As the U.S. space program blossomed in the 1960s, NASA officials settled on a certain profile as they screened astronaut candidates.
First and foremost, they needed elite pilots — those who had proven in combat or in testing new aircraft that they could handle any scenario that might arise miles above the earth. But they also preferred men whose aviation skills came with strong scientific underpinnings, ideally including advanced academic degrees.
Had he been born a quarter-century later, Robert M. Losey might have had a resume that stacked up well against any of the men who became household names to future generations.
A West Point graduate who later earned two master’s degrees from Caltech, Losey was clearly on the fast track in the Army Air Corps as the political situation in Europe deteriorated in the late 1930s. Already under the wing of Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold as a staffer in Washington, Losey seemed destined to play a critical role in the inevitable conflict over the horizon.
If given a chance, we might know his name decades later for his impact on the war, rather than the historical footnote he became: the first American service member killed in World War II.