Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Forrest McCartney, who led NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) through a difficult period in the wake of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in 1986, has died, Florida Today reports. He was 81.

McCartney served as director of KSC from October 1986 through 1991. KSC’s current director, Robert Cabana, told the center’s work force about his death in a July 18 email.

In a recent interview, McCartney talked about his time at KSC. “The return-to-flight efforts were very slow, and the work force was in need of picking up,” he said. “It was not a very good situation at all. … I just needed to get them what they needed to do their jobs. “You know, they were such a competent team. If you get them what they need, and let them do what they do best, things will go right. And they sure did.”

READ IT AT: [Florida Today]