Father of Missile Flight Safety
Served 1950 – 1973
Nathan Wagner was born 06 November 1921, in Brooklyn, NY. He received his early education in New York. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Ohio State University at Columbus.
Wagner came to White Sands Proving Ground in 1947, as an engineer with New Mexico A & M’s Physical Sciences Laboratory. He joined the proving ground workforce in 1950.
In March 1957, Wagner became the range’s Missile Flight Safety Officer. His goal was to build a flight safety organization and develop the technology to control flights and make missile testing safer. Many of Wagner’s safety guidelines are still used at White Sands and other Department of Defense installation around the world.
While serving as missile flight safety officer, Wagner proposed firing missiles from off the range to White Sands using flight corridors over sparsely populated areas. This led to missile launches from Fort Wingate, NM, Green River, Utah and a new launch point at Mountain Home, Idaho.
Because of his achievements, Wagner is known throughout the testing community as the “Father of Missile Flight Safety.”
In 1965, Wagner was asked to develop an engineering organization to update White Sands Missile Range (WSMR’s) instrumentation and plan for its future needs. Wagner became technical director of this organization, known as National Range Engineering. Later the organization was renamed the Instrumentation Directorate. Today the directorate has an established reputation throughout the nation for its work in designing and developing instrumentation for military testing.
Wagner retired from federal service in June 1973. He and his wife, Alma, lived in Las Cruces.
Mr. Wagner died on 6 May 1991.