Skilled house journalist Jay Barbree, who lined greater than 160 missions, dies on the age of 87
Space journalist Jay Barbree died in Florida on Friday. The veteran NBC News correspondent was 87 years old.
Barbree began reporting on NASA in 1957 when the space agency faced a series of humiliating rocket explosions.
In 1958, Barbree joined NBC News and began a successful career that spanned 59 years.
He went on to cover every human space mission to leave US soil, starting with Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 flight in 1961 to the last space shuttle mission in 2011.
In total, Barbree reported over 166 manned spaceflight missions.
On the way, he wrote several books on NASA and the space race, including “Moon Shot” and “Live from Cape Canaveral: Coverage of the Sputnik Space Race to Today”.
He is survived by his wife Jo, whom he married in 1960, two daughters, a son and six grandchildren.
Barbree was working for WALB television in Albany, Georgia when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957, ushering in the space age.
Barbree was intrigued. He went to Florida and on May 5, 1961, watched Shepard take off on an American’s first manned space flight.
“That was a day you will never forget. We saw this rocket climb over the tree lines – everyone stopped everywhere,” he said in an interview in 2007. “They stopped their cars, they were up their knees fell, they fell in. Prayer watched it go. Everyone pulled for Alan Shepard, and that was the very first for this country. “
Barbree was friends with some of the nation’s most famous astronauts.
When Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died in 2012, Barbree recalled succinctly, “You couldn’t use the word ‘good’ too much. He was a good man.”
“He would be very happy if those who will return would remember what he has accomplished here on earth in his 82 years and that they will continue the progression into space,” said Barbree.
Barbree went on to write Neil Armstrong: A Life in Flight, which came out in 2014. He worked with Shepard and his Mercury Seven astronaut Deke Slayton in the earlier book “Moon Shot”.
In 2012, Barbree thought about the International Space Station and how it taught people to live in space – and he highlighted the possibility of one day traveling to Mars.
“How the Armstrongs, the Aldrins, the Glenns – all of us who were here for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo – would love to be there for the greatest adventure of the 21st century!” he wrote.
“Our mortality says we can’t, but our spirits won’t be far away.”
CORRECTION (May 15, 2021, 12:53 PM ET): An earlier version of this article contained an incomplete list of Jay Barbree’s survivors. In addition to his wife, two daughters and six grandchildren, he also survived a son.
Phil Helsel contributed to this.