Longtime Bay Area resident Milton Klein, a key figure in NASA’s Apollo program and the fledgling nuclear power industry, died peacefully on March 2. He was 98 years old. When the US government created NASA, Milton Klein was appointed to oversee the development of nuclear technology for space exploration. His office developed the technology for nuclear-powered rockets and nuclear batteries that have been used to power science stations on the moon, rovers on the surface of Mars, and spacecraft exploring the far reaches of the solar system and beyond. of the.
‘Houston, we’ve got a problem’: In 1970, when Apollo 13 suffered a near-catastrophic accident on its way to the Moon, Klein was named to the NASA panel tasked with determining the cause. For his services, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Milt loved baseball, playing a sand version and traveling by trolley as part of the first knot gang program, allowing kids to watch games for free. He also developed a love for jazz and classical music. Milt attended University City High School, where he delivered the valedictory address, and later graduated from the University of Washington.
After serving in the Navy as a journeyman electronics technician during World War II, he met his beloved Frances Motto (to whom he was married for 65 years) and earned an MBA from Harvard.
Over his decades-long career, Klein has contributed to energy-related milestones. Working within the then-existing Atomic Energy Commission, he negotiated agreements with electric utilities to build and operate the first privately funded and owned nuclear power plants – the beginning of the nuclear industry. ‘nuclear energy. When the oil embargo of the early 1970s caused a major push to develop non-oil energy technologies, Klein was asked to return to the AEC as deputy general manager for energy development as he made the transition to the broader energy department, working to advance solar energy. , wind, geothermal and nuclear. When the United States and other industrial nations created the International Energy Agency to reduce dependence on imported oil, Klein was asked to organize the program to advance these non-oil energy technologies. .
He and his wife moved to the Bay Area in 1980 to serve as vice president of the Electric Power Research Institute, focusing on the reliability and environmental quality of the US electrical system and advancing relevant technology.
In retirement, Klein undertook several pro bono activities, including providing free consulting services to nonprofit organizations through the Bay Area Harvard Business School club. He was also invited to join the board of Abilities United, an organization that serves the needs of people with developmental disabilities and their families.
Throughout his life, Milt traveled the world for work, pleasure, and to satisfy endless curiosity.
He is survived by three children and their wives and two grandchildren, who miss his quick wit, charm, lifelong support and moral integrity.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle on March 11, 2022.