A pioneer in Lancashire’s contribution to the space race has died aged 85.
Thomas Smith, who worked at the BAE systems site in Warton for more than 40 years, led a team which launched a rocket into space 10 years before NASA sent its first space shuttle into orbit.
The aeronautical engineer lived in Elm Avenue, Ashton, until 1961 when he moved to Wrea Green with his wife Winifred and children Brian, Bernard, Tony, Jeffrey and Jacqueline.
Son Brian said: “My father became leader of the team that produced MUSTARD, the Multi Unit Space Transport and Recovery Device, which was three modules, similar to the space shuttle that would all fire off together.
“They would take off and divide when they reached the upper atmosphere and would do similar work to the space shuttle, carrying out repair and maintenance on satellites and building space stations.
“Britain wasn’t really in the market for doing this kind of thing and the project came to an end towards the end of the 1960s.
“At that stage, my dad became the head of the advanced project department.”
Mr Smith worked on around 100 projects at the Warton site, having started in 1949, when the company was still known as English Electric.
He did a lot of work on the Tornado and Jaguar projects, working as a defence stystems strategy adviser towards the end of his career.
He retired in 1990 and moved to Tetford, Lincolnshire with Winifred, where he spent his retirement on his many different hobbies.
Brian says: “My dad always loved the area as he had spent time there as a child.
“His hobbies were cycling, fishing and making model aeroplanes, which took him out into the countryside which he loved.
“The area was full of airfields and the skies were full of bombers.
“In the early evening the sky would fill with planes and the noise was deafening. Then it would all fall silent.”
It was this love of air fields which led Thomas into aeromodelling, for which he won the National Championships three times.
Thomas was widowed in 2000 after Winifred’s health deteriorated following a stroke some years earlier.
He remarried - to Jean Roberta McIntyre - who sadly died in 2009.
Thomas , who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004, spent his later years living at Castlethorpe Nursing Home, Brigg, Lincolnshire, where he died peacefully on October 3.
His funeral will be held at St Helen’s Church, East Kiel, Spilsby on October 15, 10.30am.