Rodney L. Barto, a world leader in the design and analysis of spaceflight digital electronics system who worked on some of NASA’s biggest projects, died Sept. 25 in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. He was 58.
Barto earned degrees in mathematics at the University of Texas, El Paso and completed his
doctorate in electrical engineering in 1980 at the University of Texas, Austin. As a Martin Marietta staff engineer in Denver, Barto worked on NASA’s Galileo Jupiter probe, earning the NASA Public Service Medal in 1991 for designing the spacecraft’s attitude and articulation control systems electronics.
Barto left Denver in 1986 for California, spending two years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena before moving upstate to San Jose where he worked as a senior engineer for KLA Instruments and while teaching part-time at National University.
Over the course of his career, Barto helped
NASA on many of its marquee projects, including the Magellan Venus probe, the Hubble Space Telescope
and the 2001 Mars Odyssey Orbiter.
“Rod was a great engineer who was dedicated to the goal of space science and exploration,” said Richard B. Katz,
a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center engineer who heads the Office of Logic Design. “He was a long
time friend for well over 20 years as well
as co-worker on many projects. Rod will be missed.”
Katz said Barto was not only a “great designer” and independent analyst who helped “many, many missions” succeed, but also an insightful and creative teacher who liked to share his knowledge with others through seminars and his published papers.
spent the last 10 years as an engineering consultant to NASA, the U.S. military and others. He was also one of the organizers behind the Military and Aerospace Programmable Logic Device
International Conference, which had been held annually since 1998 but was canceled in 2007 following a legal finding that NASA can no longer accept registration fees for conferences, according to a message on the group’s
A memorial service was held Sept. 29 in El Paso followed by a private internment. Barto is survived by his wife of 21 years, Ann Barto, his children Aaron and Jessica and his grandson Christopher.