David S. McKay, NASA scientist and astronaut trainer, dies

McKay helped train Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong before their mission to the moon in 1969.

The man who taught Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong geology before they launched into space has died.

David S. McKay died in his sleep Feb. 20, NASA said. The 76-year-old had been battling health problems and cardiac issues for the past year.

NASA said McKay was the primary geology teacher for Armstrong and Aldrin right before they headed to the moon in 1969. He also was a principal investigator on the lunar samples they came back to Earth with.

NASA said McKay was the lead author on a 1996 paper that argued that there is evidence for life on Mars. The controversial claim led to the Mars Exploration Program, through which investigators are looking for signs of life in the harsh climate of the red planet.

"History will judge the value of that rather serendipitous outcome," NASA said, "but it seems clear that its significance is, and will remain, great."

"Ad astra Dave, we thank you and we will miss you."

Space.com reported that McKay tirelessly advocated for science and exploration. He saw a time when humans could use space resources to support advanced manned missions to the moon and Mars.

According to space.com, McKay helped develop new technology that could make a long-term moon base a possibility.

McKay also worked with The Planetary Society for its Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment Project. The Society said he was involved in recommendations of organisms to fly into space.

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