Jerry C. Elliot – High Eagle

Former NASA physicist Jerry C. Elliot – High Eagle, of Cherokee heritage, was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1943.  Elliot graduated from Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City in 1961.  He received his bachelor’s degree in physics with a minor in mathematics from the University of Oklahoma in 1965.  In 1966 Elliot began his graduate studies in physics at the University of Oklahoma before accepting a position with NASA in April 1966. 

Elliot was one of the first Native American scientists at NASA and began his career at NASA’s  Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas where he worked on the Gemini program.   He later worked on the Apollo program developing flight plans for the first lunar landing in Apollo 11.   

Elliot was the lead Retrofire Officer on the Apollo 13 mission and instrumental in the safe return of the three Apollo 13 astronauts after their spacecraft suffered an explosion shortly after liftoff.  For this work, Elliot was one of several mission control staff who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Richard Nixon. 

After Apollo 13, Elliot was involved in several major NASA programs, including: Apollo-Soyuz (the first joint space mission with the Soviet Union); Skylab (the United States’ first orbiting space station); the Space Shuttle program; the International Space Station; and NASA’s work developing the country’s first telecommunication satellites.   

Elliot retired from NASA in 2007.  Today he is the President of High Eagle Technologies, a biotechnology company in Texas developing blood treatment technologies.   

Elliot is active in Native American causes and co-founded the American Indian Science and Engineering Society in 1975 to encourage further Native American involvement in science and technical fields.  He also drafted the legislation that created national Native American Awareness Week in 1976. 

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