manager when the first satellite recovery vehicle (SRV) was successfully recovered from space. The SRV would be the first man-made item to ever be returned to earth from space, surviving the harsh reentry environment. He led the team which successfully developed the recovery vehicle in record time.

Mark Morton

Mr. Morton was the General Manager of the General Electric Reentry Systems Division with overall responsibility for all aspects of GE's support to the CORONA Program. As such, Mark ensured that all the GE support to CORONA was delivered on schedule for this accelerated program.

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