Missile and Space Pioneer Dies

Retired Maj. Gen. Ben I. Funk, a key figure in developing America’s first generation of ballistic missiles and the launch vehicles supporting the Mercury and Gemini manned spacecraft, has died. According to his Los Angeles Times obituary, Funk died in his home in Long Beach, Calif., on Jan. 21 at age 98. Born in Wray, Colorado, on April 21, 1913, Funk entered the Army Air Corps in 1935, earning his wings in 1936. During World War II, he flew B-24 missions in the Pacific and then helped stateside to improve the B-17 and B-24 and develop the B-29. As commander of the Ballistic Missile Center in Los Angeles from 1956 to 1960, Funk supported the development of the Thor and Atlas ballistic missiles. From 1962 to 1966, he led the Space Systems Division, overseeing development of the Titan III launch vehicle. President Kennedy awarded Funk NASA’s Space Achievement Award in 1963. Funk retired from the Air Force in September 1966. He later worked for 10 years as a Lockheed executive. In 2006, he was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame. (Los Angeles report by Alicia Garges)