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Robert "Bob" Skelton.
Dr. Robert “Bob” Skelton was a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering for seven years. | Image: Courtesy of Igor Kraguljac

Dr. Robert “Bob” Skelton, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Eminent Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University, died on Feb. 15, 2023. He was a professor and researcher at Texas A&M from 2015 to 2022.

Skelton received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Clemson University in 1963, a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1970 and a doctorate in mechanics and structures from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1976.

He began his career at the Marshall Space Flight Center, where he was involved with spacecraft control and contributed to the Apollo program, Skylab (America’s first space station), the Space Shuttle program and the Hubble Space Telescope. Before joining Texas A&M, he was a professor of aeronautics and astronautics for 22 years at Purdue University, then a professor of dynamics systems and controls for ten years at the University of California San Diego. Throughout his career in academia, he advised more than 40 doctoral students and supervised more than 60 master’s theses.

“The aerospace engineering department lost someone very special. Bob was a truly outstanding scholar with a great smile and an even bigger heart for his students, mentees and colleagues,” said Dr. Ivett A. Leyva, department head and College of Engineering Excellence Professor.

As a researcher, Skelton dedicated more than 50 years to integrating system science with materials science to develop new materials systems. Specifically, his research revolved around the versatility of tensegrity systems as an alternative to conventional design. His collaborative work and achievements led him to publish four books and over 200 journal articles.

Skelton received many awards and honors in his lifetime, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Mechanics and Control of Flight Award, the Alexander Von Humboldt Research Award, the Norman Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Alexander Von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Award. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and was a Hagler Fellow, an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow, an AIAA Fellow and a life member of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Skelton was also recognized by NASA with the NASA Skylab Achievement Award and the NASA Appreciation Award for his service to the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions.

“We are grateful for the years Bob spent with us in the aerospace engineering department. Though we have lost him physically, his legacy will live on for many years,” said Leyva. “He will not be forgotten.”

To learn more about Skelton’s life and legacy, please see his full obituary.