Donald James Markarian

Donald James Markarian

Donald James Markarian, who played a pivotal role in America’s space race and landing the first human on the moon, passed away Nov. 30, 2017, at Peconic Landing in Greenport, N.Y. He was 92.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering at New York University in 1944, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps until 1945. He began his career in aerospace at Chance Vought Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, Conn., working as a flight test engineer until 1948. He worked on the Fairchild Pilotless Plane Division in Farmingdale, N.Y., in 1949 and then, from 1950 to 1965, held various management positions at Martin Marietta in Baltimore, Md.

Mr. Markarian worked for Grumman Aircraft Corporation in Bethpage, N.Y., from 1966 until 1990, when he retired as executive vice president. During that time he also served on the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.

His specific accomplishments include serving as project engineer for Vanguard 1 (1955-59), the world’s first solar-powered satellite and the second U.S. satellite in orbit after Explorer 1. From 1968 to 1972 he was also project manager and deputy program manager for Grumman’s Apollo Lunar Module (LEM), which, in July 1969, became the first crewed vehicle to land on the moon. During this time, he was honored with both a certificate of appreciation and a public service award from NASA.

In 1981, Mr. Markarian became project manager for the Grumman Space Shuttle Program, contracted to produce the wing. During the 1980s, he was also a vice president of aircraft programs at Grumman that included including production of the F-14 Tomcat fighter, which had great success during the Iraq-Iran War.

His daughter Karen Benedict said: “Of all of Dad’s projects, he considered Vanguard 1 his greatest career accomplishment and he greatly regretted the U.S. narrowly missing being first, after the Soviet Union Sputnik. He would, however, be happy to know that Vanguard 1 is still the oldest human-made satellite still in orbit.”

Mr. Markarian was born March 10, 1925, in New York City to Ethel (Zerby) and Michael Markarian of Scarsdale, N.Y. His father came to the U.S. after fleeing the Armenian genocide to raise a family and fully embrace the American dream.

He is mourned by his wife of 72 years, Virginia (née DeAngelis), of Greenport; two daughters, Ms. Benedict, of New Hampshire, and Janet Markarian of Orient; four grandchildren, Erin Burke, David Benedict and Alexander and Abigail Collier; great-grandchildren, Emily, Ryan and Elise Burke; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held in March, the date and time to be announced.

Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport is assisting the family.

This is a paid notice.