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James J. Avitabile Papers

Identifier: Ms-2001-057

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials related to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space exploration programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Containing mostly technical data on spacecraft systems design and operation, the collection provides a detailed look at NASA systems engineering during the early to mid 1960s. The collection is divided among the following series: NASA Programs, NASA Computer Systems, NASA Public Information, and General Materials.

The NASA Programs series contains in-house technical publications detailing spacecraft systems design and procedures and is divided among three subseries. The Project Mercury subseries contains one technical report and an historical overview of the program. Much more extensive is the Project Gemini subseries, which includes such items as operations handbooks, systems diagrams, briefing outlines, reports and mission simulator manuals. The Project Apollo series also contains such materials, in addition to spacecraft manuals, study guides and charts. Together, these subseries chronicle the development and evolution of spacecraft systems design and procedures which culminated in the first lunar landing.

The NASA Computer Systems series includes programmer manuals for the various computer systems used by NASA during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The majority of the materials in this series concern the DDP general computer system.

Unlike the Programs and Computer Systems series, the NASA Public Information series consists of materials which were produced for public education. The series contains NASA Fact Sheets and NASA Educational Briefs, other general public information booklets, a symposium report and a set of astronaut photo portraits, all produced to familiarize the public with NASA's activities, personnel and facilities.

The General Materials series contains materials related to space exploration but not produced by NASA. The series includes magazine articles and a "Sounds of Space" recording.


  • 1963 - 2001


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

James J. Avitabile, an air force officer from East Haven, Connecticut, graduated from the University of Connecticut and obtained an MBA from Western New England College. He entered the United States Air Force in 1959. During his career, Lieutenant Colonel Avitabile served as an Atlas E operations launch officer and as an astronaut mission operations instructor at NASA's spacecraft simulator complex responsible for astronaut mission flight training at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy from 1965 to 1967. He also served in the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) Program Office; as airborne test director for the E-3A Airborne Warnings and Control Systems (AWACS) Aircraft; and as activation director for the AWACS Operating Base. He was a member of the Cadre Office at NATO, responsible for the fielding of the NATO AWACS system and was a program director responsible for the acquisition of Air Force Command and Control Systems. Upon retiring from the Air Force, Lt. Col. Avitabile worked for General Electric, where he directed military and commercial space programs. Lt. Col. Avitabile and his wife Maria have three daughters and eight grandchildren.


14 Cubic Feet (27 boxes; 2 oversize folders)


The collection is arranged according to subject matter.


The following items were transferred to the Rare Book Collection:

Kinney, William A., Medical science and space travel (New York: F. Watts, [1959]).

Kluger, Jeffrey, The Apollo adventure: the making of the Apollo Space Program and the movie Apollo 13 (New York: Pocket Books, 1995).

Ley, Willy, et al., The complete book of satellites and outer space (New York: Maco, 1957).

Mallan, Lloyd, Secrets of space flight (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1956).

Mallan, Lloyd, Space satellites (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1958).

Mehrens, Harold E., The dawning space age (Ellington Air Force Base, Texas: Civil Air Patrol, 1963).

Space... the new frontier (Washington, D. C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1964).

Von Braun, Wernher, Conquest of the moon (New York: Viking Press, 1953).

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Avitabile, James J. Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of this collection commenced in October 2001 and was completed in March 2002.

A Guide to the James J. Avitabile Papers 1963-2001
John M. Jackson
2002 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US